Local conferences focus on educating diverse populations

The week of Oct. 27 was an informative and busy week for aspiring, fledgling and prosperous artists and entrepreneurs. Already the conveners of Greenwood Week Pittsburgh, Khamil Scantling and Samantha Black are looking forward to and counting down to next year’s event, to again be held in October.

Considered a one-of-its-kind minority business conference that provided a guided path to running a successful business or brand with the tag line, “Rebuilding Black Economics,” Scantling and Black organized the event out of what they saw as a need and something the community deserved.

Greenwood Week Pittsburgh, according to Scantling, is a Black business conference aimed to eliminate the many barriers that exist for disenfranchised African Americans with entrepreneurial ambitions within the region. “It addresses many of the foundational elements necessary to start and sustain a business like tech identity, funding and business insurance while providing subsidies like meals and childcare. We are talking about eliminating barriers for folks that would otherwise stop them from being successful.”

SETTING AN AGENDA—Lisa Schroeder, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Foundation, kicks off the largest regional gathering of nonprofits in the region. Scott Lammie, senior vice president, business development for UPMC Health Plan and chair of the Board of Directors, The Forbes Funds, waits in the wings while Fred Brown, President and CEO of The Forbes Funds, and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald listen and await to speak. (Photo by Brett Allen)

Held at numerous locations throughout the city, the week of activities consisted of workshops dealing with learning the essentials that go with running a successful business, credit-building, the art of networking, marketing and branding a business, locating and securing funding, insurance and taxes, securing finances and tackling mental and financial health.

Scantling, the owner of Cocoapreneur Pgh, LLC, and Black, the owner of SYLA Pgh, expressed that even though they were confident that they could pull the conference off, it exceeded their expectations. “I really could not have imagined that people would be so grateful and feel so (inspired) by the conference. We just provided the info that we felt was most helpful to us in starting our businesses,” Scantling said.

The conference is named after the once-thriving Greenwood community in Tulsa, Oklahoma, that was the most prominent concentration of African American businesses in the U.S. during the early 20th century. Known as Black Wall Street, the community was destroyed in 1921 during a riot by White residents. Historians report that within a matter of hours, the neighborhood was razed and at least 300 Black residents, many of them entrepreneurs and professional people, were massacred and injured.

ALL ABOUT ECONOMICS—Event co-convener Samantha Black described Greenwood Week as a unique minority business conference providing a guided path to running a successful business or brand. (Photo by Diane I. Daniels)

Two months after Greenwood Week, leaders of two nonprofit organizations, contrary to the leadership size of the seven-day Greenwood event, hosted the 2019 Greater Pittsburgh Nonprofit Partnership Summit. Labeled as dedicated to improving the quality of life for all residents in the Pittsburgh region, the co-chairs of the summit pledged its mission under the theme of “Building a Region that Works for Everyone.”

Hosted by The Forbes Funds (TFF) and the Greater Pittsburgh Nonprofit Partnership, the Dec. 3 event, identified by its organizers, is the largest regional gathering of nonprofits in the region designed to strengthen relationships among the nonprofit, public and private sectors to solve critical community challenges and develop action-oriented goals to move the region forward. More than 500 attendees were on hand participating in approximately 50 interactive breakout sessions with 30 speakers featured throughout the day.

TFF President and CEO Fred Brown indicated that the conference organizers’ aim for the summit was to be a launchpoint for multi-year collaborations around such topics as social impact, data utilization and opportunity zone development. Additionally, he mentioned that it provided community leaders the opportunity to begin planning how they will work toward fulfillment of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which the City of Pittsburgh signed on to fulfill by 2030. The UNSDGs are also a cornerstone of TFF’s efforts to strengthen the sector strategically and pragmatically through organic partnerships that promote transparency, accountability and inclusion.

With the 10-county southwestern Pennsylvania region consisting of over 5,000 nonprofit organizations generating billions in total economic output annually, Brown and the members of the GPNP want to assure they are accomplishing their purpose of strengthening the region by improving the viability, impact and effectiveness of nonprofits.

“Since the 2017 summit, TFF has focused on strengthening strategic partnerships, increasing the effectiveness of our grantmaking and enhancing stakeholder engagement through the GPNP network,” Brown said. “This shift has helped to guide sessions for the 2019 summit, which featured local examples of collaborations that have proven to be impactful.”

Conscientious of being assured that this year’s summit met its goals and objectives, Brown and his staff are currently reviewing and setting an agenda to move toward the future. “Our concern is, did we meet the intended goal of enhancing existing relationships and building new ones that move from thinking to doing to evaluation of activity and outputs?” During a recent conversation he indicated that he is questioning and working on including segments of the population that have been omitted as factors they can improve upon. “It seems that we can do a better job in representing the Hispanic and LGBTQ communities and be more responsive of those who are handicapped.

“Diversity and inclusion are imperative in everything if we as leaders of the community want to change and move this region into the future,” Brown said. Encouraging the community to challenge the methods and ideas of the GPNP, Brown identified “why are we doing the work, how are we doing the work, and what are we doing the work for,” as three driving fundamental questions to remember for their work going forward.

Organizers of Greenwood Week Pittsburgh and the GPNP Summit are focused on the same agenda—improving the quality of life for a population of people in a region that prosperity, amenities, and quality of life are not equally shared.

PROVIDING A GUIDED PATH—Khamil Scantling, co-convener of Greenwood Week Pittsburgh, outlines and explains the significance of the week. (Photo by Diane I. Daniels)

by Diane I. Daniels, For New Pittsburgh Courier

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