About Southern Communities Initiative

Southern Communities Initiative is a consortium of companies with a single mission: to advance racial parity in six Southern U.S. communities. The Initiative focuses on these six communities since nearly half of all Black Americans live in these cities and the surrounding metro areas.

Why Southern Communities Initiative’s Work Is Important

The racial wealth gap was created and persists due to four centuries of institutional and systemic racism targeting Black Americans. Addressing the racial wealth gap is not only the just thing to do — fixing systemic issues, inequitable policies and other discriminatory practices will improve the economic security of all Americans.

Southern Communities Initiative is already creating lasting change in the six Southern communities. The Initiative has:

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$100B+

Helped to obtain commitments of $100B+ for corporate and philanthropic racial equity programs across the U.S.

90+

Partnered with 90+ organizations to initiate change.

9,000+

Supported 9K+ Black-owned businesses and minority business enterprises across the Initiative’s six communities.

While the estimated investment needed to achieve the Initiative’s goals is ~$2B-2.5B, the estimated economic impact after ~10 years is ~5x+.

Where Southern Communities Initiative Is Focused

A map that highlights the six Southern regions and cities of the Southern Communities Initiative.

Community Leads

To ensure that progress is made on Southern Communities Initiative racial equity priorities, each community has a dedicated community leader.

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How the Southern Communities Initiative Is Helping the Black American Community

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The Initiative partners with community leaders, companies and philanthropic organizations to implement local and sustainable measures to improve community resources. 

The idea for Southern Communities Initiative stems from The 2% Solution, an initiative that encourages organizations to invest 2% of their profits over a ten-year period into underserved communities. The ultimate goal of The 2% Solution is to bridge the racial wealth gap. 

Specifically, the Southern Communities Initiative concentrates its efforts on six racial equity priorities, which include:

1. Businesses

Providing technical expertise to minority business enterprises (MBEs) to help them improve their operations.

2. Banking

Making capital accessible to community development financial institutions (CDFIs) and minority depository institutions (MDIs).

3. Internships

Furthering the development of African American students and professionals by increasing the accessibility of paid internships.

4. Digital Access

Issuing more digital access equality bonds and investing the proceeds back into our digital access initiatives, particularly at HBCUs.

5. Legislation

Advocating for our priorities at the federal, state and local levels to drive policy and funding improvements.

6. Investment

Investing directly into our program to provide funding for transformative community initiatives.

Our Team

The Southern Communities Initiative team helps to connect partners and local community organizations in our six Southern regions.

A headshot of Mambu Sherman, Executive Director of Southern Communities Initiative.

Mambu Sherman

Executive Director

Mambu Sherman is the founding Executive Director of Southern Communities Initiative. Prior to joining the Initiative, Mambu served as Vice President, Global Philanthropy at JPMorgan Chase, where he led the firm’s philanthropic strategy across Chicago, Indiana and Wisconsin markets with the goal to drive inclusive growth and greater economic opportunity in cities. A proud HBCU alumnus of Savannah State University, Sherman earned his MBA from NYU Stern School of Business.

Partner Organizations

Partner organizations help the Southern Communities Initiative to address critical needs and gaps in the six communities.

The official logo of PayPal.

PayPal

The official logo of Boston Consulting Group.

Boston Consulting Group

The official logo of Vista Equity Partners.

Vista Equity Partners

The official logo of W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

W.K. Kellogg Foundation

Join Us and Get Involved!

If you are interested in partnering with Southern Communities Initiative or wish to volunteer your time, we invite you to explore the different ways you can engage.

Charlotte, North Carolina

Racial Equity Priorities

Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) Entrepreneurship and Supplier Diversity

Creating and Scaling Black-owned Businesses

Southern Communities Initiative focuses on increasing the number and value of MBEs in the region. Southern Communities Initiative specifically aims at raising the economic weight of Black-owned businesses from 2% to 6% of the aggregated value of all businesses in the region.  

Additionally, small businesses in primarily Black communities tend to have lower profit margins and concentrate in industries with less potential for growth.

Black entrepreneurs often face many barriers, including a lack of access to capital, technical assistance, procurement opportunities and more.

Creating and scaling a greater number of Black-owned businesses is crucial to generating employment opportunities for people of color and increasing wealth in the community and economy.

A Black barber adjusts a smock on a young Black boy sitting in a barber chair.

OUR AMBITION

Offer In-Kind FTEs for Supplier Diversity:

Offer 2-5 FTEs to Charlotte Regional Business Alliance (CRBA) over 5 years to convene corporate partners, assess their MBE spend, develop pipeline to increase MBE spend to 5-10%+.

Offer Technical Assistance Expertise:

Partner with CRBA to advise/mentor ~200 MBEs on capital/loan access to help them scale from <$10M to $50M+.

Commit to Supplier Diversity:

Increase MBE spend to 5-10%+.

Estimated Impact (Of All Initiatives): 3X Increase in MBE Value and ~13K New Jobs, Boosting Black Community’s Net Worth by ~$2B+.

Charlotte, North Carolina

Racial Equity Priorities

Digital Access

Increasing Access, Affordability and Adoption to Broadband

Digital access is vital for any community to thrive in today’s world. Southern Communities Initiative’s ambition is to increase access to high-speed internet and its affordability for underserved communities. Currently 10% of households in the Charlotte area are without Internet access.

An African American man sits beside a young Black boy while sitting at a table and doing schoolwork.

OUR AMBITION

Support Center for Digital Equity – $25M:

Secure $25M over 4 years for Center for Digital Equity’s longitudinal project on digital access to enhance health efficacy and agency in the health experience lifecycle.

Raise Community Awareness and Adoption of Emergency Broadband Benefit:

Increase door-to-door and community outreach in low-income neighborhoods to get households onto EBB to help connect ~35K unconnected households.

Drive Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) Adoption:

Secure $1-3M (donations or in kind) to drive door to door and community outreach in low income focus zip codes to get ~12K households onto Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) subsidies in Charlotte.

Provide Digital Access and Technical Assistance for Charlotte Households:

Provide 20K laptops, internet subs and broadband for ~35K households + grant writing support and internet adoption centers.

Support Efforts to Increase Digital Access:

Secure $2.2M for ~4K routers, switches and internet backhaul connections for ~80 bldgs.

Estimated Impact (Of All Initiatives): ~35K Households Get Connected to High-Speed Internet to Unlock ~$700M in Economic Potential for Charlotte.

Charlotte, North Carolina

Racial Equity Priorities

HBCU and Workforce Development

Increasing Bachelors Degrees and Reducing Student Debt

Increasing education quality and minority representation in top job positions can have a positive effect on communities. Southern Communities Initiative aims at increasing Black empowerment and representation in the workforce. In Charlotte, Southern Communities Initiative supports the Mayor’s plan to make of JCSU a top 10 university in the US. Southern Communities Initiative is also planning to help increase the percentage of Black Charlotteans owning college degrees to 59%, and improve the representation of Black/Brown in executive positions to 30%.

Many of those who do graduate from HBCUs, where students are 1.4 times more likely than non-HBCU students to take out student loans and borrow 20% more on average.

Studies have found that taking on student debt can negatively affect academic performance, graduation rates and long-term wealth accumulation.

That is why it is critical to address issues in both enrollment and student loan debt, thus allowing students and graduates to access high-paying job opportunities and build their wealth.

A young African American man smiles while wearing a black graduation cap and gown.

OUR AMBITION

Fund Student Freedom Initiative Program:

$10M to HELPS program and support ~1.5K+ students per year at 3 HBCUs with emergency expenses – e.g., health.

Provide In-Kind Staff:

Offer 2-5 FTEs to Charlotte Regional Business Alliance over 5 years to track and help increase Black-/Brown-exec representation from 10% to 30%+.

Estimated Impact (Of All Initiatives): 2.5K+ Additional College Graduates and 2.5K Workers With High-Paying Wages to Drive ~$0.2B in Economic Growth.

Charlotte, North Carolina

Racial Equity Priorities

Access to Capital (CDFIs/MDI)

Modernizing and Building Capacity for Local CDFIs & MDIs

In Charlotte, 40 percent of Black households are unbanked or underbanked.

Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) and Minority Depository Institutions (MDI) are often viewed as the backbone of community lending and offer favorable terms for low-to-moderate income communities.

However, in order to scale their operations and economic impact, corporations and foundations have a key role in addressing common challenges for CDFIs and MDIs:

  • Outdated systems and technology infrastructure 
  • A lack of talent and workforce development tools
  • Other barriers to enhancing their capacity


Ensuring access to capital for individuals and businesses can spur economic growth and set a strong foundation for wealth accumulation.

An African American woman puts a check into an envelope.

OUR AMBITION

Fund Modernization and Capacity-Building and Provide In-Kind Subject Matter Experts:

$30M to help 4-5 CDFIs over 5 years modernize core systems, hire and train staff, expand marketing and leverage SWAT teams to conduct needs diagnostic, implement tech solution and give technical assistance, enabling an add’l $330M/yr in capital deployed to ~30K MBEs.

* CDFIs/MDIs being considered (examples and not exhaustive): Security Federal Bank, Institute / North Carolina Community Development Initiative, Sequoyah Fund Inc, Self-Help Credit Union, BEFCOR, Aspire Community Capital, etc.

  • Systems and technology modernization – $10M-15M: Add/upgrade core banking systems, hardware and productivity tools, train frontline workforce on new systems and technology and hire engineering specialists to support customization and news systems rollout – over 5 years
  • Talent and workforce – $10M: hire and train additional frontline lending staff and invest in recruiting, training, compensation and benefits and retention to increase in-house expertise and loan capacity – over 5 years
  • Other capacity-building and outreach – $8M: hire additional staff to increase custom borrower and technical assistance (e.g., credit building, MBE financing options, etc.) and increase community outreach to drive regional awareness and new pipeline projects – over 5 years
    • * In partnership with National Bankers Association and Appalachian Community Capital; CDFIs/MDIs being considered include: Security Federal Bank, Institute / North Carolina Community Development Initiative, Sequoyah Fund Inc, etc.

Estimated Impact (Of All Initiatives): ~$330M in Additional Loans per Year to Support ~30K MBEs.

Houston, Texas

Racial Equity Priorities

Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) Entrepreneurship and Supplier Diversity

Creating and Scaling Black-owned Businesses

Black people make up 17% of the population but Black businesses only represent approximately 4% of businesses and approximately 2% of revenues.

Additionally, small businesses in primarily Black communities tend to have lower profit margins and concentrate in industries with less potential for growth.

Black entrepreneurs often face many barriers, including a lack of access to capital, technical assistance, procurement opportunities and more.

Creating and scaling a greater number of Black-owned businesses is crucial to generating employment opportunities for people of color and increasing wealth in the community and economy.

A Black barber adjusts a smock on a young Black boy sitting in a barber chair.

OUR AMBITION

Scale Supplier Diversity Team:

$3M to hire 3-4 FTEs over 5 years for One Houston Partnership to help companies increase MBE spend from ~2% to 5-10%+ as well as advance BIPOC talent and representation.

Increase MBE Certification and Scale Technical Assistance – ~$2M:

Partner with One Houston Together and the Houston Minority Supplier Development Council (HSMDC) to certify additional MBEs, develop Minority Business Finder database tool and provide resources and services to help local MBEs scale and participate in Pathways to Excellence program.

Commit to Increase Racial Diversity in Supply Chain and Procurement:

Increase MBE spend in Greater Houston region to 5-10%+

Estimated Impact (Of All Initiatives): 2.5X Increase in MBE Value and ~55K New Jobs, Boosting Black Community’s Net Worth by ~$12B.

Houston, Texas

Racial Equity Priorities

Digital Access

Increasing Access, Affordability and Adoption to Broadband

About 10% of all Houston area households are without internet access. Ensuring access to high-speed internet is critical to accessing telehealth, remote work and education opportunities.

An African American man sits beside a young Black boy while sitting at a table and doing schoolwork.

OUR AMBITION

Accelerate Southern Communities Initiative’s Digital Access Initiatives – Up to $80M in Donations or In-Kind:

Invest in setting up internet connections/hotspots, offer laptops/Chromebooks and support adoption (through government subsidy technical assistance and digital literacy) to connect ~145K homes to high-speed internet in the Houston region.

Raise Community Awareness and Adoption of Emergency Broadband Benefit:

Increase door-to-door and community outreach in low-income neighborhoods to get households onto EBB to help connect ~145K unconnected households.

Establish Center for Digital Equity:

Help establish Center for Digital Equity (5-10 FTEs over 5 years) to work with ISP partners, school districts and community organizations to exchange data, map household connectivity, help connect households.

Support Efforts to Increase Digital Access:

Install broadband backhaul at ~30 buildings with ~1.5K routers, switches and internet backhaul connections.

Fund the City of Houston’s Digital Equity Services Project:

Support City of Houston’s Digital Equity Services Project to implement self-sustaining telecommunication infrastructure to provide affordable broadband and digital connectivity in Complete Communities.

Support Collaborative for Children’s Efforts in Houston:

Provide broadband access (hotspots for teachers and parents) to support the Collaborative for Children’s efforts to bring quality early childhood education to the Greater Houston area;  Contribute learning manipulatives to improve school readiness and 21st Century STEM skills through Collaborative for Children.

Drive Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) Design and Adoption:

Support the design of an Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) in areas of the city with residents that qualify for the program.

Establish Digital Equity Fund:

Support the creation of a digital equity fund to provide funding for digital inclusion initiatives.

Estimated Impact (Of All Initiatives): ~145K Households Connected to High-Speed Internet to Unlock ~$3B in Economic Potential.

Houston, Texas

Racial Equity