Creating Wealth in African American Communities

This post informally announces a new project and partnership that Neighborhood Economics is taking on surrounding wealth creation in African American communities. It is written by Bryan Lehrer, an intern at Sphaera, who has teamed up Kevin Jones and N.E. as a content/communications creator. Please stay tuned for more posts and interviews captured by Bryan as our exploration of the topic unfolds. 

I’ve done a lot of thinking during the past four months about what it takes to create change—who’s responsible, how it’s generated in the first place, whether it can be genuine or not, how it persists. My work with Sphaera has landed me in front of countless change makers and organizations with all sorts of answers to these questions and I’ve picked up on a few common themes.

One of these themes that the best change makers try to consider is inclusion. Whether it is in regards to race, gender, or any other fracture line, countless aid organizations are figuring out how to reset the playing field and ensure a fair and equitable world for all. But what does this recalibration really mean? If the game’s rules have been formed around a majority group, does “inclusion” merely entail adopting this majority groups practices? Does inclusion actual promise equity?

In some cases (voting rights for instance), this might not be the right question to ask, but in the case of race-based economic empowerment, these considerations are leading to both novel and impactful approaches.

Most recently I’ve begun to work with Kevin Jones and Jessica Norwood on a new project that is very much about this idea of setting a higher bar than just financial inclusion for African American communities. It’s about creation in itself.

How we’re going about tackling this problem is a reflection of our personal strengths so let me further introduce the players. First and foremost is Jessica Norwood. In her work with the Emerging ChangeMakers Network (which she is the founder of), Jessica has established herself as a leading voice in understanding “how money behaves.” After years of work in this space, she’s developed a keen awareness of the systemic nature of this issue, and how a diverse, systems-level approach is needed to understand it. At her very core, Jessica is a leader and a force for positive change. Although she’s been addressing black wealth creation for years now, most recently she has decided to host a summit this April which will gather experts on the issue from around the country.

This is partly why she has partnered with Kevin Jones, one of the other players in this project. Kevin is known for his work with SOCAP, the Bay Area Mission Hub, Good Capital and of course Neighborhood Economics. Where Jessica is a leader, Kevin is a convener. His past ventures all point towards his skill of bringing together innovative thoughts and people, and producing something real as the result of it. The same will hopefully be true of the summit come April. Ultimately any exchange of ideas will be only as important as the change it inspires on the ground (‘Main Street’) level.

But for the moment as things just are getting underway, exploration is the important precursor of change.

This is where I will come in. As this project unfolds, I will be documenting case studies, research, interviews, and general thoughts by myself, Kevin, Jessica, and others. The aim of these posts will be to create a cohesive body of knowledge leading up to the conference, but also to allow these ideas to exist freely in a space that anyone can stumble upon.

I hope you join me along the way and take part in the conversation whenever possible. This week stay tuned for a more in-depth post about the rabbit-hole that is wealth creation as well as an interview with the community building expert, Clay Forsburg.

Follow me @BryanLehrer for more updates.

Learn more about Jessica’s organization, Emerging Change