On Oct. 31, GroundBreak, a coalition of over 40 philanthropic, corporate, financial and public institutions, announced a nearly $1 billion ($926.75 million) investment to expand wealth-building opportunities in Minneapolis-St. Paul, with a current focus on building Black wealth through homeownership, entrepreneurship and commercial development.
Unlike a traditional joint fund, GroundBreak seeks to dramatically change how capital flows in the region, and who it flows to by creating a new financial system informed by community members to address historic wealth disparities that, for too long, have been researched and discussed, but not acted on in a systemic and transformational way. Over the next 10 years, GroundBreak intends to unlock $5.3 billion in capital to build Black wealth and close racial wealth gaps for good.
At GHR Foundation, which was started by late Opus Group founder Gerald Rauenhorst and his wife, Henrietta, we work across local, global and biomedical domains — often providing early, flexible, multi-year funding that unleashes the limitless potential for good within partners and communities. For us, GroundBreak is not just an initiative; it’s a movement for transformative change.
Recently, I joined several of my GHR colleagues and a group of national funders for a pilgrimage to Montgomery and Selma, Alabama. It was a powerful trip reflecting on why we do our work. The journey explored the brutal accounts of slavery, lynchings, mass incarceration, racism and discrimination that has shaped the African American experience and permeated American life and culture with such durability that we are still struggling to understand how to address the implications today. We left Alabama and its markers of civil rights with a deep understanding of why racial justice and racial equity cannot wait for another generation to manifest.
Whenever I am on a journey of these sorts, I like to bring along a complimentary text to deepen and gain closer proximity to the experience. For this trip I chose the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning favorite, “Why We Can’t Wait.” While reading, I came across a passage that I believe resonates with where we are in Minnesota at this very moment.
As King spoke about recruiting volunteers and supporters to join the civil rights movement, he said, “By the 20s and 30s and 40s people came forward to join our army. We did not hesitate to call our movement an army. But it was a special army, with no supplies but its sincerity, no uniform but its determination, no arsenal except its faith, no currency but its conscience.
The movement that we are building with GroundBreak is not an army but a mighty coalition that has compassion, courage, clarity, conscience and a pursuit of the currency to create lasting change.
GroundBreak’s nearly $1 billion investment — pledged by 10 institutions in both lending and flexible capital commitments — is the beginning, not the end of our work. This early investment is a testament to the momentum and our recognition that we can achieve far more by working together than any single institution or sector can on its own, and that we are resolved to do this work together.
In the coming months, GroundBreak will be building a first-of-its-kind financial system to deploy capital toward a set of financial tools and products identified through a six-month design process with community members last year.
GroundBreak’s financial tools and products — which include both loans from financial institutions with flexible underwriting and flexible capital to bridge financial gaps for aspiring homeowners, entrepreneurs and commercial developers — are not new in our region. What is new is the commitment by institutions across the region to scale proven solutions and ensure they are readily available to Black wealth-builders.
By the end of next year, we expect capital unlocked through GroundBreak will start flowing abundantly and reliably to aspiring homeowners, small business owners and neighborhood commercial developers through existing partners in our region including nonprofit organizations, community development financial institutions and local banks.
While 10 philanthropic, corporate and financial institutions stepped up to make early pledges into GroundBreak, we know more partners are ready and taking action to join us. We also need more. We ask other institutions and individuals in our region and beyond to join us by investing flexible capital, making lending commitments or creatively leveraging your institution’s assets to unlock private-market capital through GroundBreak’s financial system.
Lastly, the incredible thing about GroundBreak is that, rather than endlessly debating what our region could do or should do for racial equity, GroundBreak partners have come together to develop a nation-leading, systematic approach to expand wealth-building opportunities. We have work ahead to build these systems and continue securing the capital needed to transform our region — but we have the leadership and will to do it. There is an immediate onramp to collective action, and a collective benefit to our entire region where every person, no matter their race or background, has the opportunity to achieve their aspirations.
Kevin Bennett is a senior program officer and racial equity lead at GHR Foundation and serves with GHR CEO Amy Goldman on the GroundBreak Steering Committee.