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Community Fund Design Group – 2023 Program

By Hélène Lesterlin

Good Work Institute facilitated a six-month journey for 18 diverse Kingston residents to collaborate with each other and to engage the larger community in deciding on the structure and mission of a Just Transition-aligned pilot community fund. The fund will be seeded with $150,000 once it is created. Here is an overview of the program, to give a sense of the breadth of topics we encountered and discussed together in this intensive process.


  • KICK-OFF – to set goals, meet each other, and get started. Everyone also received two books as gifts that would influence our thinking and provide ideas:
  • WORKSHOP: Just Transition Primer, with a focus on Democratizing Wealth, Communities and Work, led by GWI
  • PANEL on Community Engagement with:
    • Erica Brown (Radio Kingston) – Community radio as a platform for community building
    • Lissa Vandebeck (For the Many) – Civic engagement and democratic workplaces
    • Reif Larsen (Future of Small Cities) – Small cities and community collaboration
  • WORKSHOP: Storytelling workshop on the power and trauma of money (similar to the workshop we offered at Rooted Resources), led TMI Project
  • 1-DAY RETREAT – to review the sessions of the month, discuss, reflect.


  • WORKSHOP: Community Fund Design – Case Studies, led by GWI
    • Boston Impact Initiative
    • Black Farmer Fund
    • Boston Ujima Project’s Ujima Fund
  • WORKSHOP: Skill-Building on Shared Leadership and Social Equity Practices, led by GWI
  • PANEL: Citizen Assemblies + Participatory Budgeting, presented by Philip Lindsay (Democracy Innovation Hub at Bard) and Forrest Sparks (research, organizer)
  • 1-DAY RETREAT – to review the sessions of the month, discuss, reflect, and prepare for August’s research projects

AUGUST – for the month of August there were no full group meetings. Working groups formed to research five different topics:

  1. What is our Mission?
    1. What is the gap we are addressing + who are we funding?
    2. Drawing from examples we have heard about or other projects you have found in your research, how would you state this fund’s mission?
    3. With your group, come up with a few mission statements that we can use as a jumping off point for clarifying these important questions.
  2. Small Business and Startup Loans
    1. Starting with the examples we’ve seen (BII, Black Farmer Fund), what other examples of small business and startups support and funds inspire you? 
    2. Directions you could go in: microloans, grants to underserved entrepreneurs, startup pitch competitions, 
  3. Citizen Assemblies and Participatory Budgeting
    1. How might we gather inspiration from these methods and examples of working democratically in community?
    2. What other examples did you find that you want to share with the group to illustrate an approach to learn from?
  4. Landscape of our Regional Resources and Funds
    1. What is already happening in Ulster County? 
    2. What types of funds are there already – what potential partners are out there? What is missing?


  • RESEARCH SHARE – SESSION 1: Research + Reflection Share (2 research teams present + presentation on the demographics of Kingston)
  • RESEARCH SHARE – SESSION 2: Research + Reflection Share (2 research teams present)
  • WORKSHOP: Skill-Building on Design Thinking + Decision-Making, led by GWI
  • GUEST SPEAKER: Redesigning Money and Centering Giving (Guest speaker: Alexie Torres-Flemming)


  • GUEST SPEAKER: Community Fund Design (Guest speaker: Ariel Brooks)
  • REFLECTION + DESIGN SESSION: Reflections on our last three sessions + tackling the question of “What is this fund’s mission?”
  • (optional GWI event) Thursday, October 12, 6pm-8pm: Heather McGhee talk @ Rough Draft
  • DESIGN SESSION: Mission + outlining the elements to be designed
  • DESIGN SESSION: Focus on “Who can apply / who is funded?”
  • DESIGN SESSION: Focus on “What is the process to decide on funding decisions? Who decides?”



  • REFLECTION + DESIGN SESSION: Focus on the outcomes of the retreat + continuation of the question ““What is the process to decide on funding decisions? Who decides?”
  • CONSENT + CLOSING: Consent process to move initial design to Phase 2 which will be a 10-week process to complete fund design details + closing ceremony

For more on this project, see Hélène’s post reflecting on what we accomplished together in 2023: Looking Back: Updates From The Community Fund Design Group

Rooted Resources posts give us a clearer vision of what “democratizing wealth” means, refracted through the living experience and emerging projects of people making change today. This series grows out of the Rooted Resources Festival (May 12-15, 2022) and the Community Fund design project.

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