Aspen Institute Announces CDFI Partners to Launch “Shared Success” Project Scaling Small Business Job Quality

September 28, 2022

Community-based financial institutions will support business owners to improve jobs while strengthening their businesses

Contact: Adrienne Lee
Senior Communications Manager
The Aspen Institute


Washington, DC, September 28 – Aspen Institute’s Economic Opportunities Program today announced the selection of ten community development financial institutions (CDFIs) as partners in Shared Success: scaling financial intermediary strategies to advance job quality, equity, and small business prosperity. This innovative pilot program, supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will focus on advancing job quality among small- and medium-sized businesses. From stagnant wages to low access to benefits, low job quality affects millions of workers in the US and disproportionately impacts BIPOC workers. Nearly 60% of low-wage workers work at businesses with fewer than 100 employees, including the 35% of low-wage workers at micro-businesses with fewer than 10 employees. Improving job quality for low-wage, BIPOC workers requires a focus on small businesses.

CDFIs and financial intermediaries can help improve the lives of low-wage workers by centering job quality in their financing and advising. Based on their experience and desire to advance to small business job quality and racial equity, the following CDFI grantees will integrate job quality into their financing and advising services to support and incentivize small- and medium-sized businesses to improve job quality in areas  including worker compensation, advancement, employee satisfaction, basic benefits, incentives, and wealth building.

  • African Development Center (MN)
  • Black Business Investment Fund (BBIF) (FL)
  • California FarmLink
  • Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI) Maine
  • Colorado Enterprise Fund
  • ICA Fund (CA)
  • Institute Capital (NC, SC, VA, WV, DC)
  • Justine PETERSEN (MO, IL, KS)
  • Micro Enterprise Services of Oregon (MESO) (OR, WA)
  • Northern Initiatives (MI)

Joining the Economic Opportunities Program and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in this collaborative effort are key partners U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation (USBCDC) and Pacific Community Ventures (PCV). USBCDC, the community development and tax credit subsidiary of U.S. Bank, will provide CDFI partners with an opportunity to apply for capital investments; PCV will leverage its existing expertise in good jobs business advising to support CDFIs in strengthening their practices.

“This is a critical undertaking to meaningfully improve jobs in a way that benefits both workers and business owners. Most business owners recognize the value of their employees, but need information, incentives, and tools to improve job quality,” said Maureen Conway, vice president at the Aspen Institute and executive director of the Institute’s Economic Opportunities Program. “We are pleased to partner with these CDFIs who share our values and are well positioned to help small businesses seize opportunities for making job quality improvements in the short term and ultimately drive structural changes for a more just and equitable economy.”

By building job quality-related services into their existing operating and financial models and sharing evidence of CDFI success in influencing job quality, these CDFI partners will lay a foundation for scaling job quality as a key driver of racial equity and economic mobility. In the long term, Shared Success aims to raise the floor for workers across the US small business ecosystem by demonstrating that small business owners can feasibly enhance job quality in ways that strengthen business resilience and worker wellbeing, and by developing the capacities, products, and practices of financial institutions to facilitate job quality improvements.


The Economic Opportunities Program (EOP) advances strategies, policies, and ideas to help low- and moderate-income people thrive in a changing economy. We recognize that race, gender, and place intersect with and intensify the challenge of economic inequality and we address these dynamics by advancing an inclusive vision of economic justice. For over 25 years, EOP has focused on expanding individuals’ opportunities to connect to quality work, start businesses, and build economic stability that provides the freedom to pursue opportunity. For more information, visit:

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