Community Summary Report

To confront the effects of structural racism and inequity on people, places and systems, the Greater Milwaukee Foundation has launched a three-part education and action series that is bringing community together with local and national experts to learn and explore solutions. The first installment of our A Milwaukee for All series took place June 25, 2021, and focused on advancing equitable economic opportunities.

Dr. Andre Perry, a senior fellow with the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program and author of “Know Your Price: Valuing Black Lives and Property in America's Black Cities” joined Foundation president and CEO Ellen M. Gilligan for a deep discussion about the barriers to equity, their root causes and where to invest for real change.

This signature dialogue was followed by 10 open discussions led by local leaders addressing important elements of economic inclusion, using the Foundation’s On the Table MKE platform for community connection and collective action.

Foundation Board member and former chair Cory Nettles and Dasha Kelly Hamilton, poet laureate for the City of Milwaukee and State of Wisconsin, also provided important words of impact and inspiration. Key themes that emerged from the On the Table MKE conversations and results are linked below.

Supporting a strategic vision

Inspired by and supporting the Foundation’s overall strategic vision of A Milwaukee for All, this series presents an opportunity to work collectively toward a thriving, inclusive region. With racial equity and inclusion as its North Star, the Foundation serves as a catalyst and connector for advancing community priorities of early childhood education, the collective work of the ThriveOn Collaboration and matters of equitable economic opportunity.

By the numbers


Picturing Change

Key takeaways from the conversation with Dr. Andre Perry

  1. Nothing grows without investment
  2. We need to invest in ways that will accelerate generational wealth and reduce the gaps
  3. Homes equate to wealth; quality early childhood education equates to thriving futures and investment in Black and Brown people and places stimulates the economy and builds a stronger region for all

How the Foundation is expanding equitable economic opportunity:

  • Made a $30 million commitment over the next five years to support economic inclusion through our impact investing program
  • Completed a $1 million impact investing pilot program where we supported 47 new small businesses, helped create more than 85 jobs and attracted $4.9 million in additional public investment
  • Committed $1 million to a Black-led venture capital fund to support small startups
  • Invested $10 million in a Black-led developer in support of our ThriveOn King development on MLK Drive
  • Committed $1 million to support small businesses owned by Black and Brown entrepreneurs in Milwaukee’s Harambee, Halyard Park and Brewers Hill neighborhoods. 

As a result of the June 25 A Milwaukee for All convening of community, the Foundation will be evaluating where it can further use its influence and power to advance ideas, investments and partnerships.

Read about the key themes that emerged in On the Table MKE discussions.

Memorable quotes

“We are committed to building a better Milwaukee for everyone, and we will do this by reimagining how philanthropy can work, recentering communities to inform priorities and our approach and helping remake systems that exclude people from opportunity.”  – Cory L. Nettles, Greater Milwaukee Foundation Board member 

“Homes in Black neighborhoods are more valuable than they are priced. But so are our businesses. So is our infrastructure. So is our leadership. … How do we get out of this white savior mentality where we are investing in organizations to fix people instead of investing in the people themselves? Nothing grows without investment.” – Andre Perry, author and educator

“Government is the largest form of philanthropy in the country. We pay into it. We have the ability to help define what we do with it.” – Jeffery Roman

“I think the single most important thing we can do is to address the systems that are still creating harm and inequity, and to educate everyone to recognize how this harm is continuing.” – Mary Devitt 

Committed to change

Eighty-seven percent of attendees deepened their knowledge of racial equity and inclusion through the event and nearly 50 percent said by a lot or a great deal. Ninety-nine percent reported they will take action to make a difference. Here are some of the ways in which they are following through on that commitment:

Learn more

“I will learn more about how I can become involved in anti-displacement activism.”

“I will continue to learn about ways to support and be in conversation with Black and Brown business owners in Milwaukee.”

“I had already bought Perry's book and am now committed to finishing it. I'm also more motivated to looking into equity investing.”

Invest more

“His talk really opened my eyes to the "dangers" of philanthropy, so will be cognizant of how I support nonprofits to make change and what I can do to help make change at the ground level. I've already started, but this motivated me to do more to invest directly in black-owned businesses - to invest in the people.” 

“As a family fund, we are looking for ways to ID ways to invest in people, places and divest in racism.”

“I will advocate for investments with so many barriers for black businesses and advocate for different ways to assess credit for people of color.”

Do more

“I will be more courageous in having or initiating conversations about racial relations.”

“I will be more proactive and intentional with finding talent on specific diversity platforms – ie websites, groups, etc.”

“My grantmaking will have a longer-term view and be driven more by the articulation of needs and strategies from the people affected.” 

“I will work on developing new partnerships that will help push an agenda of inclusion for the Black, Brown and Indigenous communities.”

View our list of resources and suggestions for how you, as an individual, can learn more, do more and invest more to help move our community forward.

Read the community summary reports for a recap of the other events in the series.

Early childhood care and education

Reimagining philanthropy

Learn more

Visit the A Milwaukee For All resource page for ideas on how you can learn more, invest more and do more to move our community forward.