Happy holidays! It’s been an eventful year.

An inspiring reason for optimism as we put 2016 to rest and head into 2017 is the entrepreneurial spirit, strong ties, and untapped potential within the communities we serve: Native nations, communities of color, rural communities, immigrants, and refugees.

Grantees grounded in their local communities, anchored in the culture of the people they serve are creating lasting change. Their work will withstand the shifting social and political landscape in 2017, and our commitment will stay strong.

A few highlights of work that commitment has supported in 2016 appear below, with a particular focus on social and microenterprise. We hope you’ll share in that commitment by following the hyperlinks, learning more about the grantees, and helping to spread the word.

Social and micro enterprise thrive 

A big focus of our 2016 funding has been social and micro enterprise. Both are a means of community investment. They drive entrepreneurship and provide ownership, jobs, and training opportunities. They empower people to pursue their dreams of opening a business, while offering good jobs and improving the well-being of our target communities, economic and otherwise.

  • Our annual report focused squarely on the work of social and micro enterprises, including a four-page story on the transformative work of Neighborhood Development Center (NDC). NDC supports microenterprise as a means to build ownership and income for low-income communities, especially in communities of color—including Native American, immigrant, and refugee communities—where ownership opportunities have been profoundly limited. Read the full profile of NDC, including opportunities to listen to audio stories on its work.
  • Check out a blog entry from this May that announced $3.5 million in grants to 13 grantees who are real change agents, including:Cheyenne River Youth Project
    Nonprofits Assistance Fund
    Initiative Foundation
  • Finally, a case statement published back in September along with our annual report presents the value proposition of how social and micro enterprise make a difference in the lives of people determined to help their families and communities thrive. Please use and share in your own work.
Highlights from other work 
  • Groups from our Work Opportunity portfolio collaborating on the Good Jobs Pathway Initiative are advancing programming, learning, and advocacy to make the federal workforce development system in Minnesota respond better to racial disparities. A November announcement highlighted the work of three grantees:American Indian OIC
    CAPI USA
    Hmong American Partnership (HAP)
  • Grantees in our Financial Inclusion portfolio are doing a lot to develop the financial know-how and skills that help individuals, families, and communities control their finances, enhance their financial security, and build assets over time. Ujamaa Place has been doing this work for a long time, and is leading a collaborative model for delivering culturally appropriate services for African American communities. Read more.
  • Prepare + Prosper received coverage from the Star Tribune on the launch of its FAIR initiative, a truly groundbreaking product and service line that supports the banking and financial service needs of underserved people. Read more.
  • Work from companies and organizations on mission investing, our use of the Foundation’s endowment to invest in groups to yield social and financial returns that advance good jobs and financial capability, was impactful this year. This includes the work of Granite Equity, which invests in and helps manage companies that keep good jobs in rural areas. Our first-ever mission investing profile explored Granite’s work in more detail. See the profile.
  • A request for funding inquiries back in September yielded proven and innovative ideas for financial inclusion from more than 80 organizations expanding existing efforts to build financial skills and flexible savings across our region, particularly among underserved communities. The recipients will be announced in the first half of 2017.
  • We’re trying to reach out in ways that meet your needs better, too. A messaging campaign launched back in August helped us learn the best ways to reach out to you in your own words and opinions. We took your feedback and used it to inform our messaging and communications plan, which we reported on back in October and we’ll be using this as a building block for our outreach in 2017.

If you’re looking for more inspiration and information, please look back at grantee work and impact from some of our past blog entries or our pages at Facebook and at Twitter.