Jewish Community Action

Report date
August 2017

What has been most instrumental to your progress?

One of the crucial components to the work was convening community conversations with a variety and diversity of community members and stakeholders. The ten community listening sessions we held on both sides of the river were instrumental to all of the work that we did, and to the progress we were able to make. Getting the community engaged and involved, often and early on, is a really key part of the work and should undergird the strategy going forward into the future. Our community group really allowed us to better understand exactly what was happening, what to focus on, and better tailor what would be included in the report that would be delivered to both cities.
The natural follow up to the community tables that we held, was the community survey that we created and distributed in relationship with the University of Minnesota. We sent surveys to around 300 community members, organizations, and stakeholders talking about what was happening in their communities, and what they wanted to see from the banks that the cities contracted with. This was crucial to building the report we delivered to both city governments, and additionally brought people into the work in a powerful way. Bringing people's voices directly into the call for their cities to restructure their work in a way that directly benefits people was and is crucial to this work. That information then continues to be useful outside of just this work as well, and can continue to build and inform the work we do.
The more intentional community building portion of our work was crucial, not only building strong relationships with our allies and partners around the table - but also pulling together community leaders and elected officials and building deep and trusting relationships. The community portion was key in our application, and unsurprisingly turned out to be crucial to the success of our work. Without the intentional and early engagement with our partners and leaders in both Minneapolis and Saint Paul we wouldn't have seen such a strong success in both cities. We really intentionally increased the number of both JCA members and other residents in the community who were involved with, engaged in, and excited by this work - and that made all the difference both in the term of this grant, and in our work moving forward. The combination of working together with our allies and putting specific emphasis on building long term and trusting relationships made the work what it was.

Key lessons learned

We learned that this work builds off of itself, it is iterative. The progress we made will continue to build and grow our work, and is still changing the landscape of the affordable housing work we're doing as well as our community reinvestment work. It can be really easy to think about this work in grant time periods and budgets, but because so much of it is relational and built off the work that's come before it's a long term process that's constantly growing. The Bush support that helped us to build such a substantial base of work will continue to power the work going forwards, and many of the community innovations that we proposed will continue to unfold throughout our current and upcoming work. The lessons we've learned and data we've gathered over the grant term will come into play again in the future, just as the policy changes we were able to create will be a backbone for further work. The community review council in Saint Paul will continue to bolster further community reinvestment work - even if it happens in a broader timeline.

Reflections on the community innovation process

The most crucial part of the community innovation diagram for our work was the gears of community process. This work was not only done in strong coalition with our allies and partners, but community input, knowledge, and leadership was crucial to the work we completed. Community work was crucial through all of the work we did in this grant period because it grounded our work, informed the strategies we pursued, and helped us build power to reach our goals. We tried to make every opportunity to connect to the work inclusive and empowering, and everything we accomplished was because of our resourcefulness, and the resourcefulness of the people we were working with. I think that was distilled so clearly by the creation of the community review council in Saint Paul, the community work and emphasis will continue to make Saint Paul's banking contracts accountable to the needs of the communities most heavily impacted by those investments. The same is true with the small business navigators in Minneapolis, real and concrete investments in the community were both a crucial part to the daily work we did, and in the final product.

Progress toward an innovation

We achieved big break throughs in both Minneapolis and Saint Paul. In Minneapolis we helped create new small business navigators that will be resources to historically marginalized individuals creating new and innovative small businesses. We know that opening a new business is a process awash with stumbling blocks depending on your race, income, and even where you live in the city. These navigators will ideally help to decrease that gap and bring more people into contact with the resources they need, and have help advocating the often confusing process. The presence of new navigators will help build community wealth, help people gain access to tools they would not have otherwise had access to, and drive a more equitable small business ecosystem. In St.Paul we helped to create a new, community based process that allows community input on new banking contracts. This was probably the closest step we were able to take in making banks more accountable to the communities they're serving through contracts with cities. The community based process requires banks submit proposals and that a representative community table will review those applications to make recommendations.

What's next?

We're continuing to work towards a Twin Cities that closes wealth and income gaps, provides housing for everyone, and creates equal opportunties for people to succeed. Currently we're working on affordable housing in the metro area including Minneapolis, Saint Paul, and eight west metro suburban communities. We're also working with the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) to build a campaign around bank accountability, and leveraging a large bank in the region into creating a far reaching community benefits agreement for Minneapolis. Previous Community Benefits Agreements have sent billions of dollars of investment into communities that banks have rarely invested in before. We're continuing our work with clear objectives and goals, building on the success in Minneapolis and Saint Paul to help empower the next stages in this work. The wins during our CI grant term continue to play a role in the work that we're doing, and hope to build on them as we work with NCRC to bring banks to the table and agree to community benefits terms as well.

One last thought

This was powerful work, and the policy changes in both cities we achieved is a big deal, and there is still more work to be done. We're committed to continuing to fight for real changes that encourage banks to be accountable to the communities they work within, and are working to continue funding and growing that work. Bush's foundational investment in JCA's work has changed the landscape for traditionally marginalized people opening small businesses in Minneapolis, and brought community voices into the banking process in Saint Paul. Bush's investment has also created new data, new scaffolding, and will continue to enable this work far into the future. We hope you'll continue to invest in this work, and are excited to continue growing a more just and equitable future together with the Bush Foundation.