The goal of the Strong Local Economies Program is to support the development of robust and sustainable economies that include a wide range of businesses and access to quality jobs.  We aim to create opportunities for upward economic mobility among communities that have experienced historical economic barriers, including low-income people, communities of color, women, and immigrants.  Our work is guided by a strong commitment to social justice and equity.

The Strong Local Economies Program seeks to create just and sustainable economies in three ways:

  • Business Development and Acceleration

    We seek to: (1) encourage the growth of local businesses and increase the number of those businesses that are owned by people of color, women, and immigrants; (2) spur the modeling, development and replication of employee-owned cooperatives, social enterprises, and other alternative business models, and (3) reform procurement systems to increase opportunities for local businesses to secure larger contracts.

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  • Equitable Economic Development

    We aim to update economic development practices and policies to increase beneficial outcomes for local businesses and communities that have been historically shortchanged by development decisions.

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  • Job Quality and Career Pathways

    We strive to improve job quality in low wage sectors and expand access to higher-paying jobs and promising career paths in emerging industries.

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We seek organizations that:

  • Prioritize and engage low-income individuals, communities of color, women, and immigrants;
  • Utilize policy advocacy, organizing, and capacity building as approaches;
  • Use both research and demonstration projects/programs to prove the benefits of equitable economic development and quality jobs;
  • Leverage the buying power of anchor institutions (universities, hospitals, local/regional government, schools, sports teams, etc.) to drive local economic growth;
  • Increase leadership capacity among populations who have been historically excluded from decision-making processes (low income, immigrant, and communities of color);
  • Utilize strategic communications to make the case for including equity and sustainability in development decisions ;
  • Work in urban areas and in a regional context.

We also believe that the Foundation’s three programs are strongly interrelated and necessary to create just and sustainable communities. We therefore encourage cross-cutting proposals that connect to the work of the Foundation’s Sustainable Environments and Thriving Cultures programs.

The Surdna Foundation is committed to continuous learning through our grantmaking. We view grant guidelines as living documents and will update them periodically to better target resources and increase our impact.

Generally, the Strong Local Economies Program does not fund:

  • Affordable housing development;
  • Community development projects unconnected to workforce or economic development strategies;
  • Capital projects;
  • Purchasing of equipment;
  • Neighborhood-based asset-building;
  • Micro-enterprises, micro-lending or workforce development efforts that are disconnected from a regional economic development strategy;
  • Supportive, homeless and reentry/transition employment programs;
  • Education programs targeting K-12 students;
  • Conference scholarships;
  • Individuals or academic fellowships.


Program Related Investments

Surdna's Program Related Investment Fund supports the foundation’s mission by providing investment capital to fund innovations that use market-based approaches to address economic, cultural, and environmental challenges.

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Fostering sustainable communities in the United States — communities guided by principles of social justice and distinguished by healthy environments, strong local economies, and thriving cultures.