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The Jacobs Family Foundation’s Innovative Community Ownership Solutions

Summary: 
Sonal Shah, Director of the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation, discusses the power of creative philanthropy and committed individuals to improving communities, as demonstrated by the Jacobs Family Foundation.

I recently had the opportunity to meet Jennifer Vanica, President and CEO of the Jacobs Family Foundation, and learn about their exciting and powerful work in San Diego, CA.

Seeing the opportunity to better their own community, the Jacobs Family Foundation worked with the Market Creek community of San Diego, one of the poorest areas in San Diego, to invest in developing and improving the community.  In true innovative form, the Jacobs Family Foundation used a community-based IPO model, allowing over 400 community members to buy shares in their economic development.  This IPO process not only served to educate residents about finance, but also taught them the value of investing in community improvements, which has led to more money being spent in the community, greater civic engagement to reduce crime, and a cleaner, better neighborhood.  All of these efforts paid off in the form of over $500,000 in investment capital and a 10% return on investment every year since the close of the IPO.  What’s even more inspiring is that almost half of the resident investors have put their dividends into a joint fund for investing in additional community developed ownership.

The Jacobs Family Foundation is an example of an organization looking for new philanthropic roles and relationships for strengthening under-invested neighborhoods by making grants and other investments that support innovative, practical strategies for community change.  Through use of economic incentives, such as new market tax credits and CDFI’s, the Jacobs Family Foundation is able to bring innovative solutions to the table.

The changes in Market Creek and the work of the Jacobs Family Foundation are profound examples that show when we engage and work together as communities we can truly improve our quality of life and solve the problems that we face.  It doesn’t take a large national campaign, just a few committed individuals that want to make things better.

The Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation (JCNI) is a non-profit foundation that operates on the premise that residents must own and drive the change that takes place in their community for it to be meaningful and long-lasting.  JCNI explores new pathways to change through entrepreneurial relationships, hands-on training, and the creative investment of resources.

Sonal Shah is the Director of the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation