past event
Economic Development

Shared Prosperity: Building Power Towards an Equitable Rural Economy

Download the event presentation here: ROADS Shared Prosperity Slide Deck

Access the San Fran Fed tool analyzing state labor market gaps

Access the new St. Louis Fed book Investing in Rural Prosperity

Building power and capacity within groups on the economic and social margins is a crucial component for strong, healthy and economically diverse rural communities. In too many places for too long, Black, Indigenous and other communities of color in rural society have been left out or shut out of important economic decisions, exacerbating numerous structural inequities. For instance, the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco estimates that racial and gender gaps in earnings, hours worked, educational attainment, and employment cost the United States $2.6 trillion of GDP in 2019. What will it take for government, private sector and civic institutions to intentionally identify and adopt policies, practices and regulations that increase access to economic opportunity for Black, Indigenous, Latinx and other populations of color in rural places and Native nations? 

Shared Prosperity: Building Power Towards an Equitable Rural Economy, held in conjunction with Rural LISC’s National Seminar in Memphis, Tennessee, explored the positive economic and social potential that comes with improving racial equity in rural places. Watch the video to hear stories of power and capacity building at the community level and take away lessons on how rural places have united to become more inclusive and economically vibrant. 

Our Speakers
Calvin Allen, Senior Program Director, MDC Rural Forward Program

Calvin manages Rural Forward’s “Beyond Local” portfolio, strengthening key state and national relationships, providing technical assistance, and supporting our local partners in Healthy Places NC counties. Rural Forward is a program of MDC. For over twenty-five years, Calvin has worked in the nonprofit sector as an administrator, trainer, facilitator, advocate, and consultant, primarily around organizational development, rural economic development, leadership, and conflict management. Most recently, he worked for the Golden LEAF Foundation’s community grants making programs as a program officer. He also served as deputy director at the Southern Rural Development Initiative, director of the National Community Forestry Service Center at the Conservation Fund, and associate director at the Dispute Settlement Center of Orange County.

Chester B. Williams, Chief Executive Officer, A Better Chance, A Better Community (ABC2)

ABC2 connects rural communities with resources and opportunities to activate youth power and advocate for realistic solutions and healthier lifestyles. Chester’s official title is “Founder/Chief Empowerment Officer”, and he also supports the ABC2 World Changers, the youth of ABC2. Together ABC2 created a large Community Garden to provide fresh seasonal produce for the Enfield Farmer’s Market. Proceeds from farm sales go directly to scholarships and training programs for the youth and teens in the community, continuing a loop of investment and commitment that is evident in all Chester’s efforts. The World Changers also host Teen Unity Summits, bringing together young people to highlight social issues impacting teens today, as well as cooking classes with younger children and their families.

Gisela Salgado, Director of Leadership Development Programs, California Coalition for Rural Housing

Gisela’s leads program publicity and outreach, intern and host agency recruitment and placement, development of intern and host agency trainings and technical assistance, partnership agreements with outside trainers, site visits, monitoring, evaluation of program performance and fund development. To date she has graduated 78 students from the program, built partnerships with NeighborWorks America, the Washington State Farmworker Housing Trust and the California State VISTA Americorps Program. She has successfully overseen program expansion to Washington State and Oregon; currently supporting Chicanos Por La Causa in Arizona implement an internship program based on our model. She is fluent in Spanish and, coming from an immigrant and underprivileged background, has a strong cultural and social affinity for ensuring better opportunities and quality of life for under-represented communities.

Bina Patel Shrimali, Research Manager for Community Development, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco 

Bina manages the community development research team at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, which conducts research on the structural barriers to economic opportunity for low-income communities and communities of color. In this role, she provides guidance for the department’s research agenda and publications that advance racial equity, healthy and resilient communities, a thriving labor force, and inclusive financial systems. Prior to the SF Fed, Dr. Shrimali worked at the Alameda County Public Health Department where she led multisector collaboration and place-based projects. Dr. Shrimali received her Doctorate in Public Health from UC Berkeley.

Our Moderator
Bonita A. Robertson-Hardy, Associate Director, Aspen Institute Community Strategies Group

Bonita is a workforce and economic development professional committed to connecting the public sector, private sector and nonprofit communities. Through her work, she builds relationships, utilizes her voice to influence policy, and advocates for equity and opportunity in public and private organizations. Prior to joining the Aspen Institute, Robertson worked at the Greater New Orleans Foundation (GNOF), the community foundation for 13 rural and urban parishes in the southeast Louisiana region. During her eight years at GNOF, she served as Director of Workforce Initiatives as well as Director of Civic Leadership. In these roles she developed employer–led workforce partnerships to train jobseekers and incumbent workers, established an initiative to provide post-hire supportive services for employees at their worksites, led the strategic planning process for the equitable revitalization of an economic development zone within downtown New Orleans, and worked to support and catalyze progressive initiatives to promote growth and equity throughout the region.

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