Economic Mobility in Communities of Color

Solutions Journalism Network

Communities of color have historically faced wealth gaps, disparities in educational resources, and work environments that exploit employees. This collection shows effective alternatives to traditional systems, with cooperatives and mutual aid programs providing a path toward economic mobility.

 A centuries-old method called a susu, for example, allows entrepreneurs to access capital from their personal network when bank loans are difficult to secure. This African tradition enables members to save up money as a community. Those savings are then used as needed by participants for education, down payments, and health care costs.  

In Baltimore, an employee-owned cooperative gives workers a say in day-to-day operations as well as a seat at the table to shape long-term business goals and plans. This democratizes the process of asset building while protecting workers from the uncertainty of financial markets. In Atlanta, an organization works with Black-owned businesses to save neighborhood real estate from commercial gentrification. The Guild purchases properties that are then owned by the entire community and put to use based on what the neighborhood decides will best serve the area, instead of letting investors buy viable properties and price out local businesses or community spaces.

These responses have the potential to strengthen communities economically and socially.