The Smith family is among the Russell residents who have already been helped by the nonprofit Community Ventures, a finalist in a national competition to help low-income families. | Courtesy of Community Ventures

Community Ventures has been named one of 20 finalists in the $10 million Communities Thrive Challenge sponsored by The Rockefeller Foundation and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, which was established by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Dr. Priscilla Chan in 2015.

If Community Ventures is among the 10 grantees, the nonprofit will receive $1 million and free technical support to implement its proposal to transform vacant properties in the Russell neighborhood into affordable rental property for low-income families that might otherwise be displaced by revitalization efforts in the area.

The Communities Thrive Challenge was launched in April to help strengthen and grow community-driven approaches to expanding economic opportunity for low-income and financially-insecure people in the United States.

Community Ventures already provides affordable financing for large-scale community projects across the state. Its most visible project in Louisville thus far has been the restaurant incubator Chef Space, though the nonprofit also is developing affordable housing on Cedar Street in the Russell neighborhood.

Community Ventures spokeswoman Jessica Morgan | Courtesy of Community Ventures

Jessica Morgan, a spokeswoman for Community Ventures, told Insider the competition’s sponsors identified 11 states where the grant money could make the biggest difference and sought recommendations for organizations with a track record of doing the kind of work the competition was designed to support. Morgan said her group and OneWest, a west Louisville nonprofit, were recommended by the impact investment group Access Ventures, which is working with the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.

Community Ventures and OneWest were among more than 1,800 organizations that applied for the competition in June, Morgan said. The competition included two elimination rounds where the applicants were judged based on four main criteria — impact, the potential for scale, community-based/informed-ness, and leadership.

OneWest was among the semi-finalists but did not make the second cut. The 20 finalists were picked in September after being peer reviewed by five other applicants and receiving a site visit by the challenge sponsors. They include the Cincinnati Union Co-op Initiative, Casa de Maryland and the Coalfield Development Corp. in West Virginia.

The finalists should know by mid-November if it will receive the $1 million grant, Morgan said, but the information will be embargoed until the official announcement in December.

Even if Community Ventures does not receive the prize, Morgan said the staff is honored to make it to the Top 20.

“The judges were looking not only for unique projects but comprehensive solutions to community problems,” she said. “We are surprised and pleased to be considered worthy of such an incredible opportunity.”

Michael L. Jones
Michael L. Jones, a freelance journalist and author, covers communities for Insider Louisville. His latest book "Louisville Jug Music: From Earl McDonald to the National Jubilee" (History Press) received the 2014 Samuel Thomas Book Award from the Louisville Historical League. In addition to his contributions to Insider, his writing appears regularly in LEO Weekly, Louisville Magazine, Food & Dining – Louisville Edition, and Who’s Who Louisville: African American Profiles. He also sits on the board of directors of the National Jug Band Jubilee. Jones and his wife, Melissa Amos-Jones, a physical therapist, live in the Kenwood Hills neighborhood near Iroquois Park.