Guidelines For Strong Local Economies

The Surdna Foundation provides grant support for efforts at the national, state, metropolitan, and local levels to realize more just and sustainable communities throughout the United States. We invest in the exchange of ideas across networks of people, institutions, and places with the intent of seeding innovative projects, programs, and policies and bringing them to scale across the country. We seek a balance of grantmaking opportunities that include efforts to: demonstrate the effectiveness of specific, targeted projects, practices, and models; advocate for and implement federal, state, and local public policies; and empower, mobilize, and develop leadership in communities and agencies to encourage civic participation.

Connecting People to Opportunities: building communities that connect residents to economic opportunity.

The Surdna Foundation’s Strong Local Economies program aims to help create communities of opportunity that offer good jobs within reach for low- and moderate-income residents, and provide sustainable development solutions that enable people to easily travel between their homes and jobs, schools, and day-to-day services. We focus on efforts that will help connect people to economic opportunity by:

  • Implementing physical development and land use strategies that link affordable housing and transportation to quality job opportunities, including those created through partnerships with anchor institutions such as major medical, educational, and cultural institutions. (Examples include, but are not limited to: land use planning to repurpose vacant properties for economic reuse, increase density or preserve affordability to ensure accessibility; transit-oriented development strategies; revitalization and workforce strategies that partner with anchor institutions, policies and strategies to preserve long-term affordable housing and workspace for artists in cultural districts).


  • Mobilizing constituencies and developing new leaders to organize and advocate for revitalization policies and strategies that help connect residents to quality jobs, accessible transit, and affordable housing. (Examples include, but are not limited to: advocacy for transit equity; community benefits agreements, advocacy to promote first-source hiring agreements for government supported development projects; regional fair housing campaigns).


  • Advancing public policy to design and implement comprehensive plans that help link the built environment to transportation networks and job opportunities. (Examples include, but are not limited to: Metropolitan Planning Organization reform; regional transit planning; integration of land use, transportation, and economic development planning; land use reform policies; inclusionary zoning).


  • Building expertise among government, nonprofit, for-profit, and philanthropic leaders to advance policies and approaches to bring both location-efficient housing and transit networks to scale. (Examples include, but are not limited to: targeted, catalytic research and time-limited planning efforts; peer to peer learning networks; technical assistance projects).

Creating Economic Opportunities: supporting and creating robust economies and good jobs for all residents.

The Surdna Foundation’s Strong Local Economies program aims to create strong and sustainable local economies that include a diversity of vibrant businesses and sectors, and improves residents’ livelihood and access to quality jobs and training within a region through investments in:

  • Regional economic development strategies that engage the public, private, and non-profit sectors to provide quality jobs and integrate career path workforce training opportunities for low- and moderate-income residents. (Examples include, but are not limited to: strategic planning and analysis to understand regional economic drivers and workforce needs and opportunities; integrated economic development and workforce programs to attract, retain, and grow businesses and workforce; advocacy to reform federal, state, or regional policies to support stronger workforce-economic development alignment and impact).


  • Enterprise development that advances regional economic competitiveness, especially among new immigrant communities and communities of color. (Examples include, but are not limited to: support for entrepreneurial incubators that provide capital, technical assistance, and strategic planning for high-growth business development; leadership development to support stronger advocacy among minority-owned businesses; policy reform efforts to help build minority-owned, high-growth enterprises.


  • National, state, and municipal asset-building strategies and policies that help low- and moderate-income people grown and retain their wealth. (Examples include, but are not limited to: research and documentation of effective tools and policies that help build low- and moderate-income residents’ personal wealth; peer-to-peer networking to advance replication of practices and policies; advocacy for public policy reform aimed to increase and preserve their assets; comprehensive asset-building and retention model programs that could implemented at national scale).


  • Advocacy for public policies and support for implementation of strategies that create quality jobs for low- and moderate-income people through sector-based workforce development approaches including, post K-12 education, career pathways and credentials. (Examples include, but are not limited to: national, state, regional, or local advocacy efforts to improve post-secondary workforce training efforts; programs to align economic development, workforce, and education and training programs, particularly community colleges; advocacy to standardize credentialing and accreditation programs; efforts to support increased financing for continuing education of America's workforce, programs to ensure quality jobs with benefits).


  • Multi-generational leadership development and organizing to advance best practices and policies to support efforts that link economic development, education, and workforce strategies to improve regional competitiveness, enhance America's workforce capacity, and provide quality jobs for low- and moderate-income people. (Examples include, but are not limited to: capacity building and technical assistance for economic development and workforce providers to promote and implement best practices; support for grassroots organizing among youth and adult workers to promote quality, meaningful work; peer-to-peer learning to share and replicate best practices and build an organized constituency).

Generally, the Surdna Foundation does not support: Affordable housing and community development projects unconnected to workforce or economic development strategies; neighborhood-based asset-building, micro-enterprises, micro-lending, business development and workforce development efforts that are disconnected from a regional economic development strategy; supportive, homeless and reentry/ transition employment programs; education programs targeting K-12 students; conference scholarships; support for individuals; academic fellowships.

The Surdna Foundation is committed to continuous learning through our grantmaking. We view grant guidelines as living documents and will modify them from time to time to better target resources and increase our impact. As a result, we anticipate that these guidelines will be updated periodically.


Program Related Investments

Surdna's Program Related Investment Fund supports the foundation’s mission by providing investment capital to fund innovations that use market-based approaches to address economic, cultural, and environmental challenges.

Learn More

Latest Tweets (Inner Pages)

Fostering sustainable communities in the United States — communities guided by principles of social justice and distinguished by healthy environments, strong local economies, and thriving cultures.