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Community Progress Makers Convening: Enabling Progress in Communities across America

March 01, 2019
Julie Hodgson, Citi Foundation Program Officer
Daria Sheehan, Citi Foundation Program Officer
Kristen Scheyder, Senior Program Officer


Los Angeles recently played host to the second convening of the Citi Foundation's Community Progress Makers Fund. Representatives from all 40 Community Progress Makers traveled from across the country to LA to discuss and learn more about the work done in the Fund's first year to advance economic progress in communities throughout America. These stories of progress, including those we had the opportunity to experience firsthand while in Los Angeles, highlighted the collective and individual potential of Community Progress Makers to effect positive change.

We headed to LA with some exciting numbers at hand. For example, in 2018, Citi Foundation Community Progress Makers helped over 8,000 people gain employment skills; enabled 27,000 people to keep their homes or obtain affordable/supportive housing; secured 3.5 million square feet of commercial space to boost small business activity; and facilitated $6.7 million in household energy savings by low-income families. Each day of the convening provided unique opportunities to contextualize these numbers and gain valuable insights into how Community Progress Makers created success.

Through 10 breakout sessions focused on topics like building their organizational capacity, managing pro bono resources and leveraging anchor institution assets, Community Progress Makers shared their innovative work with their colleagues. These sessions were accompanied by thought-provoking discussions sparked by presentations from Denver Frederick, host of The Business of Giving, on what he's learned from interviews with top nonprofit and foundation leaders, and Dr. Manuel Pastor, Professor of Sociology and American Studies & Ethnicity at the University of Southern California, on how inequality in the U.S. is affecting economic growth and what cities are doing to change this reality. In our final session led by the Urban Institute, Community Progress Makers reflected on how they're impacting the social issues dominating their communities and what they can do to share their progress with important stakeholders to drive further change.

One of the most instructive and rewarding experiences from the convening was an opening bus tour showcasing the economic progress achieved for Los Angeles' low-income residents by the LA-based Community Progress Makers. Though the tour was unable to cover the entirety of this sprawling city, we were able to stop at a number of Community Progress Makers sites and hear from all eight LA Community Progress Makers. At Homeboy Industries in LA's Chinatown neighborhood, for example, the group had the opportunity to hear from former gang members about how Homeboy's offering of hope, training and support has changed their life trajectories and allowed them to contribute to their communities. During another stop at East LA Community Corporation's (ELACC) Casa Del Mexicano, a cultural center in Boyle Heights, Community Progress Makers ELACC, LISC Los Angeles and LAEDC/Propel LA spoke about how they're working with anchor institutions like hospitals and municipalities, helping low-income residents gain access to training for high growth industries in Los Angeles County and successfully advocating for street vendors to operate legally.

In all, our time in LA was a chance to step back and reflect on the successes and lessons learned during year one of the Community Progress Makers Fund, see tangible examples of the economic progress that can be achieved by Community Progress Makers and set the stage for what is certain to be an impactful year two of the Fund. Citi Foundation Community Progress Makers are visionaries in their respective fields, and we came away from our time together knowing they are only beginning to effect change in communities across America and will continue to generate new learnings to share with one another. Because of this, we can't wait to see what the third and final convening of the Community Progress Makers Fund happening this November in Brooklyn, New York has in store.