FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Barber Joins Neighborhood Economics to Help Get Money Into the Hands of People Who Don’t Normally Get It
(Asheville, North Carolina; Portland, Oregon – September 29, 2022) Leroy Barber, co-founder and president of the Voices Project, has been appointed Executive Director of Neighborhood Economics, effective October 1, 2022.
Neighborhood Economics is “dedicated to getting capital into the hands of the people who don’t normally get it.” Its founders–Rosa Lee Harden, Kevin Jones, and Tim Soerens–are entrepreneurs and impact investors who have been working to bridge the racial wealth gap and level the playing field for entrepreneurs with great ideas but without the friends and family money necessary to launch their ideas.
“We have been working in this space for a long time, and we have wanted to partner with other leaders to broaden our impact,” said Rosa Lee Harden, CEO and Executive Producer of Neighborhood Economics. “Leroy brings a fresh perspective and so much credibility to this work. We are excited about where he will take us.”
Barber has a rich history in social and economic justice work. Along with his wife, Donna, he founded Restoration Ministries to serve homeless families and children living on the streets. He served as Director of Internship Programs at Cornerstone Christian Academy, as youth director and Associate Minister of Evangelism at Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Philadelphia and as Executive Director of Atlanta Youth Academies. He helped found DOOR Atlanta, Community Life Church, South Atlanta Marketplace, Community Grounds Coffee Shop, and Green My Hood. He was recently director of innovation for the Greater Northwest area of the United Methodist Church.These diverse experiences have helped him create a network of people and projects that will be ideal for his work with Neighborhood Economics.
“Leroy has worked in so many neighborhoods that need impact investors to take a chance on leaders and entrepreneurs so that these neighborhoods can flourish, especially Black and brown-owned businesses and entrepreneurs,” said Kevin Jones. “He knows the field and is ready to bring his connections to Neighborhood Economics so that together we can get catalytic capital into the right hands and can help bring about economic justice more quickly.”
Harden, Jones, and Soerens have worked together on prior projects, and they are now ramping up their work with Neighborhood Economics.
“After a decade with SOCAP, styled as the conference at the intersection of money and meaning, we all wanted to bring in more of the meaning part, especially to respond to the moral hunger of investors, to bring faith into the mix,” said Soerens. “We started Neighborhood Economics, and its sibling brand, Faith+Finance, as a way to do hyperlocal work and to connect people’s desire to do the right thing with their money and connect it to their faith, and their moral compass.”
Neighborhood Economics began in 2014 with convenings around the country and held its first post-pandemic convening in Indianapolis, Indiana, in May 2022. NE brings together three streams that are not usually connected:1) local people investing in their city, 2) people of faith working across barriers of race, class, and zip code, and 3) early stage catalytic capital focused on economic justice, filling gaps that are usually left vacant – both investment and philanthropy, so that money gets to the people who don’t typically get it.
The Indy convening was invitation only with more than 120 people participating in carefully curated “design labs” to work on economic justice projects together. A Black-led investment fund, linking endowed churches and impact investors with local real estate projects focused on equity, is in the process of launching as a result of that conference. The plan for 2023 is for Neighborhood Economics to host two to three in-person convenings, several virtual cohorts and retreats to continue to deepen cross sector relationships that lead to change. Barber will be central to all of this work.
“Kevin has been incredibly successful in the finance world, and Rosa Lee has been very active in faith communities. They have a real desire to bring these two worlds together. I think I can help make this happen even more than it already has for Neighborhood Economics,” said Barber.
“I’ve been successful in community development and the faith world, too. But I’ve been frustrated by the lack of understanding in general about money. This is an important part of what we do. We help people understand money and help them get funding when foundations might not work with them. Scripture is clear about separating our view of people from their economic condition. I want to be in spaces where we don’t make judgements. We invest in people and let them show us who they are, what they can do.”
Barber is most excited about getting to “shine the light” on innovative work that is already being done in communities.
“We get to highlight the incredible entrepreneurs who are at work in San Antonio, El Paso, D.C., New York, all across the country. We get to show investors how to support their neighborhoods and make a difference,” Barber said.
If you are interested in having Neighborhood Economics help catalyze your local economy and help create unlikely alliances, contact Leroy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For a pdf version of the press release and other assets, click here.