Where a person lives has a tremendous effect on how a person lives. Many of the factors that define our quality of life – health and safety, economic security, proximity to resources that meet daily needs – are related to the vitality of our neighborhoods and city. The crux of our Thriving Communities strategies lies in supporting the neighborhoods that make up the city and broader community in becoming healthy, economically thriving places.

Our goal: 

To catalyze community-driven change in neighborhoods that historically have faced barriers to revitalization.

Given our vision of a welcoming and inclusive region, our racial equity and inclusion work leads us to focus on neighborhoods and communities where residents have not experienced all the benefits of this region’s prosperity.  The Foundation has identified an initial set of Milwaukee neighborhoods – Sherman Park East, North Division, Muskego Way, Metcalfe Park, Silver Spring, Clarke Square and Harambee – that share similar characteristics, including high levels of racial and economic segregation. In addition, these neighborhoods have unacceptably high rates of unemployment and poverty. Despite these challenges, these places have an abundance of spirit and warmth, vision, entrepreneurship and sense of community. 

Sustainable change in neighborhoods only happens when residents have the ability and opportunity for meaningful engagement in neighborhood planning to address adverse conditions. Through our research into proven practices, feedback and input from residents and community partners, we are focusing our efforts on the following four pillars that contribute to a thriving community:

  • Community Capacity
  • Arts and Culture
  • Equitable Economic Opportunity
  • Physical Environment

Community Capacity:

Our initial focus in the targeted neighborhoods is investing in community capacity, ensuring inclusion of resident voice, building a sense of cohesion within the neighborhood and tools to identify priorities and solve problems.  Residents, local organizations and cross-sector partners together have the knowledge, skills, relationships, processes and resources to achieve sustained impact. 

Arts & Culture:

Investment in the arts promotes expression of multiple perspectives and can help neighborhoods retain their cultural identity. The Foundation supports activities where residents can readily access, participate in and create arts and experiences that are culturally appropriate and resonate with them. 

Equitable Economic Opportunity: 

Thriving communities possess or can readily access key economic building blocks such as jobs and support for new businesses.  Despite a robust economy, some individuals face barriers to employment, whether the need for additional training, access to a driver’s license or entering a workplace environment that does not embrace diverse talent. In addition, the support of a strong local economy requires the inclusion of entrepreneurs and small businesses.  

Physical Environment: 

Neighborhoods inclusive of quality, affordable housing foster stability and further resident investment. Pathways to homeownership and accountability of landlords are essential to cohesion of a neighborhood. Physical environment also includes beautification projects and opportunities for residents to work together 


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For a complete listing of this quarter’s grants made from our competitive grantmaking process, visit Recent Grants.

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russell1-web.jpgContact Senior Program Officer Darlene C. Russell to learn more about our community development work.