But is this a true portrait, beyond the image projected by “RVA”? How is the real city of Richmond really performing? The economic wounds that our city has faced and will face cannot be so easily bandaged by trendy RVA stickers found on every local car and computer.
The scope of this economic disparity can be summed up with a number. The number 25 to be exact. These two digits represent the percentage of our population that falls below the poverty line. Consider the fact that every fourth person you pass on the street is impoverished. That. Is. Striking.
So, what can we do?
The RVA Campaign is to be appreciated for creating civic pride, but strategies are needed to extend the dream to everyone. Fortunately, there are strategies in place established by the Office of Community Wealth Building (OCWB).
There are a number of community platforms that convene to address these issues, one of them being RVA Tech/Jam. The UnBoundRVA team was fortunate enough to attend many of these tech panels, including the OCWB’s “Hacking Poverty.” This particular panel resonated with us at UnBoundRVA as the OCBW staff explained their Maggie L. Walker Initiative. The initiative’s goal is to reduce poverty by 40 percent and reduce the number of children living in poverty by 50 percent by 2030. Achieving these goals would reduce the city’s overall poverty rate to 15 percent. This is the equivalent to pulling 1,000 people out of poverty every year. That too is striking.
The OCBW’s strategy for achieving these goals is primarily policy and structural change through two specific tactics focusing on workforce development and crisis management. Using volunteer programs rather than social services, the OCBW is hopeful of reintegrating the long-time unemployed back into the economy as participating citizens. We at UnBoundRVA feel that our mission is very much in alignment with what the OCBW hopes to achieve with their own objectives, we just take a slightly different approach. By focusing on entrepreneurship, we assist individuals who see business as that vehicle to reach their goals, whatever they might be, but often including financial stability.
With that in mind, let’s analyze more numbers.
Through the competitive UnBoundRVA program process, five individuals from low-income backgrounds are offered the opportunity to build their own path to entrepreneurship. While UnBoundRVA is initially a 50/50 partner with the entrepreneurs, our hope is that the business will eventually be completely self-sustaining, and the entrepreneur will be free from the burdens of financial instability.
While these entrepreneurs may only be five of the 1,000 persons projected in the OCBW’s goal, these UnBoundRVA entrepreneurs are the city’s mustard seeds.
Royal McCargo, a Class Two entrepreneur, was motivated to grow his 1010 Post Construction business not only for his own familial financial security, but for that of the neighborhood families around him. While Royal has been able to expand his book of business, he has more importantly been able to offer others personal growth through the gift of employment, the gift of a paycheck- to others once in his situation.
Royal may only be seen on paper as a single business owner. However, we know that an UnBoundRVA entrepreneur’s labor bears much more sustaining fruit for a community than what is first visible to the naked eye.
We as a community can continue to push the Maggie Walker Initiative forward. Whether it be workforce development or entrepreneurship, or any other solution you might have, it does not matter the way in which we lift up our community, but it does matter that we work together to have a collective impact. We need to continue to work together as one Richmond to help sew these seeds of economic growth.
– Lindsay Palmisano
About the Blogger: Lindsay is a Cleveland native and 90s age fanatic whose unfamiliarity with smart phones dates her back to the stone ages. She can be found exploring Richmond or getting lost in it, and is frequently spotted using printed Mapquest directions. Lindsay will meet with others over iced black coffee at any hour of the day, and her preference for coffeehouse conversations includes social justice issues, haphazard traveling, and Pinterest DIY projects and recipes.