January is a special time. Companies, families, and individuals alike often use this time to get clarity on and set goals for the year ahead. Forward Cities is no different. In fact, this January is even more poignant than any in our past. In December, we celebrated with you the triumphs and impact we experienced through 2023 - as we began to reimagine a forward-looking strategy - an intentional response to the persistent and growing economic exclusion.
As we move into 2024, we are uplifting three key pathways to activating that strategy: casting a clear vision that our team and supporting stakeholders can passionately rally around, building and growing relationships with like-minded partners, and investing in the talented leaders that will help us achieve our mission.
Casting a Vision
Forward Cities is on a mission to increase wealth building opportunities for racialized individuals by transforming the way communities see, support, and sustain entrepreneurs. Our vision is that every entrepreneur would have an equitable opportunity to launch, grow, and scale a business that creates wealth for themselves, their chosen family and/or their community. Underlying our work is the power that entrepreneurship has to transform lives, build individual and community wealth, and catalyze positive change. Yet many Black, Hispanic, and Indigenous entrepreneurs still face significant, systemic barriers to entrepreneurial opportunity that limit economic and wealth-building opportunities for these groups and others, hampering the ability of cities to fully thrive and compete. Economic and community development, entrepreneurial support, metropolitan planning, financial, and philanthropic organizations are actively seeking solutions to this pervasive challenge and are eager to learn from and leverage lessons and experiences from others doing the same.
Forward Cities and our partners can catalyze this movement through the curation of action-learning networks that convene practitioners to build skills/expertise and share promising practices. We convene entrepreneurial champions within and across communities, provide dynamic opportunities for shared learning, and equip participants with effective tools and collaborative strategies to build support ecosystems that catalyze equitable wealth-building opportunities.
Our emergent action-learning networks will focus on an integrated set of core activities:
- Convening - Cultivating safe and supportive spaces for entrepreneurial champions to convene, collaborate, and support one another;
- Learning - Partnering to emerge, share, and codify promising equitable ecosystem building skills, strategies, and tools;
- Action - Leveraging collective insights, learnings, and resources that equip leaders and communities to co-design and implement place-based solutions
Along the way we will share stories, uplift narratives, and analyze data to inform continuous improvement and to support scaling successful interventions.
In 2024, Forward Cities seeks to prioritize the development of three action-learning networks for three distinct audiences:
- Black Wall Street Forward - Black leaders committed to catalyzing economic liberation and wealth for Black communities by reimagining and developing vibrant Black Wall Streets across the country.
- PLACE Builders (in partnership with EcoMap) - entrepreneurial ecosystem builders committed to supporting and empowering entrepreneurs in the places where they live.
- E3 Durham - Diverse entrepreneurial champions and service providers committed to collectively refining and enhancing an equitable entrepreneurial ecosystem in Durham, NC.
Developing these distinct networks is no small feat; we recognize that it will require a committed group of dedicated leaders - all with passion for the mission, yet with their own specific areas of expertise and relevant experience. At Forward Cities, we are grateful to have a talented staff that continually pushes the boundaries of innovation and excellence. This year we are proud to celebrate and uplift the following team members in updated and/or expanded roles who will allow us to successfully launch and grow our emergent slate of networks:
Kasem Rodriguez-Mohsen, Fractional CFO
Moving forward, Kasem will oversee financial, budget, and investment strategies and operations. Kasem is a successful executive operator, who has led three companies through rapid growth, venture capital fundraising, and acquisition. As a mission-driven servant leader, Kasem has led strategic partnerships with some of the largest corporations, foundations, universities, and government entities across the globe. Kasem has worked with the organization since 2023, formerly serving in the capacity of Managing Consultant.
Magalie Yacinthe, Senior Director of Programs
Moving forward, Magalie will oversee programmatic initiatives and is responsible for leading the implementation of our learning network strategy. She leverages a depth and breadth of experience in entrepreneurial support and resource development, as well as best practices for diversity, equity, and inclusion. Magalie has worked with the organization since 2021, formerly serving as Director of Ecosystem Engagement.
Nutishia Lee, Director of Marketing & Communications
Moving forward, Nutishia will co-develop and oversee the implementation of Forward Cities’ marketing and communications strategy - which includes the oversight of its fundraising and marketing functions. Nutishia is an experienced graphic designer, full-stack developer, and illustrator; she has been with the organization since 2021, formerly serving as Manager of Development & Communications.
Nastacia Pereira, Senior Manager of Learning & Evaluation
Moving forward, Nastacia will lead research, evaluation, and continuous improvement of Forward Cities learning network initiatives and thought leadership initiatives. They hold an expertise at the intersection of racial and health equity, storytelling, and systems change to translate big questions into deep insights and actionable solutions. Nastacia has been with the organization since 2022, formerly serving as Research Manager.
We congratulate these team members in their new roles - as they join our Senior Director of Impact & Evaluation Stacey Williams and our Director of Development Anna MacDonald - who deftly lead our research and fund development efforts. As we chart the path ahead for 2024, the team will continue to expand to meet the needs of the emerging networks and needs of the organization. Be on the lookout for upcoming opportunities to work with us!
Undoing generations of systemic racism and community disinvestment requires sustained commitment, adaptive persistence, and active collaboration. Fortunately, Forward Cities’ commitment to equity and entrepreneurial ecosystem development is shared by a growing number of partners in a rapidly growing field. We are grateful for the generous support of our 2024 Funding Partners who share our commitment to equipping communities to grow more equitable entrepreneurial ecosystems.
We welcome opportunities for collaboration, shared learning, and engagement and encourage you to be in touch, share your own stories, and join us in this work.
We invite you to take 1-2 minutes to complete this form and share how you might like to engage with us as we collectively pursue equity for every entrepreneur.
Let’s make 2024 the year of E3 - Equity for Every Entrepreneur!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
President & CEO, Forward Cities
Fay serves as the President & CEO of Forward Cities, where she oversees organizational strategy. In addition, Fay is a dedicated advocate for the emerging profession of ecosystem building, and as a founding member of Ecosystems Unite. Beyond her formal roles, she is a sought after presenter, trainer, and thought leader on the topic of equitable entrepreneurial ecosystem building. Never one to be content with status quo, Fay has also recently begun addressing a new need in local communities: ecosystem healing–helping pivot ecosystems and institutions in this time of the dual COVID-19 and systemic racial injustice pandemics.