Office of Community Wealth Building
Every Richmond resident will have access to quality schools, quality employment opportunities and the training needed to be successful in such opportunities, safe and vibrant neighborhood settings, mobility via an effective transportation system, and a thriving civil society that supports strong families.
The Office of Community Wealth Building (OCWB) was established in the spring of 2014 and operates as a first-of-its-kind City office in the nation.
In December 2015 City Council enacted Former Mayor Jones’s proposal to establish the Office of Community Wealth Building as a permanent department.
The office is the brainchild of the Mayor’s Anti-Poverty Commission, and was later developed into the Maggie L. Walker Initiative for Expanding Opportunity and Fighting Poverty. The creation of the Office of Community Wealth Building was one of the central recommendations of the Commission.
Staff of the Office of Community Wealth Building:
Valaryee N. Mitchell, Director, Read More
Caprichia Moses, Workforce Administrator
Community Wealth Building Ambassadors:
Maggie L. Walker Citizens Advisory Board:
Councilwoman Ellen Robertson, Chair
Albert Walker, Co-Chair
Since 2014, we have already taken significant steps to advance this multi-pronged agenda:
Substantial collaborations with Richmond Public Schools and with strong community partners have been built to tackle the impact of poverty on educational outcomes, focusing on three key areas: early childhood education, out-of-school-time, and access to college and career opportunities.
Our collaborative approach to building a stronger, more effective early childhood system has attracted national recognition.
A major new public-private initiative aimed at providing high quality out-of-school time programming and academic support to adolescents, NextUp, launched at Henderson Middle School in 2014-15 and expanded to Boushall Middle School in 2015-16.
In 2015-16, the innovative RVA Future program launched as the critical first step of a long-term effort to increase the number of RPS graduates going on to college or career training opportunities through the provision of both financial and non-financial support. Future Centers are now open in all 5 comprehensive high schools.
The City’s Center for Workforce Innovation (CWI) expanded operations in Fiscal Year 2015, and continued its mission of connecting residents to employment opportunities and providing a variety of training programs to participants. In addition, CWI launched the BLISS (Building Lives of Independence and Self-Sufficiency) program in 2015 to provide holistic wrap-around support services to families seeking to escape poverty by transitioning to full-time quality employment.
The City has launched an innovative Social Enterprise initiative aimed at developing a strong sector of local firms committed to hiring residents in poverty into living-wage jobs. The initiative, a collaboration between the Office of Community Wealth Building, Minority Business Development, and Economic and Community Development, drawn on multiple policy levels, including finding ways to leverage the buying power of local anchor institutions to support emerging social enterprises.
The Broad Street Bus Rapid Transit project (GRTC Pulse) represents a major investment in a modernized public transportation infrastructure for the City. This project is the first step towards developing a genuinely regional transportation system that connects the region’s residents together and opens up access to job opportunities for residents without reliable access to a private vehicle. GRTC Pulse will begin service in the Fall of 2016.
In conjunction with the Richmond City Health District and collaboration with the Richmond Redevelopment & Housing Authority, (RRHA) the Good Neighbor Initiative has been launched to connect RRHA residents to opportunities and provide education and assistance on lease compliance issues.
Last but not least, the Office of Community Wealth Building has assembled a strong staff — a team of highly committed professionals prepared to carry this ambitious work forward, while continuing to build collaborative relationships across the public sector and in the community that can help sustain this vital agenda over the long term. Of particular importance is the Maggie L. Walker Citizens Advisory Board, formally created by City Council in December, which assures an ongoing active citizen voice in the process, especially for residents of higher poverty neighborhoods.
While we are pleased with the progress these initiatives have made in year one, we recognize that much more work needs to be done to bring these emerging initiatives to full fruition and make sustained community impact. Building a strong capacity within city government to implement a multifaceted poverty reduction and community wealth building agenda is a critical step in laying the foundation for lasting change. But achieving systemic change will also require the support, encouragement, ideas, and contributions of the entire community.
Much has been accomplished since the inception of the Office of Community Wealth Building:
The City’s four OCWB Career Stations connected 600 residents in fiscal 2019 to employment, while building innovative collaborations with partners such as ReWork, Bridging the Gap, RVA League for Safer Streets, and HMHY. Workforce development focuses on preparing residents for employment, connecting residents to existing employment opportunities, and providing supportive services to assist residents in successfully sustaining employment and advancing towards their long-term economic and career goals. A complementary community wealth building strategy focuses on targeted job creation—the development of more jobs immediately accessible to persons and neighborhoods of poverty.
Building Lives to Independence and Self Sufficiency (BLISS) continues to provide intensive family based wraparound support services to assist working parents in getting ahead by addressing common obstacles such as transportation and child care.
The city and Richmond Public Schools, in conjunction with numerous community partners and the support of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, have launched a major early childhood initiative aimed at identifying and meeting high priority needs in this critical area. Early fruits of this work include the successful RVA Reads book program in the city’s pre K classrooms.
In the Fall of 2015 the city, in collaboration with Richmond Public Schools (RPS) and the RPS Education Foundation, launched the innovative program RVA Future to bolster the career and college planning resources available to RPS high school students and ensure that more students are connected to quality post-secondary opportunities. Future Centers staffed by a full-time professional are now operational in all five comprehensive high schools, providing assistance to hundreds of students.
Several major projects advancing the aims of the city’s poverty reduction initiative have moved forward significantly, including the Greater Richmond Transit Company (GRTC) Pulse Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project, the spine of a potential regional transit system, and the first set of projects supported by the Affordable Housing Trust Fund.