Creating a Future of Opportunity Event Recap

The Community Foundation forum, "Creating a Future of Opportunity," turned out more than 200 community leaders and residents from diverse backgrounds, professions and ages to exchange ideas for creating more opportunity for Greater New Haven residents.

Ideas and Action for Inclusive Economy

The Community Foundation forum, "Creating a Future of Opportunity Through Inclusive Growth," turned out more than 200 community leaders and residents from diverse backgrounds, professions and ages to exchange ideas for creating more opportunity for Greater New Haven residents. The event was a continuation of The Foundation's strategic commitment to building regional support for an inclusive economy.

A Day of Learning, Sharing and Action

Performing artists (l-r) Paul Bryant Hudson, Tahj Galberth and Aaron Jafferis open the event. In a performance of interweaving monologues and song, the trio imagines a future of meaningful work and hope for an equitable system. Watch the video.
During breaks, attendees share ideas for making Greater New Haven's economy more inclusive.

Foundation Board Chair Khalilah Brown-Dean and President and CEO Will Ginsberg welcomed attendees and provided a framework for thinking about an inclusive economy.

Attendees then rotated among three morning breakout sessions led by panels of local, regional and national experts: Creating Opportunity Through an Inclusive Entrepreneurial Ecosystem; Creating Opportunity Through Career Pathways in Local Growth Sectors; and Creating Opportunity in Neighborhoods: Dixwell-Newhallville.

Tawanna Black, founder and CEO of the Center for Economic Inclusion, delivered the keynote address: Creating an Economy That Works for Everyone. The afternoon concluded with the panel discussion: "Making Our Growth Truly Inclusive: A Diversity of Perspectives."

Download the Complete agenda

Welcome and Introduction

Foundation Board of Directors Chair Khalilah Brown-Dean welcomes attendees with an invitation to join together in a shared commitment to build opportunity and address the realities of past exclusion.
President and CEO Will Ginsberg's introduction challenges the community to think differently and work across sectors to create opportunity in Greater New Haven that includes everyone.

Breakout Session A — Creating Opportunity Through an Inclusive Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

(L-R) Christopher Gergen, CEO and co-founder of Forward Cities, Peter Hurst, president and CEO of Greater New England Minority Supplier Development Council, Caroline Smith and Margaret Lee, co-founders of Collab lead the panel discussion on inclusive entrepreneurship.


  • Entrepreneurship is a critical economic driver and creator of wealth, but this prosperity is not broadly shared.
  • White residents in New Haven are about 19 times more likely to have an employer business than their African-American peers.
  • Intentional strategies and investment are needed to address challenges and build a connected entrepreneurial ecosystem.
  • Entrepreneurs need connections to knowledge and intellectual capital, access to financial capital and revenues.
  • An inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem must have a large open door with space for people who lack connections to resources.
  • Entrepreneur service organizations (ESOs) need to be connected for entrepreneurs to successfully access their resources.

"Inclusive entrepreneurship" slide presentation

more From the presenters

Forward Cities is a national capacity-building and learning network working within and between cities and micropolitans to create more equitable entrepreneurial ecosystem development.

Greater New England Minority Supplier Development Council provides certified minority business enterprises (MBEs) the access, technical assistance, training and support needed to expand and market their services to prospective corporate buyers.

Collab is a small business accelerator with a mission to equip local entrepreneurs with confidence, resources, and skills to build ventures that can contribute to the vibrancy of our community or simply become more empowered, connected, and confident agents in New Haven.

Breakout Session B — Creating Opportunity Through Career Pathways in Local Growth Sectors

Jamison Scott, executive director of New Haven Manufacturers Association, Patricia Melton, president of New Haven Promise, Dorinda Manner, executive director, Talent Acquisition at Yale New Haven Health on a panel moderated by Shelly Saczynski, former director - Economic and Community Development at UIL Holdings Corp.

What we heard

  • Jobs and opportunities exist in advanced manufacturing.

  • The center of manufacturing is in industrial parks, not urban cores.

  • More connection is needed between educational institutions with the workforce needs of manufacturers.
  • Healthcare is the largest sector and has good-paying jobs that don't require a college degree.
  • New Haven Promise has intentionally provided education resources and scholarships to students from neighborhoods with the greatest need.
  • Promise scholars are concentrating their studies and job searches in the largest sectors of the Greater New Haven Economy

more from the presenters

New Haven Manufacturer's Association (NHMA) is an association whose members include manufacturers of all kinds, located throughout Connecticut.

New Haven Promise is a first-of-its-kind scholarship program in Connecticut that provides scholarships up to 100% tuition for residents and graduates of New Haven Public Schools and approved charter schools. Promise is revitalizing the City of New Haven through increased educational attainment, increasing home ownership rates, cultivating a culture of college-readiness, reducing high school dropout rates, and promoting community and parental engagement. Promise is proudly supported and funded by Yale, The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, Yale-New Haven Health, and Wells Fargo.

Yale New Haven Health is Connecticut's leading healthcare system, consisting of Bridgeport, Greenwich, Lawrence + Memorial, Yale New Haven and Westerly hospitals, and Northeast Medical Group, a physician foundation of primary care and medical specialists.

Breakout Session C — Creating Opportunity in Neighborhoods: Dixwell-Newhallville

Kim Harris, founder of Cercle and Inspired Communities Inc., Erik Clemons, president and CEO of ConnCAT and Michael Piscitelli, interim deputy economic development administrator for the City of New Haven (pictured l-r) led a panel moderated by Lee Cruz, Director of Community Outreach, The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven.
Question and answer sessions spark dialog in the small breakout sessions.

what we heard

  • Poverty is the civil rights issue of our time.
  • The lack of access to opportunity in neighborhoods is deeply rooted in historical patterns of racism that continue today.
  • Neighborhoods that once had access to large manufacturing employers have not recovered since those employers left.
  • Disrupting inequity requires everyone to step up and start from a place of caring.
  • Committed community leaders in Dixwell/Newhallville are bringing neighbors together to make positive change.
  • More work is needed to bring job creators into impoverished neighborhoods and to effectively connect individuals to opportunities in the surrounding region.

More from the presenters

The Dixwell-Newhallville Community Report, a collaboration between DataHaven and community leaders including Kim Harris provides data and analysis of the social and economic wellbeing and health of two New Haven neighborhoods.

The Youth Photovoice Project involved young people from Newhallville and Dixwell neighborhoods reflecting on what they appreciate in their community and what needs to improve.

ConnCAT has a mission to inspire, motivate, and prepare youth and adults for educational and career advancement, through after-school arts, and job training programming.

Keynote Address

Tawanna Black, founder & CEO of the Center for Economic Inclusion, St. Paul MN, delivers the keynote address: "Creating an economy that works for everyone: the Twin Cities example."

What we heard

  • Disparities of opportunity must be disrupted.
  • Hold the region's large institutions and employers accountable.
  • Create measures for economic inclusion that the community will support.
  • Don't be complacent.

Keynote slide presentation: "Fueling the Path to Economic Inclusion & Shared Prosperity"

Panel Discussion: Making our Growth Truly Inclusive: A Diversity of Perspectives

Pictured l-r: Onyeka Obiocha, managing director at Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking at Yale; Alexis Smith, executive director of New Haven Legal Assistance; Patrick Dunn, executive director of New Haven Pride Center; David Addams, executive director of William Caspar Graustein Memorial Fund; and Jacob Padrón, artistic director at Long Wharf Theatre.

what we heard

  • Inclusion is about who is invited to the table and how the table is set.
  • Strive for justice in all interactions.
  • The work of undoing racism is uncomfortable.
  • Building up and supporting the agency of individuals is needed before disparities will disappear.
  • If we don't have inclusion, growth is irrelevant.

What We Can Do

  • Work for equity. In your job and all personal interactions, work to be inclusive and create space for everyone's voice.
  • Continue the conversation: many connections were made at the Sept. 25th convening both face to face and over the conference app, Whova. Days after the event, attendees are still posting and planning meet-ups around issues they care about and actions they can take.
  • Attend future Foundation events and convenings on inclusive growth as The Foundation continues its work to build regional consensus around inclusion as a necessary ingredient for the growth of Greater New Haven.