The past two years have been a time of reassessment and new resolve – confronting inequities, supporting recovery, reimagining systems, seeking public-private solutions, and building toward an equitable economy. Over this period, AFN members have engaged across each of our seven asset building issue areas advancing equity work, both internally and in their external funding. Asset building, as conceived by AFN members, involves economic security, upward mobility, resilience, stable affordable housing, intergenerational wealth transfer, community wealth and health building, aspiration building to widen the pipeline for post-secondary education without crushing debt, affordable quality housing to rent or own, meaningful levels of capital for small business, together with fostering economic and workplace policies that end dependence on racialized and gendered advantages and disadvantages. It is intersectional and difficult work.

The internalized bias and racialized assumptions that were undeniably exposed require a great deal of vigilance to unpack and to advance an end to racialized inequity. Achieving an equitable economy runs counter to racial or gender bias, recited as stereotypical beliefs that too often are unchallenged (yet unsupported by data) about disincentives and an entitlement mentality. These unfounded statements are repeated in media and often touted by those in power because it helps preserve the privileged status quo (or the pre-COVID realities) and short-term interests. More than ever, funders are joining community leaders and change-focused public officials to:

  • Identify the systemic driving forces of racial and gender wealth gaps,
  • Identify the legacies of historical inequity as applied to different races and ethnicities,
  • Intentionally adjust if not pivot to real solutions to advance economic security, equitable wealth building, and economic mobility.

It has not been, and will not always be, perfect.

AFN builds on these efforts and intentionally assembles member-only discussions among peers for ideas, encouragement, and constructive feedback. We also administer institutionalized feedback loops from community leaders in the Black, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian and Pacific Islander communities. Asset protection is also a key driver for the elderly and people with disabilities.  We understand that solutions will differ regionally and among different generations as well and embrace that nuance.

Policies and practices clearly need to change in many arenas. The federal Build Back Better legislation includes necessary but insufficient public solutions. So even with that large public investment, funders will need to keep advancing solutions and pressing for greater investments. AFN is exploring systemic solutions in our briefs and spotlight as well as in local and regional chapters. We will continue to engage funders and financial institutions to explore the future directions. Progress is happening in states across the country including in our regions from Washington to New Mexico, Louisiana, Arkansas, North Carolina, and New York.

There also have been many positive gains. This past year, we shared philanthropy’s significant new investments of capital in businesses led by Black and Latinx owners, the expansions of guaranteed income initiatives across cities and counties, the renewed focus on investment for families with children and youth under age 25, the sharing of health wealth investments, the improved financial tech products, and the growing impact of credit unions and community foundations advancing economic equity.  It’s an important start.

Perseverance, patience, and persistence is our approach. Continued momentum is needed in 2022 and beyond. It took the U.S. centuries and many decades of tacit implementation to establish the enormous racial, ethnic, and gender wealth gaps. AFN will continue to work with members and stakeholders to prove progress, freely inform strategy, and achieve the philanthropic vision of a rebuilt economy founded on equitable wealth building and economic mobility that our members share.

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