How can we build a future that works for more people?

  • Essential Common Future

Nov 21, 2019 Common Future

We have a plan to build a more equitable economy. In 2019, we transitioned our organization from BALLE to Common Future with a dream of accelerating this change. If you’re curious how we’ll get there, read about our strategies for 2020 that will lay the foundation for this future.

What We Believe

At Common Future, we believe in a world where people, no matter their race or ethnicity, have the power to live in self-determined communities; owning, transforming and creating economies that best serve their interests. At the local level, this might look like equitable access to capital, participation in democratically governed funds, or opportunities for employee ownership of local businesses.

Our Roadmap: 2020 and Beyond

With our brand refresh, we’re transitioning and rethinking programs that have historically formed our identity. For many, this has prompted the question: what’s next?

Our north star is closing the wealth gap because we believe that if the majority of us cannot succeed, none of us will. In 2020, we’re looking to advance that goal in a few key ways.At the core of our work is an understanding that the ideas, models, and solutions that can restore community wealth already exist, they just require attention and investment. By holding relationships with both community wealth-builders and wealth-holders, we bridge divides to facilitate new and unexpected collaborations that accelerate the economy we want to create.

More specifically, we believe our work moving forward means assuming new roles in the ecosystem to be open to timely opportunities and move beyond static programs. Here’s what that will look like in 2020.

1. A Platform for Leaders

Over the past decade, we’ve worked with nearly 100 community leaders through our Local Economy Fellowship. Our fellows are natural connectors, often known as the “unofficial mayors” of their communities

Their work includes entrepreneurial incubator programs, democratic governance funds, sustainable agriculture initiatives, and cooperative ownership models, among other models. Our fellows are among the best and brightest leaders building the most promising solutions for the next economy.

We are not recruiting for the Fellowship in 2020. Instead, we are doubling down on resourcing our alumni and other community leaders outside our network, while also exploring opportunities to connect wealth-holders and wealth-creators. This will include advising Fellows on key initiatives and partnering with national funders who seek to divert capital into the communities of our Fellows. We have a few national partnerships set to launch in 2020.

We will also continue growing our Social Entrepreneurs in Residence (SEIRs) program, which identifies and incubates the solutions of self-directed leaders with unique expertise that complements our portfolio of initiatives that aim to shift capital and close the wealth gap.

The work of our three current SEIRs includes: leveraging the economic determinants of health to engage healthcare institutions, catalyzing investment opportunities in marginalized communities, and creating social impact investment strategies that prioritize racial equity. These initiatives are each building community wealth in nontraditional ways. Our residency serves to connect the greater narrative around community wealth building and resource their work in house at Common Future.

2. A Collaborator

Many communities are seeking a collaborative approach to economic development that includes local ownership, investment, and innovation. We help communities organize this more effectively around a larger narrative of collaborative change.

We’ve designed ecosystem accelerators around the idea that economies work better for everyone when entire ecosystems — funders, anchor institutions, local businesses, policymakers, and neighborhood leaders — work together. This has included programs in Chattanooga, TN and Little Rock, AK, with plans to expand to more cities in 2020.

We’re also convening innovators at the national level. In 2019 we hosted COCAP with 260+ leaders exploring equitable community development, and we will continue to hold spaces like this in 2020.

3. A Trusted Advisor

We’ve learned that funders are seeking new (and more equitable) investments as well as connections with community leaders on the ground. Common Future’s staff and network is comprised of experts on entrepreneurship, the racial wealth gap, community wealth-building, disrupting philanthropy and impact investing, community development, equity, sustainability, and much more. It offers us opportunities to partner with foundations, mission-driven investors, and other institutions seeking answers to questions such as:

  1. How might we partner communities of color to better inform our work?
  2. How might we integrate the community perspective into our funding decisions?
  3. How might we work with our board, trustees, or decision-makers as we assess our internal structures for privilege and power?
  4. How might we resource local leaders?

4. An Organizer of Capital

Shifting capital means shifting power. Prioritizing this in 2020 means continuing our Foundation Circle, a cohort program that convenes executive-level leaders in place-based, private, health, and community foundations who are committed to shifting their institution’s investment capital into the communities they serve, and into alignment with their mission.

Forty-five foundation leaders have participated to date, collectively shifting over $150M out of traditional Wall Street investments into the communities they serveas profiled in The New York Times.(We are now accepting applications for the 2020 Foundation Circle! Submit an inquiry here.)

We are also partnering with funders across the capital spectrum (from philanthropy to impact investors) to drive capital to our network leaders and others like them. Our role as an intermediary includes sourcing new opportunities from our network, balancing risk and return with impact potential, and developing governance structures that balance stakeholder voices.

5. A Mainstream Influence

This work cannot be accomplished in silos. As Common Future, we have a novel opportunity to leverage our position to validate, uplift, and mainstream the ideas we hear about via our network. In 2020, we will double down on our communications and media efforts with a focus on thought-leadership, increasing our network’s presence in the field, on mainstages, and in conversations with funders.

It’s Time to Think Big

We are thrilled about everything we accomplished with our network in 2019: We launched a new brand as Common Future, co-hosted CoCap, developed content at local convenings from Oakland to Little Rock, spoke at over a dozen conferences, piloted new initiatives, closed out cohorts for our Fellowship and Foundation Circle, and kicked off three national partnerships (more to come in 2020). In 2020, we plan to get even busier. We’re in ongoing conversation with new partners continuously exploring opportunities to shift capital and support community wealth-building.

We can only solve the immense challenge of wealth inequality together. If you’re considering how you can help keep wealth local, and close the racial wealth gap, consider becoming a Champion for the Common Future by making a contribution.

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