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The Rockefeller Foundation Announces Final Two Cities in The Rockefeller Foundation Opportunity Collective (ROC)

New grantees announced; Funds will provide capital, financial training, and guidance to small businesses of color impacted by Covid-19

NEW YORK |December 15, 2020 – As part of its ongoing effort to expand equity and economic opportunity for low-wage families and communities of color across the country, The Rockefeller Foundation announced Jackson, Mississippi, and Baltimore, Maryland are joining The Rockefeller Opportunity Collective (ROC), raising the commitment to 12 locations and $12 million. At the same time, the Foundation announced specifics of grants totaling more than $7 million to support the communities hit hardest by the Covid-19 pandemic who also face systemic barriers to accessing the country’s social safety net.

“The suffering that continues to grow in communities all across America, and the staggering loss of life and livelihoods, increasingly bleak choice of having to choose between putting food on the table and paying rent, and overwhelmed health systems is unacceptable,” says Dr. Rajiv J. Shah, President of The Rockefeller Foundation. “The time to act is right now to address the inequities made worse by this virus and build a more equitable, sustainable future for our working families.”

The ROC, launched in June, aims to catalyze public and private sector investment to promote more inclusive growth, both in the post-pandemic recovery and over the long term. The ROC Funds are being allocated to a collective of government, business, faith-based, and non-profit partners over several years.

The previously announced ROC locations are Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, El Paso, Miami-Dade County, Houston, Louisville, Newark, Norfolk, and Oakland. The Foundation is investing in partners, projects, and programs with the core goal of eliminating barriers to access capital and credit among low-wage workers and small businesses operated by women, Black, and Latinx owners.

Black-owned businesses closed at nearly twice the rate as firms overall at the onset of the pandemic, according to a recent report by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, fueled in part by structural barriers to accessing financing at traditional banks and institutions that administered relief programs like the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Negative or nonexistent credit information, cash constraints, and lack of availability of private capital, and access to affordable financing are all components that limit a community’s economic development. These conditions also cause lost job opportunities, restrict housing options, and ultimately limit the goals of many low and middle-income families.

“It is clear that we have reached a critical inflection point exposing unique opportunities for real, structural change,” says Otis Rolley III, Senior Vice President of The Rockefeller Foundation’s U.S. Equity and Economic Opportunity Initiative. “Social equity cannot exist without economic equity. That’s why we are excited to be partnering with these organizations to help businesses nationwide with technical assistance and stabilizing capital. Through our efforts, we will help entrepreneurs of color, decrease BIPOC unemployment rates across the country, encourage additional investment into communities of color, and stop countless doors from closing.”

The Foundation’s goal is to provide critical guidance, training programs, networking opportunities, and financial assistance to help Black, brown, and Latinx businesses overcome this crisis and succeed long-term while breaking down barriers to accessing capital and credit. An estimated 26.5 million U.S. adults are not in the formal credit economy. Federal data show that 15% of Black and Hispanic Americans are credit invisible (compared to just 8% of White and Asian Americans). In the U.S., Black and Hispanic businesses receive only 2.5% and 5.8% of funding through the Small Business Administration.

“The City of Jackson is honored and encouraged by joining the Rockefeller Foundation Opportunity Collective,” says Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba. “Access to capital has been a significant barrier for underrepresented entrepreneurs in the Jackson community and Covid-19 has only exacerbated these challenges. We are acutely focused on building a better and stronger Jackson in which our citizens can thrive. This partnership is an important step in providing needed support as we work to foster a more robust and inclusive business economy.”

“Baltimore’s small businesses are truly the heart of our city. With their unwavering support through the Covid-19 pandemic, and dedication to Baltimoreans across the city, I am excited that they will have the well-deserved support of The Rockefeller Foundation Opportunity Collective,” says Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott. “This opportunity is another step in the right direction to ensure that our businesses are developed and operated through a lens of equity, ensuring economic growth and equal opportunity for all in Baltimore City.”

The $12 million commitment behind ROC and the additional grant funding is part of the Foundation’s comprehensive $65 million investment announced in February to help more than 10 million low-wage BIPOC workers and their families across the United States meet their basic needs and pursue a more prosperous future.

In addition to the selection of the final two ROC places, The Rockefeller Foundation funding in December includes the following grantees:

  • National Domestic Workers’ Alliance: The Foundation is committing $2 million in support of NDWA Labs, which seeks innovative strategies to increase access to benefits for those who have been intentionally written out of our country’s social safety net by federal and state governments. This organization encourages domestic workers nationwide to be at the forefront of efforts to build a new, more inclusive economy that leaves no one behind.
  • 1863 Ventures: With $1 million in funding from the Foundation, this organization will provide technical assistance and capital to companies making less than $2 million in revenue, ensuring that each business can rebuild and scale-up despite setbacks from the pandemic. The businesses must be majority-owned by minorities to qualify, and located in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, El Paso, Miami-Dade County, Houston, Louisville, Newark, Norfolk, or Oakland.
  • The Russell Technology Business Incubator: With $500,000 from the Foundation, the project will seek to establish a physical space in Louisville’s Russell neighborhood, the community where Breonna Taylor was killed, to host incubated businesses and serve as an anchor tenant and center of gravity for the community’s tech entrepreneurs. The project will employ predominantly Black professionals in the areas of marketing, finance, sales, technology, and other specialties to provide the technical assistance needed to start and scale the businesses. It will also provide entrepreneurs with wraparound supports, allowing them to focus on their business ideas without sacrificing their personal or family lives.
  • Our Village United: With a $500,000 contribution to this organization, the Foundation will help Our Village United build their capacity and provide direct technical assistance to Black-owned businesses in Atlanta’s product creation, service, and culinary sectors. With this grant, the Foundation aims to support its mission to invest in partners, projects, and programs that eliminate barriers to access capital and credit for Black and Latinx small businesses in Atlanta.
  • Black Business Investment Fund (BBIF): This $400,000 grant will support BBIF’s construction Contractor Assistance Program (CAP), which provides loan capital and business development training to strengthen Black contractor’s business capacity, with the ultimate goal of creating jobs. BBIF will provide specialized, advisory services and training through a construction-focused curriculum to a number of Miami-Dade County commercial licensed contractors, who must each commit to working with and developing a minimum of two sub-contractors.
  • East Bay Community Foundation: A $500,000 grant from the Foundation will support the REAL People’s Fund, a community government capital fund in California’s East Bay that works to create a more inclusive economy by redistributing wealth to women, Black, and Latinx owned small businesses.

In addition to the six grantees outlined above, the Foundation efforts to support equity and economic security for low-wage workers continue through our ongoing support of economic policy and place-based programmatic interventions.  This includes, but is not limited to, a diverse group of organizations across the country such as the National Employment Law Project ($1,000,000), The Coalition on Human Needs ($600,000), 9to5 National Association of Working Women ($500,000), PolicyLink ($500,000) and Hispanics in Philanthropy ($375,000).

About The Rockefeller Foundation

The Rockefeller Foundation advances new frontiers of science, data, and innovation to solve global challenges related to health, food, power, and economic mobility. As a science-driven philanthropy focused on building collaborative relationships with partners and grantees, The Rockefeller Foundation seeks to inspire and foster large-scale human impact that promotes the well-being of humanity throughout the world by identifying and accelerating breakthrough solutions, ideas, and conversations. For more information, sign up for our newsletter at and follow us on Twitter @RockefellerFdn.

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