Discussing Inclusive Economic Prosperity During the 2021 Cleveland Foundation Annual Meeting Week Presented by KeyBank

Four people sit in chairs against a green backdrop.
(L to R): Jeremy Johnson, president and CEO, Assembly for the Arts; Ricardo León, executive director, Metro West Community Development Organization; Karis Tzeng, director of AsiaTown Initiatives, MidTown Inc.; and Keisha González, program manager for social impact investing and community development initiatives, Cleveland Foundation, discuss efforts to foster inclusive economic prosperity in Greater Cleveland.

This is the second in a series of blogs where we will be sharing details about the Cleveland Foundation’s new strategic direction. Stay tuned as we share posts on the “Creating Pathways to Opportunity” and “Building and Sharing Power” panel conversations that took place during our annual meeting week.

As we continue to refine and develop this strategic direction, we are committed to working together with people and organizations across our community to understand the nuances, listen to those with lived experience, and act together on shared goals. As we begin this work, we want to hear from you. We invite you to take this brief survey to share your thoughts on the Cleveland Foundation’s work moving forward.

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How might we help every person in our community find a job or access the support and resources needed to put a great idea into action? Fostering inclusive economic prosperity is one of three impact areas identified as we move forward on a new strategic direction for the Cleveland Foundation. Informed by months of deep listening in the community, and through partnership between the foundation’s board and staff, we introduced our new strategic direction during the 2021 Cleveland Foundation Annual Meeting Week Presented by KeyBank, which took place Aug. 24 – Aug. 27. As part of our annual meeting week programming, we hosted a series of lunchtime panel discussions featuring community leaders working in a variety of fields. Each panel focused on one of the three strategic impact areas that frame the foundation’s enterprise-wide direction.

On Aug. 25, Keisha González, program manager for social impact investing and community development initiatives at the Cleveland Foundation, moderated a panel discussion among Jeremy Johnson, president and CEO, Assembly for the Arts; Ricardo León, executive director, Metro West Community Development Organization; and Karis Tzeng, director of AsiaTown Initiatives, MidTown Inc.; around fostering inclusive economic prosperity in Greater Cleveland.

“Prosperity means different things to different people,” González said as she introduced the panelists, inviting each to share their own definition of prosperity and how their respective organizations measure the impact their work has in the communities they serve.

Watch the “Fostering Inclusive Economic Prosperity,” panel conversation from the 2021 Cleveland Foundation Annual Meeting Presented by KeyBank: It Starts With Community via the video above.

“Prosperity is really things that often a lot of us take for granted,” said León, pointing to access to transportation, access to greenspace and resident life expectancy as means to measure a community’s prosperity.

Tzeng said ensuring residents have access to the opportunities created by economic growth is key to an inclusive economy. “Are residents able to direct their own economic futures?” she asked.

Johnson discussed the crucial role arts organizations can play as an economic driver across Northeast Ohio. “Arts and culture affect all of our sectors,” he said.

The panelists also addressed what barriers currently exist to economic prosperity in Greater Cleveland and what changes need to be made to overcome them.

“It’s resources—that’s the biggest hurdle,” said León, adding that addressing inequitable systems is crucial.

“We have to acknowledge our history,” Tzeng said. “Our history has systematically and intentionally kept Black and Brown communities and other people of color out of mainstream systems.”

Johnson highlighted the importance of making sure all voices have a place at the table when economic policy decisions are being made in a community. “So much of this is about lifting up the voice,” he said.


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