Tag Archives: LISC

Is Cincinnati “All-In” for Equity?

Cincinnati Delegation to PolicyLink’s 2015 Equity Summit

By Julia Mace, Senior Communications Officer, The Greater Cincinnati Foundation

The Greater Cincinnati Foundation’s (GCF) commitment to equity and inclusion informs our grants and leadership, but much progress is still needed in our region.

Statistics support the need for equity. Here are just a couple of examples from the 2014 “State of Black Cincinnati 2015: Two Cities” report by the Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio.

  • Of the 14,000 families living in poverty in Cincinnati, 76 percent were African American.
  • The infant mortality rate for African American babies is 18.4, compared to 5.5 for whites.
  • The homeownership rate in 15-county Greater Cincinnati is 74.5 percent for whites but 33.1 percent for African Americans.
State of Black Cincinnati, a report by the Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio
State of Black Cincinnati, a report by the Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio

Equity isn’t just black and white.

PolicyLink defines it as “just and fair inclusion into a society in which all, including all racial and ethnic groups, can participate, prosper, and reach their full potential.”

The Greater Cincinnati Foundation organized a Cincinnati delegation to attend PolicyLink’s 2015 Equity Summit which included President/CEO Ellen Katz, our staff and representatives from Greater Cincinnati organizations.

Michael Coffey, program officer, and Meghan Cummings, executive director of The Women’s Fund of The Greater Cincinnati Foundation, shared their thoughts about the experience.

Why was it important to lead a delegation to this conference?

Coffey: Bringing back the knowledge and wisdom as one person, or one organization doesn’t work. We looked at other cities and foundations that are being intentional about equity and making progress.

Cummings: According to Stanford University’s Professor of Economics Raj Chetty, the odds that a child born to parents in the bottom fifth income bracket will reach the top income bracket is 7.5 percent. In Cincinnati, that number is 5 percent.

How did the Equity Summit connect with the mission of The Greater Cincinnati Foundation?

Cummings: The Women’s Fund and GCF are focused on a more prosperous Greater Cincinnati region and you can’t do it unless all residents can live up to the highest potential. An equity lens will help this happen.

Coffey:
Because of our role as a convener and thought leader, we are well positioned to connect the dots and identify gaps that hold our community back from making progress around equity. We can take a complex issue and find some entryways to change.

What was your biggest take-away from the Equity Summit?

Coffey: We need to be able to speak clearly about equity and PolicyLink has provided the language for this work in The Equity Manifesto.

This was the most diverse and well-attended conference I’ve ever attended with 3,000 people. High school students to octogenarians attended. It held your attention.

Cummings:
PolicyLink has laid out equity-focused practices that cities can take to support equity in “All-In Cities: Building an Equitable Economy from the Ground Up.”

Coffey: I have a clear sense of who is on our team in shaping this work going forward, a sense of who is working with us. We have a team, a commitment and resources. I’m excited to be part of a large group that can make a change.

Can you tell us about progress going forward?

Cummings: The Cincinnati delegation has continued to meet and report to each other how we’re using this knowledge to transform our organizations and community.

Coffey: The African American Chamber has created Declare to Grow! Prosper2016, a 12-month regional action plan aimed at fostering economic inclusion and breaking down the barriers of growth that typically plague small businesses.

Want to get involved?

The following organizations were part of the delegation that attended Equity Summit 2015. These groups are still meeting and will continue to welcome additional organizations.

Contact Janine Keeton, Community Investment Coordinator, if you would like to join us in becoming an “All-In Cincinnati.”

Julia Mace is the Senior Communications Officer of The Greater Cincinnati Foundation.

Urban Renaissance in Covington

Welcome to our blog, Leadership Matters. In this forum, The Greater Cincinnati Foundation‘s leaders will focus on timely and challenging community issues, and the role that GCF, its donors, and other partners play in creating a more thriving and vibrant community.

In our second post, GCF’s Kathy Merchant looks at what it takes to help revitalize our communities over the long term – it’s not quick, and it’s not easy, but it matters.

GCF Donors take a tour of Covington
GCF donors take a tour of Covington. See the rest of our tour photos on Facebook.

Transformation of Covington’s neighborhoods is advancing at a rapid pace! Just 15 years ago, only a few community organizations toiled in the trenches to slow neighborhood decline – even as the riverfront was being successfully developed in Covington and Newport.

Last month we took some GCF donors to see Covington’s revitalization, starting at the Center for Great Neighborhoods where community developers have been hard at work since 1976. We saw the proof of how far things have come thanks to increased and sustained investment in both traditional and new groups

Covington Row Houses
Row houses in Covington being renovated.

Revitalizing Covington started with a vision for change. Forward Quest (now known as Vision 2015) called for an “urban renaissance” in Northern Kentucky. Slowly but surely, resources and organizations joined to jump start the revitalization effort. The projects our donors saw on the Covington tour resulted from many years of hard work, collaboration among multiple partners, and a series of complex funding strategies.

GCF is proud to have been a strong and committed partner throughout this process. What made this possible? Our community’s generous donors.

Since 2000, GCF has shared a steady stream of grants, loans, and equity investments from our endowed community funds and from The Northern Kentucky Fund of GCF to renovate buildings, start new businesses, advance K-12 and higher education, support lifelong learning, build a stronger workforce, and revitalize neighborhoods.

The total invested by GCF in the leading nonprofit organizations featured in this post is $7.3 million.

GCF was instrumental in bringing the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) to Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. LISC is a national organization that works through local programs to help community residents transform distressed neighborhoods. LISC provides financial resources, shapes public policy, and provides technical assistance. Since 2000, LISC has helped to renovate nearly 2,000 houses and apartments and 1.2 million square feet of commercial space in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.

Starting in 2007, LISC tapped Covington for a comprehensive initiative called PlaceMatters, patterned on a national LISC model called Building Sustainable Communities.

Mutual Building
Mutual Building

A major new development tool accelerating Northern Kentucky’s urban renaissance is the Catalytic Fund. GCF provided an impact investment (loan) to help seed a $10 million development fund, and also helped get the Catalytic Fund off the ground. The Fund’s work includes redevelopment of the historic Mutual Building, right in the center of Covington’s re-emerging business district, creating market-rate housing and commercial space. Restoring this architectural jewel will catalyze the return of the area as Covington’s hub of New Economy business activity. The Catalytic Fund provided subordinate mortgage gap financing for this project and coordinated all financing. (UpTech, an anchor tenant, is described below.)

Cincinnati Development Fund (CDF) has worked for 25-plus years to finance community development efforts in the region. GCF made its first impact investment to CDF in 2002 to help begin a process of diversifying the downtown neighborhood by adding more middle income residents to alleviate the concentration of poverty, and has since approved a second loan. Now, CDF is financing a 32-unit rental conversion project in historic downtown Covington, complementing the commercial and other projects of the Catalytic Fund.

UpTech is a start-up business accelerator formed in 2012 to leverage the talent and knowledge generated by Northern Kentucky University’s College of Informatics. GCF provided $45,000 in start-up funding for operating expenses, and recently approved a $200,000 equity investment.

Life Learning Center
Life Learning Center

Life Learning Center will soon have a new home to provide comprehensive life skills training and employment support in the formerly vacant and blighted Stewart Iron Works building adjacent to the Center for Great Neighborhoods. The Catalytic Fund has provided critical development services to get this project done. GCF provided grants to plan and develop this new community resource.

Progress in these neighborhoods and the ways it is funded are ground-breaking (pun intended) and are being noticed around the country. In fact, LISC chose Cincinnati for its recent national board meeting because we have so many great projects going in our region.

GCF is proud to have the flexible charitable capital and patience to make investments in long-term change, even when the results may not be immediate.

Covington Organizations Summary of Investments

Which brings us back to our donors. We are able to make investments like this using endowed funds entrusted to GCF by generations of donors who care about our community, but have no way to predict what its needs will be in the future. If not for these donors’ generosity, we would not have the resources to support community change that really matters.

Kathy Merchant is President/CEO of The Greater Cincinnati Foundation. Learn more about her here.

Images via GCF/Catalytic Fund