February 2015 - In This Issue:

Mayor Dwight C. Jones
Check out our website to take a closer look at what we have been working on and to stay abreast of what we have in the pipeline!
Citizens' Advisory Board

On December 8, Richmond City Council approved an ordinance to formally establish the Maggie L. Walker Initiative Citizens Advisory Board. This legislation formalizes the role of the Citizens Advisory Board and empowers it to continue to make policy recommendations and issue independent evaluations of the city's ongoing anti-poverty initiatives. 


It's important to point out that over one half of the board members will be persons living in high poverty neighborhoods. Stay tuned for more information about Board Membership.


Staff from the Office of Community Wealth Building will be on hand at the following events to present an update on the City's poverty reduction strategy:

Kinfolks - RVA Chat 'n' Chew
When: Thursday, February 12
1:00 - 2:30 pm
Where: 1421 Bryan Street

Council President Michelle Mosby (9th District) Community Meeting
When: Thursday, February 19 
6:00 - 8:00 pm
Where: Goodwill of Central, VA 
6301 Midlothian Turnpike

Councilman Charles Samuels
(2nd District) Community Meeting
When: Thursday, March 5
5:30 - 7:00 pm
Where: Redskins Training Camp
2401 West Leigh Street

Would you or your or organization like to host a Chat n Chew with the staff of the Office of Community Wealth Building? 

Chat n Chews are informal discussions around issues related to Community Wealth Building in the city of Richmond. Staff from the Office of Community Wealth Building will present information about the work we are doing and engage in a dialogue with attendees about ways to catalyze that work going forward. If interested send an email to Christina Mastroianni



Richmond made history last spring when Mayor Jones established the nation's first-ever Office of Community Wealth Building to take up the charge of implementing a comprehensive poverty reduction plan for the City.

The term "Community Wealth Building" is both symbolic and substantive. Symbolically, it is intended to show we are taking a positive approach aimed at the uplift and empowerment of individuals and communities, building on assets, resources, and potential already present.


But what does "community wealth building" mean, in substantive terms?

It might help to take the three key words one at a time.

First, community. Community has a lot of different possible meanings; here we are concerned with just two. First, it is used to indicate that we care not just about a few but about everyone. In a just community, no one is left out or left behind. Second, it refers to particular places -- neighborhoods, districts, even entire cities.

This is significant for our efforts because our goal is not merely to build pathways out of poverty for a few individuals while leaving neighborhoods unchanged. Neighborhoods are the contexts that shape life and life chances for families and children. We aspire to a Richmond in which people don't necessarily have to move to enjoy a better quality-of-life, but can choose (if they wish) to prosper in place while having access to quality education, public amenities, good housing, and mobility.

Second, wealth. In economic terms, wealth means accumulated savings. Access to wealth opens a lot of doors in our society-
- to college, to the opportunity to buy a home, the opportunity to start a business or invest in one. It also provides a buffer in economic downturns. But many Americans have few, zero, or even negative net assets -- meaning that any misstep or stroke of misfortune can catapult one into poverty. Building wealth is what ultimately, in economic terms, will allow families and households to escape poverty not just for a few months or years but in a lasting way.

But there is more to wealth than just money: we are concerned with the development of all forms of capital in a community
-- physical capital (built assets), human capital (talents and abilities), social capital (connections and support structures), as well as financial capital (individual savings, business ownership, investment capital). A thriving community has each of these forms of capital in abundance.

Third, building. This isn't just included to make for a nice turn of phrase. Rather the word indicates that the changes and improvements we seek are a process -- and always will be a process. Even if we could wave a magic wand and achieve our boldest aspirations overnight -- sadly, we cannot -- we would still need to work at continuing the process of community wealth building for the next generation. Since we don't have a magic wand, what we have in front of us as a community is a process that requires a lot of hard work, patience, and perspiration.

This does not mean we need wait forever for important, tangible progress, which may come in both small and big steps. It does mean that building community wealth in our low-income neighborhoods and across the city is going to take time, resources, and the contributions of the entire community. It is the privilege and responsibility of this Office to help catalyze that work going forward.

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The authoritative data source for estimating poverty levels in neighborhoods and cities is the American Community Survey Five-Year estimates published by the U.S. Census Bureau. The most recent data covering the period 2009-2013 were released in December.

Richmond's official poverty rate now stands at 25.6% of all residents -- some 50,681 persons. This figure is actually slightly lower than the 2008-2012 estimate of 26.7%. But it still is unacceptably high and calls out for a systemic policy response.
What does this mean in human terms?

The official poverty line is now approximately $24,000 for a family of four. Some 27,443 persons in the City (13.9% of the population) actually live in families with income under 50% of the poverty line.

Many other City residents are above the poverty line, but still at considerable risk of falling into poverty. A commonly used measure of genuine economic security is having a family income double the poverty line. Some 46.1% of the City's population have family income below 200% of the poverty line.

The statistics become even more alarming if we look at the circumstances of specific groups:
  • 38.8% of children in the City now live in poverty
  • 30.9% of African-Americans and 35.4% of Hispanic or Latino residents live in poverty
  • 21.1% of high school graduates, and 35.5% of residents with less than high school, live in poverty
  • Over 94% of adults in poverty did not work full-time in the past year
These figures are disturbing and illustrate the depth of the challenge facing the City. The fact that overall poverty has actually declined slightly in the past year as the effects of the Great Recession recede does not change the bigger picture -- far too many citizens are excluded from economic prosperity in our City. To tackle this challenge requires developing and implementing an integrated strategy focused on three key "buckets": employment, education, and housing/neighborhoods.

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Are you interested in taking a lead role in the development and implementation of social enterprise projects aimed at the employment of low-income City residents? The City of Richmond's Department of Economic and Community Development, in conjunction with the Mayor's Office of Community Wealth Building and the Office of Minority Business Development, is seeking a highly skilled and experienced economic development professional.  Social Enterprise Development is a key aspect of the City's comprehensive poverty reduction and wealth building initiative, coordinated through the Mayor's Office of Community Wealth Building.

Click here for more information or to apply.

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For more information about the Office of Community Wealth Building, click here. To speak to someone from our staff, please call 804-646-1300. To find out how you can get involved, email us or call us at 804-646-1300.