On June 3rd, we released a statement expressing our support for Black lives and calling for urgent and bold change from our political leaders, the financial industry, and ourselves. In that statement, we committed ourselves to supporting policy change and to reimagine and refocus our work to more intentionally support the Black community.

On June 24th, we hosted a webinar highlighting the dual pandemics of COVID-19 and systemic racism. Community Vision’s Esperanza Pallana, Ruby Harris, Kelly Ehrenfeld, Catherine Howard and board member, Carolyn Johnson of the Black Cultural Zone, hosted a conversation centered on how Community Vision is shifting from a framework of charity (beneficiary focus) to a justice framework (leader focus).

The webinar highlighted the development and implementation of a Black Liberation scorecard to assess whether our investments are orienting around wealth-building, community leadership and catalytic impact among Black communities.

Why is this work important and a necessary investment of the organization?

Our current economy is built on hundreds of years of extraction and exploitation, existing on a foundation of white supremacy. Thus, the refocusing of our work is a long-term, multilayered process that will bring structural, cultural, and paradigm change internally and externally.

This process has also been years in the making. In our 2019-21 strategic plan we explicitly prioritized racial equity. We hired The Justice Collective (TJC) in 2019 to engage staff in a collaborative learning process, which is an ongoing practice of actively identifying the ways in which our own organizational systems perpetuate a culture of white supremacy in areas of leadership, advancement, hiring, and the ways we develop our programs and services. In January 2020, TJC led us through our first caucus facilitation training to prepare staff to engage in holding conversations about inequity, interpersonal communication and practices of accountability. Staff created a voluntary caucus for those that identify as Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) and those that identify as White. These groups are optional for learning and staff self-select which group they are a part of. We are caucusing to process feelings, thoughts, and experiences about race within the organization, to shift Community Vision’s culture and power dynamics, and to ultimately become an anti-racist organization.

This work is uncertain and difficult, but together we’re building skills of emotional intelligence, courageous and compassionate communication, and the ability to receive truthful reflections.

This is a key part of the work Community Vision, as a CDFI, is responsible to engage in if we are to be just stewards of capital and truly move toward economic and racial equity. Part of being accountable to our call to action and commitment is to report back on the steps we’ve taken to change and do our work better over the last two months. Below is a brief update.

Black Liberation Initiative

We are taking action in support of Black liberation through investment in Black leadership, power-building and working to close the wealth gap with the implementation of a new Black Liberation Initiative. The Black Liberation Initiative includes engaging with Black leaders and decision-makers in driving increased and intentional investment in Black-led projects focused on wealth-building, well-being, movement-building, and place and space keeping.

As we discussed in our webinar, CDFIs, including Community Vision, have adopted many practices from the mainstream financial system to ‘legitimize’ and ‘professionalize’ the industry; yet CDFIs were created as an alternative to mainstream financial systems. It is our duty to work to legitimize systems and practices free of racial bias.

While we are centering Black communities, we continue to support many financially disinvested communities throughout California; this strategic initiative focuses on increasing our impact in the Black community specifically.

Black Liberation Scorecard

As part of the Black Liberation Initiative, we designed and implemented a scorecard to support us in aligning our work and being accountable to ourselves and our communities. The scorecard assesses whether we are intentionally increasing investment in Black leadership development, power-building, and wealth generation. More specifically, the scorecard was designed with community input and provides mechanisms to keep us accountable to ourselves and the communities we partner with. It focuses on assessing the following of every lending and consulting project:

  • Leadership & Powerbuilding: Are leaders creating a path toward equitable policies and practices within the Black community.
  • Economic Development & Job Creation: Are nonprofits, cooperatives, and businesses working toward a living wage, basic benefits, career-building, wealth-building opportunities and/or a fair and engaging workplace?
  • Equity: Are projects proactively addressing historical and current systemic oppression in order to ensure fairness in the access to opportunities, resources, and rights for the Black community.
  • Community-Centered Approaches: Are community partnerships that are trusted, hold confidence within the community, and have based their work on the stated needs/wants of the community.
  • Catalytic Impact: Will this support move a leader and project through a critical juncture, towards stated objectives or a critical decision?

Several community partners have reached out with interest in developing their own organizational scorecards and we are providing support for how they can use a tool like this to align their investments. We are also planning future opportunities for peer learning around best practices of developing and implementing scorecards to identify high priority and high impact investments, with specific focus on understanding asset ownership, decision-making, and wealth generation. Additionally, we want to better understand and communicate the impact of different forms of capital, such as navigational, social, community resilience.

Please contact Esperanza Pallana, Director of Strategic Initiatives, at epallana@communityvisionca.org if you’d like to learn more about the Black Liberation scorecard.

Grantmaking

We are in the process of disseminating grants to several catalytic Black-led projects in the East Bay. Most recently, we awarded a grant to the Greenlining Institute to support a People of Color (POC) Small Business Network pilot. The POC Small Business Network pilot is a collaboration between the City of Oakland Business Services, The Alliance for Community Development, and Uptima Business Bootcamp, and prioritizes African American, Latinx, and immigrant communities.
The pilot will offer capacity building support that includes coaching, cash grants, and support navigating support and resources for small businesses. Community Vision will provide grant funds to support a full-time position at the Alliance for Community Development that will oversee the POC Small Business Network.

Thank you for your partnership.

We thank you for your support and partnership as we move closer towards justice and more equitable practices. We look forward to continuing to provide updates on our work, learnings, and impact. We thank our community development finance partners who have spent decades carving a path for dignity, justice, wealth-building, and celebration of Black excellence. Neutrality is no longer an option. We are committed to doing better.

If you have any questions or comments, please email us at accountability@communityvisionca.org.