Becoming a BALLE Fellow: Yanique Redwood, Consumer Health Foundation

Yanique Redwood, president and CEO of the Consumer Health Foundation, is one of 36 leaders selected for the 2016 BALLE Local Economy Fellowship.

By Yanique Redwood

“What do you mean by community wealth building?” asked one well-meaning foundation colleague, as I explained the Consumer Health Foundation’s grant-making portfolio.

I pointed out to her the difference between the extractive economy that we have now and one that would be more inclusive and based on principles like locally-based shared ownership.

When I was done, she advised that I take an easier route, working on projects to garner early wins and impress my board. But I knew this route wouldn’t yield the transformative change needed in communities of color in the Washington, D.C., region where many people are living and working on the margins.

When I learned of the BALLE Local Economy Fellowship, I was thrilled to know that there were others around the country taking the hard route to community transformation.

In 2012, I began my tenure at Consumer Health Foundation and interviewed each board member in the first few weeks about the most impactful work being done by the foundation. With palpable enthusiasm, almost all of them pointed to the Community Wealth Building Initiative (CWBI), a funding collaborative that was building an initiative far different from the typical poverty-reduction efforts based on deficit frameworks and service delivery. CWBI builds on community assets such as anchor institutions (e.g., hospitals, universities, and local governments) and local entrepreneurs and businesses and brings them together to exchange goods and services. In the process, new businesses and cooperatives are built based on existing anchor procurement dollars, and worker-owners have access to fair wages, benefits, and profit sharing – workplace benefits that are becoming more and more elusive in the American economy.

As a BALLE fellow, I am looking forward to learning from other fellows as we tackle tough questions like:

  • How do we make the best case to other funders about the transformation that will happen when we build assets and invest in root causes instead of seeing people as broken and in need of our help?
  • How can we, along with our partners, encourage local and state governments to pass policies that support business models that are good for both people and the planet?
  • How do we bridge racial and economic justice and resist the idea that if we can just fix the economy, then everything will be okay for people of color?

These aren’t questions with easy answers, but I am convinced that these are the questions worth asking.

I am thrilled to be supported by a board that won’t accept anything less than transformative change, and I look forward to working together with other members of my BALLE cohort to implement bold systems-level solutions that nurture healthy, thriving communities.

Learn more about the 2016 BALLE Local Economy Fellows.