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To Support Economic Opportunity In a Changing Jobs Landscape, The Rockefeller Foundation and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Launch $10M Funding Opportunity for Community-Driven Solutions

Nationwide Challenge Will Provide Funding to 10 Local Approaches that Help Low-Income and Financially Insecure People Find and Retain Well-Paid and Meaningful Work, Achieve Financial Security, or Build Economically Vibrant Neighborhoods

Up to 10 Grantees Will Each Receive $1M Grants, Technical Assistance, and an Opportunity to Share Their Stories on a National Stage

April 4, 2018 – The Rockefeller Foundation and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative today launched the Communities Thrive Challenge – a $10-million funding opportunity to find and support successful, community-driven approaches to expand economic opportunity for low-income and financially insecure people and communities across the U.S. Through a roughly six-month, nationwide search, the Challenge will identify up to 80 accomplished organizations with a proven track record, and provide up to 10 with $1 million grants, tailored technical assistance, and an opportunity to share their stories on the national stage.

The Communities Thrive Challenge hopes to fund, strengthen, and grow community-driven approaches that help low-income and financially insecure people find and retain well-paid and meaningful work and achieve financial security or build economically vibrant neighborhoods.

“We have to build a future where people don’t have to depend on luck to succeed,” said Priscilla Chan, co-founder of Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. “The Communities Thrive Challenge will help take luck out of the equation for many more people by backing and helping scale the work of community leaders who are creating pathways to good jobs, financial security, and futures full of opportunity.”

“This Challenge is about ensuring more people in America have access to a good job and a secure future,” said Dr. Rajiv J. Shah, President of The Rockefeller Foundation. “At a time when we lack broad consensus about how to address the economic challenges facing our cities and towns, the Communities Thrive Challenge recognizes the potential of people and organizations taking action in their own communities and shares their lessons with a national audience to improve economic mobility in communities everywhere.”

With guidance from leaders across the country including Mayor of New Orleans Mitch Landrieu, Former Mayor of Albuquerque Richard Berry, CEO of Chicago Cook Workforce Karin Norington-Reaves and CEO of The Workers Lab Carmen Rojas, The Communities Thrive Challenge will seek to identify nonprofit programs; businesses; organizing or advocacy models; technologies; economic development strategies; and other community-driven approaches that deliver significant and consistent results in any of the following areas:

  • Better work: Improving job quality, pay, and worker benefits, and creating new, well-paying jobs for low-income or otherwise marginalized working people in a rapidly changing economy and labor market.
  • Skills development and opportunity matching: Connecting low-income people with work and the skills necessary to succeed in a changing labor market, such as through additional skill development, building career pathways from low-wage to higher-paying jobs, or identifying financing solutions to support the development of new skills and job transitions.
  • Financial security: Enabling underserved and financially insecure working people and their families to better manage unanticipated changes in their income and expenses without experiencing periods of deeper poverty or being forced to rely on predatory debt, and;
  • Economically vibrant communities: Building neighborhoods, cities, or towns that foster economic stability and mobility for residents who have historically been excluded or marginalized, and ensuring that their neighborhoods benefit from a region’s economic growth and vibrancy.   

To ensure this Challenge is informed by community experiences and priorities, The Rockefeller Foundation and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative will visit about a dozen communities such as Ypsilanti, Michigan; Louisville, Kentucky; and Brownsville, Texas. These visits will include meetings with local government officials, community leaders, organizers, employers, and families in urban, rural, and suburban areas. The Rockefeller Foundation and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative are eager to learn directly from a diverse network of community leaders across the country as they develop their long-term economic opportunity strategies.

When the Challenge concludes in October, The Rockefeller Foundation and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative will publish a searchable database of eligible applicants to help funders, policy makers, and other leaders identify and learn about standout approaches that are already making a difference in communities across the country.

The view the Communities Thrive Challenge announcement video, click here.

Quotes from Members of the Expert Review Panel

“In New Orleans, we understand the power of strong communities and creating economic opportunity for everyone,” said Mayor of New Orleans Mitch Landrieu. “Through the Communities Thrive Challenge, we will take successful local strategies developed by people running small businesses or nonprofits in cities like New Orleans, and expand them to reach more people working to achieve opportunity for themselves and their children.”

“The path to powering our communities and unlocking economic opportunity for everyone starts by going local,” said Karin Norington-Reaves, CEO, Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership. “Through the Communities Thrive Challenge we will uncover and shine a light on the incredible programs in towns and cities around the country working to make their regions stronger and helping their residents achieve upward mobility and opportunity.”

“As CEO of The Workers Lab, I am inspired by working people who are – against all odds – developing solutions that improve their lives. Unfortunately, these leaders often lack the financial support they need,” said Carmen Rojas, CEO of The Workers Lab. The Rockefeller Foundation and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Communities Thrive Challenge will identify local leaders and provide necessary capital to help realize and scale these solutions.”

“Five years ago, Albuquerque launched a new program to open up economic opportunity to men and women without a college degree. The success of Talent ABQ, which has matched more than 100 area employers with skilled workers who may not have traditional job qualifications, is lifting up thousands of New Mexico families and showcasing the real power of a community-driven solution,” said Richard Berry, the former Mayor of Albuquerque. The Communities Thrive Challenge will help identify solutions like these and help expand them to reach more people and create economically vibrant communities.”

Communities Thrive Challenge Timeline

Interested applicants are encouraged to visit the Communities Thrive Challenge website at

To be eligible, applicants must register online no later than Tuesday, June 12, 2018, and submit applications by Tuesday, June 19, 2018.

All valid submissions will receive feedback and evaluation from other participants. After a Peer-to-Peer Review, up to 80 applicants will be invited to participate in a second round, with applications due by August 6, 2018.

Applicants in the second round will be reviewed by expert panelists, ranging from business executives and philanthropists to social movement leaders and economic development experts recruited by The Rockefeller Foundation and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. Panel members include Stanford University economist Raj Chetty; Carmen Rojas, CEO of The Workers Lab; and former Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry. All 80 applicants who advance to the second round will receive an honorable mention and 20 will be chosen as finalists. Each finalist that does not become a grantee will receive $5,000 in recognition of their great work.

In August and September, The Rockefeller Foundation and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative will visit each finalist in their community, where they will have the opportunity to share their work and visions for the future. Following the visits, The Rockefeller Foundation and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative will determine the final portfolio of grantees who will each receive a $1 million grant, technical assistance tailored to their needs, and an opportunity to share their stories with the country. Grantees are expected to be announced in late fall 2018.


About The Rockefeller Foundation:

For more than 100 years, The Rockefeller Foundation’s mission has been to promote the well-being of humanity throughout the world. Together with partners and grantees, The Rockefeller Foundation strives to catalyze and scale transformative innovations, create unlikely partnerships that span sectors, and take risks others cannot – or will not. For more information, visit

About Chan Zuckerberg Initiative:

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) was launched in December 2015 by Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, and his wife, Priscilla Chan, a pediatrician and founder and CEO of The Primary School in East Palo Alto. The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is a new kind of philanthropy that seeks to engineer change at scale. By pairing world class engineering with grantmaking, impact investing, policy, and advocacy work, CZI hopes to build a future for everyone. Initial areas of focus include supporting science through basic biomedical research and education through personalized learning. CZI is also exploring ways to address barriers to justice and opportunity – from criminal justice reform, to expanded access to economic opportunity and affordable housing. For more information, please visit



The Rockefeller Foundation:

Matt Herrick


P: 212-852-8354

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative:

Jessica Santillo