In 2015, the Institute’s Latinos and Society Program convened a group of leaders to address the low rates of Latino civic participation. As a result, the program released Unlocking Latino Civic Potential: 2016 and Beyond. This year, the report’s recommendations led to the creation of the Latino Engagement and Achievement Fund, or “LEAF,” a new endowed fund to support Latino civic organizations in the DC metro area. The founders of LEAF are Paty Funegra, the founder of La Cocina VA, and Diana Katz, the co-founder of Giving Circle of Hope.
“Civic participation is not just voting, volunteering, and civic education,” Katz says. “It’s about leaving the community better than you found it.” She says the 2016 report reflected circumstances she saw in her community: “It resonated with me because I experienced what the recommendations were talking about.” Unlocking Latino Civic Potential recommends concrete actions in four key areas: voter engagement, immigrant integration and naturalization, civic education, and leadership development. The new fund provides a mechanism for activating local philanthropy, which Katz and Funegra see as a critical link to unleashing Latino potential.
Scaling Up the Latino Business Boom
Latinos are fueling new business growth nationwide. Even if they lead in new ventures, they face challenges when it comes to scaling up those businesses. This June, the Institute’s Latinos and Society Program gathered 27 leaders at the Aspen Institute Forum on Latino Business Growth to find solutions that support Latino-owned businesses as they grow. The Latino population explosion (set to reach one-third of the US population by 2060), record levels of new Latino-owned businesses (four to 15 times the rate of otherpopulations), and the limitations to scaling those businesses mean it is vital to the US economy that such ventures are optimized. “I came into the program with a good understanding of the barriers facing our business community,” one participant said. “But the discussion over our time here completely opened my eyes to different strategies—political, media, procurement.” A report with the full set of action-oriented solutions will be released in November.