Sep 17, 2018 · 6 min read

The Rockefeller Foundation and Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Announce Finalists in $10M Economic Opportunity Challenge


The Communities Thrive Challenge, a $10-million funding opportunity by The Rockefeller Foundation and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, today announced 20 finalists and 63 semi-finalists from across the country. Later this year, up to ten of the finalists will be named grantees, receiving $1 million grants and tailored technical assistance.

The Communities Thrive Challenge hopes to lift up and scale successful community-driven approaches to expanding economic opportunity for low-income and financially insecure people and communities across the country.  After site visits with all 20 groups, ten will receive a $1 million grant. The other finalists will receive $5,000. Finalists range from organizations like the South Carolina Community Loan Fund in Charleston, which finances local projects to transform and revitalizes communities, to the Texas Organizing Project in Houston, which works to dismantle barriers that have held back communities of color and working families in Texas. Details on the finalists and semi-finalists can be found here.

“We believe in an America where all people can earn enough to support their families, achieve financial security, and provide their children with better opportunities for the future—and we believe that community organizations often hold the key to making that dream possible,” said Dr. Rajiv J. Shah, president of The Rockefeller Foundation. “The Communities Thrive Challenge demonstrated tremendous excitement and energy from local organizations across the U.S. who want to share lessons and strategies with a broader audience. We are enthusiastic to connect with these organizations and help them reach as many people as possible with their ideas.”

“I’m inspired by the energy, optimism, and impact of these community-driven approaches from all across the country. We are thrilled to be learning from the creativity and experience of local leaders who are working tirelessly to improve the lives of working people and their families,” said Priscilla Chan, co-Founder of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.

Over the course of two months, the Communities Thrive Challenge received an incredible 1,826 applications that spanned all 50 states, D.C., and 4 of 5 U.S. territories. To ensure that community leaders had a voice in the decision making, all valid applications were reviewed and scored by five other applicants in a peer review process.

Following the peer review process, over 80 were chosen for evaluation by a diverse panel of experts from academia, policy, business, philanthropy, and community development. Informed by expert and peer review, 20 finalists were selected for the final round.  

Applications were  evaluated based on four main criteria: impact: does the approach improve the lives of the communities where it works ; the potential for scale: could this approach be effective at a larger scale or become a model for others; community based/informed: how deeply the organization is embedded with the community it serves; and leadership; the organizations are led by individuals with a strong history in and commitment to their field and who represent the communities served.

For the final round, teams from The Rockefeller Foundation and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative will visit each of the 20 finalists in their communities to learn more about their work and visions for the future. The Rockefeller Foundation and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative will then select the final slate of grantees who will each receive a $1 million grant and technical assistance tailored to their needs. Grantees are expected to be announced by the end of the year.

Upon conclusion of the Challenge, The Rockefeller Foundation and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative will release a public, searchable database of eligible applicants so that other funders, policy makers and leaders can learn from these standout approaches.

The 20 finalists listed below represent organizations from cities and towns across the country implementing community-driven approaches to help create better work, provide skill development opportunities, improve financial security, and build economically vibrant communities.

Benefits Data Trust
BenePhilly 2.0
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

CASA de Maryland, Inc.
Family Economic Success Training Institute
Langley Park, Maryland

Cincinnati Union Cooperative Initiative
Child Care – Moving from Crisis to Cooperation
Cincinnati, Ohio

Coalfield Development Corporation
Rebuilding Appalachia From the Ground Up
Wayne, West Virginia

Communities Venture Corporation
Community Ventures for an Economically Vibrant West Louisville
Lexington, Kentucky

The Enterprise Center
Minority Small Business Growth Capital
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Family Values @ Work
A Multi-State Consortium – Building Local Capacity to Win Paid Leave for Financial Security
Milwaukee, Wisconsin (multi-state organization)

Fideicomiso de la Tierra del Caño Martín Peña
Martín Peña – Internationalizing a Successful Land-Trust Model for Informal Communities
San Juan, Puerto Rico

Homeboy Industries,
Removing Barriers to Employment for Formerly Gang-Involved and Previously Incarcerated
Los Angeles, California

iFoster Jobs Program
Truckee, California (national organization)

The Industrial Commons
Rebuilding a Diverse Southern Labor Movement with Ownership and Workplace-Democracy
Morganton, North Carolina

Low-Income Hiring Strategy for Business Owners
Missoula, Montana

New Mexico Community Capital
Seeding an Economic Comeback in Native America Through Localism
Albuquerque, New Mexico

Onward Financial, Inc.,
A Financial Cushion for Every Worker
Temple Hills, Missouri

Project QUEST, Inc.,
Quest First Steps
San Antonio, Texas

Rising Foundations
The First 72+ Stop the Cycle, Build for the Future
New Orleans, Louisiana

South Carolina Community Loan Fund
Investing in Community
Charleston, South Carolina

Texas Organizing Project Education Fund
Texas Rising
San Antonio, Texas

Urban Revival, Inc.
Anti-Displacement Zone Organizing: Taking Tenant Power to Scale
Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts

Urban Youth Alliance International, Inc.
Community-Based Employment Pathways for Court-Involved Youth and Formerly Incarcerated People
New York City, New York

The Communities Thrive Challenge and Upworthy have partnered to host a live #UpChat on Twitter on October 11 at 1 p.m. ET.  During the hour-long event, the 20 finalists will answer a series of questions from UpWorthy about community, creating positive change and more. Follow @UpWorthy and #CommunitiesThriveChallenge on Twitter to take part in the #UpChat.


About The Rockefeller Foundation:

For more than 100 years, The Rockefeller Foundation’s mission has been to promote the well-being of humanity throughout the world. Together with partners and grantees, The Rockefeller Foundation strives to catalyze and scale transformative innovations, create unlikely partnerships that span sectors, and take risks others cannot – or will not. For more information, visit

About Chan Zuckerberg Initiative:

Founded by Dr. Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg in 2015, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) is a new kind of philanthropy that’s leveraging technology to help solve some of the world’s toughest challenges – from eradicating disease, to improving education, to reforming the criminal justice system. Across three core Initiative focus areas of Science, Education and Justice and Opportunity, we’re pairing engineering with grantmaking, impact investing, policy and advocacy work to help build an inclusive, just and healthy future for everyone. For more information, please visit

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