Accelerating Shared Prosperity in Durham & Beyond

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At ReCity, we have committed ourselves to telling the story of Durham. We believe it is an essential part of our vision of building thriving communities, rooted in justice. Part of telling that story involves taking a realistic look at the history of our city and looking at whose voices have been systematically left out. Earlier this month, we hosted Accelerating Shared Prosperity, a ReCity Roundtable event with five speakers instead of one. Over the course of the night, speakers included Keith Daniel and Thomas Droege (Resilient Ventures), Geraud Staton (Helius Foundation), and Felipe Witchger and Merald Holloway (Community Purchasing Alliance).

Overall, the gathering was a space for people to reflect and dream about the future of entrepreneurship, ownership, and opportunity. We had a great time at Q&A session at the end of the night. While we didn’t get to address all the questions, this is our treat to you! Our presenters responded to the unanswered questions we received throughout the night. We hope these responses will inspire you to continue this discussion in your communities.

In case you missed the Roundtable, please check out our website for the ReCity Roundtable Video Archive Library.

Question for CPA: Is there an opportunity to counsel the vendors you work with on how to form their own cooperative model to distribute wealth to employees?- Katherine

Merald (CPA): The short answer is yes!!  

The long and winding answer:  CPA provides a free cooperative tool kit for folks interested in our particular model for working better together, but we are not the best resource at this time for worker cooperatives. However, we are connected to partners here locally that are interested in helping established organizations think about wealth building for their employees. Durham City Government and the Small Business Development office at NC Central are recipients of a fellowship, working with other local experts with a track record of engaging employees at all levels for business success through open-book management, employee ownership, and educating retiring business owners and their advisors about the possibility of employee ownership as an exit strategy.

What exactly did Geraud mean by "learned helplessness", how does it tie to housing inequity, and what role does systemic racism play when it comes to housing?

Geraud: Learned helplessness, as the experiment by Martin Seligman confirms, is when we are conditioned to take suffering. As the animals in the example don’t leave their space when shocked, so to do human who have gone through terrible things create a coping mechanism to deal with that. We can say to ourselves that the situation isn’t so bad. We say, “we’ve dealt with it this long, why stop now?” We may even believe we are stronger because we can take the shock. To the extreme, this causes people in negative living situations to stop looking for a way out. And, they don’t take options that are laid before them, either. Much like the animals in the experiment.

Racism plays a large part of this because for a long time, African Americans and other minorities were in a place where we couldn’t attain wealth. We couldn’t be educated at the same level as whites. We were blocked from owning property, or from voting, or from prospering. And, one day, like the animals in the experiment, many people were conditioned to stop seeing their situation as malleable. “We’ve dealt with it this long, why stop now?” We even see ourselves stronger because of it. We stop looking for a way out.We stop attempting to buy property, or so many other “ways out.”

Is there a resource you know of in Durham that lists black/minority-owned businesses for businesses looking for vendors?

Merald (CPA): Certainly. There are several resources for lists of minority-owned vendors in Durham, (links included) like the Greater Durham Black Chamber of Commerce, The City of Durham website, The Durham County MWBE program website.  The state HUB office has lists of certified women and minority-owned service providers you can search pretty easily as well.

We could detail in about a dozen more pages our experience and aspirations in this arena but hope this gives some insight into some of the ways we are thinking about our role as responsible and ethical corporate citizens of our various communities. There are big plans this year for CPA to use some of our staff expertise in creating internal diversity profiles and initiating successful supplier diversity programs for large and small organizations.  We help organizations at a relatively low cost to discover where they are in minority business patronage and adjust/suggest something as simple as a couple procurement procedures to create some real impact and help match the organizational desires you promote match your actual practices. We can refer larger organizations to consultants across the state that have helped entities like RDU, Wake County Schools, Self-Help Credit Union, and Charlotte Mecklenburg Public Schools create successful long-running programs. I would personally love to help anyone who decides this is a worthy investment of your resources and/or time.

If you or your organization are interested in getting some additional insight into helping your organization identify ways you can participate in supporting minority and local business enterprises, let us know by contacting us at

For Geraud: I’m about to embark on a mentoring relationship to an under-served high school student in chapel hill. Please share two pieces of advice.

Geraud: Listen first. We often want to jump in and solve the problem our mentees have. And they may even listen, but there will be one of two prices to pay for that. One is that they listen for a while, but like cutting open a cocoon before the butterfly is ready, the lesson won’t stick and the mentee will fall right back into bad habits. The second is that they listen and keep listening, but they stop being able to make decisions on their own. They can become dependent on your advice. So, listen and find out what they REALLY need.

Second, ask questions that LEAD them to an answer. Make them think. I’m not saying to lead them to THE answer, but to AN answer. Ask them questions that make them push their knowledge, or think ahead. Help them to see all the sides of an issue, particularly if they haven’t thought about it. When we know what the real problem is, sometimes solutions are easy to find. The issue is often that people are trying to solve a surface problem, but what they really need solved is much deeper.

What difference does a mentor really make?

Geraud: A mentor should make a HUGE difference. A mentor helps you answer questions that you didn’t see, or help you get to the real problem, without being totally invested in your issues. It’s the same reason attorney’s shouldn’t represent themselves in court. Why many tax preparers have someone else do their taxes. When you are involved, you tend to get caught up in the small details and the emotion of it. A good mentor can help you focus, hold you accountable, but even better, they can help spot some of the glaring (or not so glaring) errors in judgement that you’re making.

And don’t just rely on one! I have multiple mentors for multiple areas of my life! But even then, do not pit them against one another. Let mentors know you have others, and what advice you got. Having your own team of mentors who are all involved can be magical!

How important is mentoring for entrepreneurs? Who have been your best mentors and what did you learn from them? How do you find good mentors?

Resilient Ventures: All entrepreneurs need mentoring.  Mentoring is just a part of it though.  It is also access to networks and opportunities.  So introductions and support businesses are very important. It is more than putting money into a company, but providing support to get them to their next milestone.

Excited about all these new resources for minority entrepreneurs in Durham. What is the best place/person/organization for interested entrepreneurs to start?

Resilient Ventures: Resilient Ventures is working on a road map with others.

CPA: Greater Durham Black Chamber of Commerce, LaShon Harley Director, Small Business Center at Durham Technical Community College, La-Tasha Best-Gaddy University Program Director for Small Business and Technology  Development Center (SBTDC)

Resilient Ventures, have you found that your LPs fit a particular profile/share character traits that align them as investors? Or, are motives purely driven by money?

Resilient Ventures: It is too early to tell.  But stereotypes put our entrepreneurs in the “not ready” status. That is not true, we are providing access to entrepreneurs that are “ready”.  We also fight against the stereotype that because we are involved in African-American entrepreneurship, then somehow we must also be doing charity, and/or we should be set up as a 501c, etc… So we are not that either.   Investors without a racial equity lens will sometimes see diversity as a strength -- a la McKinsey report results. In general we are seeing that those most likely to invest see that because of systemic forces, we do not see good opportunities when presented, and so a fund like this will find undervalued opportunities which should give the same kind of financial returns.  However, I have not seen an investor that is purely opportunistic, if they are, they would go to another fund without our thesis. Our pitch deck has a good measure of racial equity content.

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Meet the New ReCity Intern


About Kaity

Hi everyone! My name is Kaity Braxton and I am the new face around here. I will be interning with ReCity through the end of April 2019 and I couldn’t be more excited for what’s in store for my time here!

I am a senior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, finishing up my major in Human Development and Family Studies. I completed my first year of college right after high school at UNCG. With no idea what path I wanted to take career-wise, I took two years off of college and worked at a bank. I went back to school in 2016 at Durham Technical Community College, then transferred to my dream school in the Fall of 2017. Go Heels! This journey really solidified my belief that everything happens for a reason, and that there are so many different paths to success.

I am a North Carolina native, born and raised in the mountains just north of Asheville. I loved growing up in WNC, but have had the best time making the Piedmont my home for the past four years. I currently live in Carrboro with my husband, Austin, and our pets. Together we have two sweet kitties, Cooper & Ellie, and one awesome little beagle pup named Ben. I adore my fur babies! Besides my home and family, some of my favorite things are hot bubble baths, watching The Office on repeat, Chick-Fil-A, game nights, Disney World, creativity, and anything that makes me feel nostalgic. 

Why ReCity?

I heard about ReCity from my professor who recommended that I look into an internship here. As soon as I read over the website and read the mission, I was excited to learn more and possibly be a part of this unique organization. When I saw that my church, The Summit, was a partner of ReCity, I was sure this would be a good place for me. Rob and Zenzele only further confirmed those feelings though my conversations with them in the days and weeks that followed. 

I deeply believe in the mission of ReCity; it is central to my own personal faith. Equity and justice are important to me, and systemic change of structures that either deliberately or inadvertently disadvantage some groups more than others is crucial to create a world where everyone can succeed, not just certain people. Too often the people that succeed look one way, and the people that struggle look another. One thing I love about ReCity is that they recognize that treating symptoms of these deep-seated problems doesn’t lead to ultimate healing; they are interested in treating the root cause of the problem. I am humbled and honored to be chosen to be a part of such a wonderful community and look forward to a semester of fun and growth here at ReCity.

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A Walk in Someone Else’s Shoes: DurhamCares

As we know, the holidays are not all about presents and drinking hot chocolate by the fire. The greater meaning of the holidays involved self-reflection. We all exist together in communities together. What does it mean to take a wholistic look of our communities and examine the hardships and triumphs? What, if anything, do we owe to our communities in terms of promoting equity? These questions are relevant all year round but seem to be of heightened importance around the holidays. When children are taught empathy, they learn the phrase “take a walk in someone else’s’ shoes”. DurhamCares deeply believes in promoting empathy in Durham and takes this saying literally through their Durham Pilgrimage of Pain & Hope program.

The mission of DurhamCares is to foster collaboration, develop leaders, and educate the people of our city to care for their neighbors in holistic ways. This is accomplished through community mobilization, resource development, and through programs like the Durham Pilgrimage. The Durham Pilgrimage of Pain and Hope is an opportunity to discover how your spiritual journey is connected to our shared community, Durham. Through the pilgrimage participants immerse themselves in the story of the city and the Biblical story as they reflect with others on what it means for how they live their lives in Durham.


What is DurhamCares’ Vision for Durham?

We envision a city where all residents love their neighbors. But we don't just mean smiling and being cordial. Our vision is for a city where love goes deeper. We want to see Durham residents learn the story of their city - all the people and the places that have brought us to where we are. We want the people of Durham to know the struggles that Durham has gone through and the ways people have overcome those challenges. We want to see love that is both personal and public. We want everyone to see that their flourishing is bound up in the flourishing of those around them.

The ReCity Social Impact Holiday Giving Guide is proud to support Durham Cares. Please consider giving to this incredible organization through RoundUp. For more information on how to get involved, visit our website to sign up.

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Putting the "HEART" in Partnership

There is something so joyful and pure about experiencing the holidays through the eyes of a child. Christmas trees aren’t just big, they are enormous and grand. Special holiday baked goods are sweeter and more satisfying. There’s also the absolute torture of counting down the hours until it’s time to unwrap presents. No matter the traditions, there is an emphasis on families making the holidays special for children. Nurturing a child’s curiosity and helping them grow takes more than one family- it takes a village.

H.E.A.R.T.S, Helping Each Adolescent Reach Their Spark, fully embraces this mentality. Their goal is to educate and equip adolescent parents with the tools needed to become independent and self-sufficient. This is achieved by providing resources and services to help adolescent parents achieve their best life. The keys to success are self-development, education, family development, and financial awareness.

 This model not only provides holistic support to teen parents, it keeps them on track to reach their goals. In fact, H.E.A.R.T.S has achieved a 100% graduation rate for participants for six consecutive years. Through providing support and resources H.E.A.R.T.S is helping more families preserve the magic of the holidays.


What is H.E.A.R.T.S’ Vision for Durham?

H.E.A.R.T.S’ vision for Durham to be united as one force that transitions our morals and values to the next generation.


The ReCity Social Impact Holiday Giving Guide is proud to support H.E.A.R.T.S. Please consider giving to this incredible organization through RoundUp. For more information on how to get involved, visit our website to sign up.

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A Home for the Holidays: Housing for New Hope

There’s something in the air around the holidays. It’s a time to indulge with delicious food, participate in beloved traditions, and spend time with loved ones. The holiday spirit is in the air and it inspires the feeling of giving back.

There are many holiday traditions that revolve around transforming our spaces and home. To name a few, stockings are hung, candles are lit in celebration and reflection, and trees are trimmed and weighed down with ornaments. These traditions are part of the holidays, yet not everyone in Durham has access to safe, affordable housing.  

Housing for New Hope is an organization that opens doors to security, sustainability, and empowerment by helping people who are experiencing homelessness. Through comprehensive and compassionate services, they work to end homelessness in Durham one person at a time.

Their work creates a dignified experience for housing insecure individuals and families. Their team’s combined passion and expertise creates an unparalleled impact on the lives of Durhamites every day.


What is Housing for New Hope’s Vision for Durham?

 Housing for New Hope’s vision for Durham is that everyone deserves a safe, decent affordable place to live. No one should have to live outside or in a place not meant for human habitation. With all of the resources we have here in Durham this is a solvable problem. As a community we can come together and work together to make sure that everyone has a place to call home.


The ReCity Social Impact Holiday Giving Guide is proud to support Housing for New Hope. Please consider giving to this incredible organization through RoundUp. For more information on how to get involved, visit our website to sign up.

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Announcing the 2019 Unity Fellows!

The Unity Fellowship will begin training its second cohort of Triangle nonprofit Executive Directors and social impact professionals starting this January, preceded by an announcement of the cohort’s participants on December 15th. ReCity held a Kickoff Breakfast to introduce Cohort 2 this week.

The Unity Fellowship is a capacity building and strategic leadership development program for nonprofit leaders designed to address the over-saturation and underdevelopment of the Durham non-profit community. The goal of the Unity Fellowship is to train nonprofit leaders in key organizational practices that promote long term organizational stability, while elevating key leadership skills that are specifically calibrated to Durham’s local context. Unity Fellows receive training in the following areas:

●      Organizational Identity Development

●      Financial and Other Systems Administration

●      Strategic Planning

●      Long Range Fundraising

●      Annual Operational Planning

●      Board Development

●      Staff Development and Organizational Culture

●      Leadership

●      Equity

The Unity Fellows program is the brainchild of Julie Wells, who has been a social impact leader in the Triangle for 25 years. Wells currently serves as the Executive Director of Partners for Youth Opportunity in Durham. She knows from experience what it’s like to feel overwhelmed while leading a nonprofit. “When you work particularly in a small nonprofit, you feel like you are in survival mode,” she explained. “You can’t look forward because you’re constantly looking up; you’re trying to hold your head above water.”

Wells’ interactions with other nonprofit leaders with similar experiences inspired her to create the Unity Fellowship in 2017 with the encouragement of her mentor, the late Phail Wynn, of Duke University’s Office of Durham and Regional Affairs. According to Wells, “the Unity Fellowship is an opportunity for nonprofit leaders to focus on their own leadership as well as the organizational stability of the nonprofits they oversee.”

The Unity Fellowship graduated the first cohort of nonprofit professionals in December 2017, and they have great things to say about the program. “Every day, I put out fires and solve problems,” says 2017 graduate and Executive Director of the Helius Foundation, Geraud Staton. “This fellowship let me look at the landscape as opposed to only being in the middle of the chaos. I can now see how to avoid the crisis or at least move through it more efficiently.” Staton’s classmate, Reynolds Chapman, Executive Director of Durham Cares, agrees. “I really believe any non-profit leader could get something from this opportunity. A lot of times executive directors can find themselves in isolation and yes, you get a lot of skills from the experience, but the relationships that you build and what you learn from other leaders is invaluable.”

Want to read more about the program? Visit our Unity Fellows page for cohort bios and more information.

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Drive to Thrive

It’s been a whirlwind of new engagement and energy the past few months at ReCity Network. Most exciting of all was the Drive to Thrive Banquet, where social impact leaders and idealists from around the community gathered at ReCity for an evening of storytelling and connection.

In total, over 150 people were welcomed into the building. Attendees represented folks from varying sectors (non-profit, businesses, faith-based organizations) and provided a space to reflect on what social impact in Durham is all about. The evening started with happy hour and transitioned into lively table discussions over dinner. The meal was prepared by Zweli’s, who has been in partnership with ReCity since our 2014 launch.

As the evening unfolded, one highlight was the premiere of a short film about the H.E.A.R.T.S program, created by our partners at IronWorx Media. It highlighted the passion Executive Director Tameka Brown, has for the community and her efforts to provide a safe space and resources to teen parents. Following the film, keynote speaker Dr. Dorian Burton of the Kenan Charitable Trust spoke on community building through meaningful relationships that create empathy. Overall, the evening was a celebration, not solely of ReCity, but of the vision of building a more just Durham, together.

See more highlight pictures from Drive to Thrive below!

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We Believe in Durham

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New Kids on the Block!

Tayler (left) & Kendall (right)

Tayler (left) & Kendall (right)

ReCity is delighted to have two amazing interns join our team this fall, Kendall Bradley & Tayler Miller! This semester, Kendall and Tayler have contributed to two ReCity events, helped support facility and operational upgrades, and built relationships with our community partners. As a community, we are looking forward to their efforts and growth. In their own words, here’s a little bit about them.

Meet Kendall

My name is Kendall Bradley and I will be interning with ReCity through December 2018. I am a senior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (go Heels!) with a double major in Human Development & Family Studies and Community & Nonprofit Leadership.

At Carolina, I am involved with a campus ministry called Cru as a Bible study leader and intern, and I am a member of UNC’s chapter of International Justice Mission. I also give campus tours to prospective students and their families, and I work for Carolina Housing as an Office Assistant. I’m excited to be starting work as a substitute teacher for Chapel Hill and Carrboro City Schools in the coming weeks as well!

I am a proud Midwesterner, born and raised just outside of Minneapolis, Minnesota, and I promise I will be thrilled to hear about any connection whatsoever that you have to the Land of 10,000 Lakes! Some of my favorite things besides my home include camp, chocolate, Carolina basketball, board games, plants, Chick-fil-a sauce, road trips, and good conversation.

Why ReCity?

I heard about ReCity through my friend Brittany who interned here last spring. I was immediately intrigued by ReCity’s quest to maximize impact by supporting community leaders and organizations in the work they are already doing. In addition to my passions for justice, education, and collaboration, I believe deeply that the things people already have in their hands are of value, and I am humbled to be surrounded by so many organizations who approach clients first with dignity and care rather than with an agenda.

I’m really excited to be part of the ReCity team and to meet so many people who are invested in doing meaningful work in Durham. Please introduce yourself if you see me around, and let me know if there’s any way I can be useful to you! Looking forward to meeting you all!

Meet Tayler

My name is Tayler Miller, I will be interning with ReCity for the 2018 fall semester. I attend North Carolina Central University, I am a Business Marketing senior and I will be graduating May 2019. After graduating from NCCU, I plan to further my education and get my MBA at UNC Charlotte. I plan to become a digital marketing manager in the future for a large corporation. I am originally from Harlem, NY born and raised and I am my own self-taught artist. I own a customized clothing business called Tay Gang Kustomz, I specialize in jackets, distressing and sneakers. Additionally, I enjoy painting on canvas.

Why ReCity?

One part that stood out from ReCity’s mission statement was, “shared space and shared impact—that’s the power of ReCity Network. I realized this is where I wanted to become an intern because there aren’t many platforms where multiple organizations collaborate and collectively reach their goals. I knew through being a business owner and a dreamer that I could get a lot from my experience at ReCity.

Coming from Harlem, NY I have things happen in my community that I wanted to change but I didn’t know how to turn my frustration into possibilities. I have always had an interest in starting my own non-profit organization and giving back to the community. My mother has always been my inspiration, she teaches in the New York City public school system. I’ve seen her buy school supplies and clothing for her students because their families couldn’t afford to. Being part of the ReCity community has given me inspiration and an idea for a safe haven for students. Specifically, one where students and parents can work and have computer access for free.

I’d like to see the ReCity model recreated not only Harlem but in Washington Heights, the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens. I am honored to have the opportunity to learn from diverse people and impact my communities in Durham and Harlem. I am very proud to join the ReCity community.

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Drive to Thrive!

We were thrilled to welcome almost 200 old and new friends alike who attended our #DrivetoThrive Banquet last week! It was a night of celebration and innovation as we highlighted ReCity’s impact since we opened our doors 2 years ago. 94% of our partners report their community partnerships are stronger since joining ReCity. Watch this video of one of those stories of life-transforming impact!

We also want to give a huge shoutout to our Drive to Thrive corporate sponsors! Your investment will enable us to continue providing critical capacity-building space and services to our 100-member network of social impact leaders! Thank you for partnering with us to build a more just Durham!

With $40,210 raised, we are just $9,000 away from reaching our $50k event goal by November 1st! Click below to help us reach the finish line!

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Seven Questions with Mayor Steve Schewel

ReCity Network is proud to celebrate two years of social impact this fall! We recently hosted a special ReCity Roundtable featuring the Mayor of Durham, Steve Schewel. Mayor Schewel is deeply committed to the success of Durham. Through his advocacy and policies, he is working to create a community that is welcoming and prosperous for all. ReCity Staff sat down with Mayor Schewel to ask his thoughts on the future of social impact in Durham.

What initially sparked your passion for local government and for public service?

I first got interested in the idea of running for office through running for the school board. My kids were in public schools and I had been very involved as a PTA President. I also served on the Boards of Directors, working to try and improve the quality of our schools for everybody. I was 53 when I ran for mayor. I had been very involved in the community for a long time before I decided to run for office.

What do you believe is the most current pressing social issue in Durham? What are some resources that either exist currently or that you hope to develop in the future to see improvement on this issue?

Undoubtedly, the most significant issue we face is the continuing poverty of a large segment of our community, mainly communities of color. Gentrification has only added to this challenge, but the challenge has been here and that’s what we need to attack. There are a lot of people who are working very hard on this, we have to take a holistic approach.

Are there any resources or initiatives that you’re excited about that could move the needle on the issue?

I’m excited about our new city economic development plan based on shared economic prosperity. I’m also excited about the work we’re doing on affordable housing. This year, the city is spending 17 million dollars to build and maintain affordable housing in Durham. There’s also a lot of work going on around food security. We need a city where no child--where no person--goes hungry.

How can people in social impact spaces effectively collaborate with city government?

There are some areas where the city has very close relationships with nonprofit partners or with mission driven for-profits. For example, in our affordable housing, we’re working with nonprofits and the Durham Housing Authority to build and maintain affordable housing. The same is true of our work in criminal justice reform with Bull City United. Collaboration is crucial. People in social impact spaces are already doing this work. We need to come together and find common paths forward.

What about ReCity’s mission has you excited?

I had seen in my own experience the ways in which people being in the same physical space can spark cooperative work, creativity, and partnerships. It’s very inspiring to walking into ReCity and see all of the organizations and know that they will be collaborating in ways that wouldn’t happen if they were not together. I also appreciate the intentionality with which work is done at ReCity. Specifically, the efforts to increase the capacity of organizations.

What kind of long-term impact do you think that a model like this can have on a city like Durham?

What strikes me is we need more of it. Government can only do a small portion of the things that we need done to build a kind of community that we want to be in. ReCity is strengthening these organizations’ capacities so that they’re able to do more, collaborate, and make the kind of community we want. If we continue in this spirit, we can make the city we love a city for all.

If you had to identify your vision for the next five to ten years in Durham, where do you hope to see the needle move on social impact?

Durham is a city that is in a period of tremendous prosperity...for most of us. Currently, 20% of our residents, mainly people of color, are not sharing in this prosperity. Whether you’re in city government, Durham Public Schools, or working in the social impact sector, our goal has to be to work together to change this. I believe this is Durham’s common vision; to work towards being city where our prosperity is shared.

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Introducing Zenzele Barnes, ReCity's New Community Manager!


Tell us a little bit about your background. 

I’m a Durham native and I graduated from Queens University of Charlotte with a degree in Communication and a New Media Design minor. Professionally, I have worked as an AmeriCorps VISTA at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Wake County and a City Year Member in Miami. I also served as an Arts Administration Apprentice at Liberty Arts Studio here in Durham. I have a strong interest in the arts and community-based work that uplifts marginalized voices. 

Why were you drawn to ReCity's mission? 

I was drawn to ReCity’s value of Achieving the Impossible. It can be so hard to dream big and stay optimistic in the world. For me, I go through life with the mindset of trying to leave things better than where I started them. There’s a whiteboard in the ReCity office where community partners can write out their accomplishments. I think it’s wonderful because it celebrates the small ways that our community moves forward toward achieving the impossible.

Who is one person that inspires you? 

I’m actually going to cheat and list two people who inspire me; my grandmothers! I am so thankful that both sides of my family have such strong matriarchs. They are the most generous and humble people I know. Their love and joy extend past my family and seeps into the community. I am truly a better person because of them.

What do you love most about Durham? 

I love that Durham is a city with a rich sense of history, a growing arts community, and down-to-earth people.

What's your favorite local restaurant? 

My favorite restaurant is Elmo’s, it’s tried and true. Plus, the pancakes are as big as your head!

What's one fun fact about yourself? 

I love to sew and make my own clothes.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time? 

I enjoy reading, listening to music, crafting, and practicing the bass.

What song best describes your personality? 

Midnight by Lianne la Havas

What are you looking forward to most about joining the ReCity team? 

I am looking forward to working with like-minded community advocates and change-makers.

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ReCity Launching "ReCity Connect"

Shared space and shared impact—that’s the power of ReCity Network.

To help us further that mission, we are pleased to announce a new partnership with Protopia to develop ReCity Connect, an advisory network to provide ReCity’s members with access to local expertise to help them develop and grow their organizations. Protopia is a Raleigh-based startup that makes it easy for members to get help from their community.

We are looking for members of the Durham community to join ReCity Connect and volunteer their professional expertise and know-how to help our member organizations succeed.

Here’s how it will work:

As a member of the ReCity Connect you will receive relevant requests from ReCity’s organization based on your skills and expertise.  If you receive a request and it is a good time and you can help, you will reply with your answer. If you cannot help because you do not have time or it is not a good match, you just reply ‘no.’ You can also elect at any time to opt out of ReCity Connect.

The best part is there is no logins or downloading an app. Requests will come via email and be matched on the basis of your skills, expertise, and schedule preference. Thus, if you have expertise in finance, it could be a question on budget management. If you are marketing professional, it could be a request to review an organization’s marketing plan.  

We believe that your expertise would provide an invaluable service to our member organizations. If you’re interested in volunteering with ReCity Connect please visit our volunteer page ( and fill out the registration form.

Over the next month, we will be working with Protopia to recruit volunteers and roll-out the network. Our goal is to launch ReCity Connect in early March.

Join us in rewriting the story of our city, together!

               Rob Shields                          Executive Director

               Rob Shields                        Executive Director

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NC Works NEXTGEN Joins ReCity, Makes Immediate Community Impact

A dynamic new partner has burst on the scene at ReCity Network, thanks to Eric Haddock and the team at NCWorks NEXTGEN.

A program of the Eckerd Connects, NCWorks NEXTGEN fulfills the Workforce Investment Opportunity Act (WIOA). The legislation commits federal funding, to be disbursed and managed at state and local government level, for workforce development that creates employment opportunities for traditionally underserved communities.

The major focus of the program, according to its parent organization, is to connect in-school and out-of-school youth to career readiness, career guidance, remediation, community resources and employment and training opportunities. The NCWorks NEXTGEN Program provides skills necessary to gain and retain employment, directs individuals to careers that are in demand and promotes employment advancement to become self-sufficient.

The organization’s mission is to partner with businesses across Durham County to provide “work experiences” to area youth aged 17 to 24. According to Haddock, it’s the work experience concept that sets the organization apart. “The program provides funding for real jobs in industries our constituents may otherwise not gain access,” he said. “It provides funding for up to three-month experience, where we pay an amount equal to a typical starting salary in that industry. If, after three months, the youth participant and the corporate partner see a good fit, the company makes a permanent hire. Otherwise, it’s great experience and a quality reference for the participant’s resume moving forward.”

The organization also helps participants, based on needs, to obtain GEDs and/or job training.

Haddock sees benefits that go beyond the gaining of employment, to the empowerment of better lives for his participants. “We were privileged to place one of our participants at the emerging social media startup SpokeHub,” he explained. “She has done so well in the work experience that she is being considered for permanent employment and is in the process of leaving a shelter to live independently with her son. That’s a better career and a better life.”

Since joining ReCity in mid-November, Haddock has seen the power of collaboration at Durham’s hub for social impact. “Right away, we found synergy, not only in doing work together but in receiving guidance from some of the great leaders at ReCity,” said Haddock. “The H.E.A.R.T.S foundation, Housing for New Hope, and Step Up Durham have been especially good to us, helping us help our constituents. It helps to know when we’re working with the same kids as another ReCity organization, so that we know that the kids are finding stable support in all of their situations while we work on employment.”

NCWorks NEXTGEN has also worked with external agencies to take advantage of ReCity’s event space, already hosting a rap session with Durham Technical Community College to build awareness of Durham Tech’s free classes for job training.

The organization’s team is active, and their impact is clear. NCWorks has already developed
relationships with 28 area companies willing to participate in work experiences. 15 work experiences have taken place since the program’s launch last October, and Haddock says the group will serve 150 youth in 2018.

In addition to SpokeHub, the participating corporate partners come from a range of industries, some with national name recognition and others from every corner of the Durham business community. Partners include Meineke, H.E.A.R.T.S., KSE Scientific, Playground Studios, the Scrap Exchange, and ReCity partner Zweli’s Catering.

For more information on NCWorks NEXTGEN, powered by Eckerd Connects, visit

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Connell's Best

"ReCity is a place where I can come, no matter how I feel, no matter what I'm going through, I know I have somebody I can talk to and who can talk to me. ReCity is a clothesline. Helius Foundation and StepUp are the clothespins. You can't have one without the other." 
- Connell Green
Connell Green and  Helius Foundation's  Geraud Staton discussing business dreams at ReCity Network. 

Connell Green and Helius Foundation's Geraud Staton discussing business dreams at ReCity Network. 

Connell Green’s story is unique, and then again, it’s not. People travel many roads to difficult life circumstances. In Connell’s case, a workplace injury forced him to start all over, while for others, it’s catastrophic illness, justice involvement, or leaving the foster system without a safety net. No matter the reason for disconnection from opportunity and prosperity, all of Durham’s residents deserve another chance.

At ReCity Network, 60 community leaders from over 30 non-profits, churches, and mission-driven businesses have risen to the occasion, helping one Connell Green at a time. Hear more about Connell's story and hear more stories like his on ReCity's website

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ReWriting the Story of Our City, Together

In discussions in ReCity’s infancy there were several values that we deemed  “non-negotiable”, being community focused and asset-based, committing to long-term, sustainable impact, and being holistic and highly relational.  These were values that we desired to see represented in the entire network because they are aspects of a philosophy of community transformation that focuses on development.  For ReCity, development means that we are focused on people and relationships. This includes holistic care and service that recognizes the complexity of people and systems and the need to be thoughtful about all of it.  Development also means that we are working toward self-sufficiency and sustainability over generations, and that we are committed to a process rather than a product or a quick fix.  Dr. John Perkins, one of the pioneers and leading experts of Community Development, helps us to see that this philosophy is also infused with the understanding that all people have value and dignity.  This means that every person has something to contribute.  

When you see the word development, I hope you will read it with all the depth and richness with which we mean it.  "ReWriting the story of our city, together" is about a commitment over time, to go side by side from where we are to somewhere better.  We are already seeing that happen.  Even though we believe that development is a long term process, we are encouraged by what we have already seen: relationships forged, collaborations created, and opportunities expanded; business owners sharing lessons learned with necessity driven entrepreneurs, and young people involved with the justice system finding new pathways toward careers. 

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If you are interested in seeing Durham and the Triangle transformed through healthy community development, then I encourage you to get to know ReCity and join our family as we continue to rewrite our story - together.  

-ReCity Board Chair, KJ Hill



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The Making of Unity Fellows

"In the beginning, the ReCity concept was presented as being more efficient, with greater impact at the program level, not at the organizational level. But as we’ve all collaborated, we’ve helped not just our constituents, but each other as leaders, grow in our capabilities."
-PYO Executive Director, Julie Wells
 Durham Nonprofit leaders graduate from Duke-sponsored leadership program.

 Durham Nonprofit leaders graduate from Duke-sponsored leadership program.


The Making of Unity Fellows

This past fall, a cohort of ReCity Network non-profit leaders began an altogether new journey of leadership development via the Unity Fellows program, the brainchild of Partners for Youth Opportunity (PYO) Executive Director Julie Wells.

The first round of participants included Geraud Staton of Helius Foundation, Michelle Young of Project Build, Adam Bernard of PYO, Syretta Hill of StepUp Durham, Reynolds Chapman of Durham Cares, Olive Joyner of Housing for New Hope, and Rob Shields of ReCity Network.

We sat down with Julie recently to find out how this breakthrough program, which challenges non-profit leaders on multiple fronts with an impact-first mentality, can change the game for the underserved communities through creating more effective non-profit organizations.

ReCity Network:  “How did you come up with the idea for Unity Fellows?”

Julie Wells: “Unity Fellows as a concept was sparked by three different dynamics at play over the last couple of years. I had ongoing conversations with Dr. Phail Wynn, Duke’s Vice President for Durham and Regional Affairs. He has a strong non-profit development initiative, the Duke/Durham Fellows Program, and I was in their second cohort, where they were bringing together chosen non-profit leaders to support with the intention of getting them to stay in Durham and do good, effective work. My idea for Unity Fellows came from Phail’s response to the non-profit world here being so saturated. We talked often about why great non-profits have achieved greatness, as well as how we keep them great. He also liked, and supported, the merger of a pair of organizations (Yo:Durham and Partners for Youth) to become even stronger, more impactful non-profit as PYO.

Second, the emergence of ReCity has had a profound impact on our thinking, because of the collective work done within the network to strengthen and support each other. In the beginning, the ReCity concept was presented as being more efficient, with greater impact at the program level, not at the organizational level. But as we’ve all collaborated, we’ve helped not just our constituents, but each other as leaders, grow in our capabilities.

Then in the fall of 2016, I went through another incredible program, Leadership Triangle’s Transforming Leaders program. While I felt transformed and reinforced by my time in Transforming Leaders with Jesica Averhart and the amazing team there, I was sad when I left the program, as I was the only grassroots non-profit leader in a room filled by corporate executives. It was impactful training, but lacked the non-profit perspective in a big way.”

ReCity Network: “So, with those three organizations and their approaches to leadership converging to influence your thinking, what did you do next?”

Julie Wells: “Being at ReCity for PYO’s operations, we talked a lot with Rob Shields and other leaders in the network about how leadership and organizational stability are the two key ingredients for non-profit success.  We continued to push ReCity’s thinking to have an impact at organizational level and not just programmatic in approach. We also looked at creating a leadership institute for non-profits—while Duke’s program was great, it had price considerations that would be prohibitive for many non-profits, and it only lasts a week. While Transforming Leaders offered a longer program, it needed to translate better to the larger, non-corporate non-profit community.

So, we decided to bring the three—Duke, ReCity, and Leadership Triangle—together to form something new, starting with a pilot cohort of ReCity Network partners. Dr. Wynn and Duke’s Office of Durham and Regional Affairs believed the services of this unified effort would be so impactful, they granted the funds to take care of two-thirds of the $2200 in expense for each leader, requiring only $500 and a signed letter from the respective board chairs for each executive to participate.”

         PYO Executive Director, Julie Wells

         PYO Executive Director, Julie Wells

ReCity Network: “Tell us about the program’s core principles.”

Julie Wells: “We operate from the seven sustainability goals established by the North Carolina Center for Non-Profits. Each leader would select areas where they have gaps or desires for improvement. For example, at PYO we are focusing on board management, development/fundraising issues, and re-articulating our vision and values for the future.

As the cohort is moving through the curriculum, we’re finding areas where each leader needs work, such as questions related to financial stewardship. Together, we find synergies among our group of partners and work on deficits together when we have them in common. For example, a pair of organizations needing marketing support might enter a joint agreement to be able to hire an outside agency when one alone can’t afford outside help.”

ReCity Network: “We all know that great leadership programs have an impact on executives both while they go through the curriculum and of course after they graduate. What’s been the early impact you’ve observed, as your cohort is just past the mid-point of its eight-month journey?”

Julie Wells:  “in our very first session, leaders spoke about personal work journeys and the paths they took, from watching their parents' relationships to their jobs, to travel, education, and other influences. They found lots of commonalities. Especially compelling was the fact that several leaders had lived lives similar to the clients they serve, and that everyone was concerned with equity.

Also, we come together in agreement that impact for those we serve comes first, above all else, including ourselves. We are very intentional about saying, ‘It’s no longer about you, and you may learn that you’re not the right leader for your organizations.’ As we take that approach, we go through the history of each organization, how it’s evolved, and where it’s going, along with identifying the gaps in skills and leadership the organization needs to meet its goals for the greatest impact. We emphasize that this program’s biggest differentiator is that it’s not about strengthening individuals, but strengthening organizations.

As a result, I saw a majority of our participants feel really grateful to be able to tell their stories in a safe place, as some realized that they might be a great leader for the present, but not for the future. But that’s healthy, as long as they have strong transition and sustainability plans. So, they are making long-range vision plans for their own exit or to transition to roles that will better suit how they can maximize impact, such as heading up programming.”

ReCity Network:  “What’s next for the Unity Fellows program?”

Julie Wells: “Any time you do something for the first time, you see ways you want to improve, things you missed, and notice what work really to amplify on the next go-around.

We have some ideas already—there’s a great creative tension among the three partners: Duke, ReCity, and Leadership Triangle. One example is to center each Unity Fellows cohort around certain issues challenging the community. These could be environmental, or how to serve our elderly, or even an academic approach to ending poverty.

Also, we’ve noticed that this group is so effective because as ReCity partners and through our interactions prior to joining the network, there are pre-existing relationships with baked-in dynamics and synergies, which allow the group to progress in its understanding of each other and the issues the community faces at a much faster pace.

ReCity Network: “Ultimately, what do you see as the endgame for these groups as they graduate?”

Julie Wells:  “Actually, it’s a process of equipping these leaders, by stripping back the self and amplifying the organizational approach, to realize that the way forward is not through 4,000-plus non-profits operating in Durham, but a much smaller number of consolidated, efficient, focused organizations fighting the good fight, and doing it together even when they’re not formally merged, through strategic partnerships that benefit the organizations at leadership level and their respective constituents through better, more impactful programming that eliminates drivers of poverty and promotes drivers of success, all in an equitable fashion.”

Stay tuned for more information on Unity Fellows, a joint project of Duke University, ReCity Network, and Leadership Triangle.



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Why I Support ReCity

the notion that we could bring together the work of lots of different non-profits and faith-based organizations, along with support from the mission-driven business community—and do it for greater impact on pervasive poverty and multi-generational social injustice—was too good for me to pass up.
James Forrest is a business attorney, entrepreneur, angel investor, and charter member of the ReCity 100.

James Forrest is a business attorney, entrepreneur, angel investor, and charter member of the ReCity 100.

I first heard about ReCity Network a few years ago, prior to its launch, because some good friends were involved in the vision-casting for the organization. When I heard who was behind this big, bold idea, their credibility convinced me that I needed to give supporting ReCity some serious consideration.

Then, after my first exposure to the idea, I began exploring ReCity’s mission and intentions for fulfilling that mission, and the notion that we could bring together the work of lots of different non-profits and faith-based organizations, along with support from the mission-driven business community—and do it for greater impact on pervasive poverty and multi-generational social injustice—was too good for me to pass up.

We live in strange times. All too often, people look for ways to label each other instead of identifying and connecting with each other. That disappoints me on many levels, as a citizen, a person of faith, and just as a human being. I don’t want to fall into that trap, and I certainly want to support organizations that cut through the clutter of differences and find the commonalities that really matter in solving the problems that our neighbors face. I also want to be an example to my children and leave a lasting legacy for them. I believe that ReCity’s work right now will have a positive impact for generations to come.

To my fellow business leaders, I’ll offer you this challenge. If you want to connect with an organization that’s bringing lots of different folks together—from different faiths and denominations, political affiliations, etc.—and uniting them in a single purpose to drive greater equity for all, you can’t do better than ReCity Network.

This group will give you the perfect opportunity to get off the sidelines and do things that really impact people’s lives for the better. ReCity’s partner organizations are serving everything from basic needs like food, clothing, and shelter to more advanced services aimed at employment opportunities, health and financial wellness, entrepreneurship, social skills, and so much more. Better still, it’s my opinion that with every dollar I spend at ReCity, I can see the social impact return on my investment multi-fold.

Join me in supporting ReCity Network. In a short time, this organization has done so much, yet there’s much more to do. Please think about a weekly donation of $1, $10, or more. We’re looking for 30 sustaining members of the ReCity 100 by year-end, and we want more to join the cause in 2018. Thank you for your consideration.

James Forrest is a business attorney, entrepreneur, angel investor, and charter member of the ReCity 100

About ReCity Network

Founded in 2016, Durham’s ReCity Network serves a fast-growing group of non-profits, faith-based organizations, and mission-driven businesses serving the Bull City. The area’s first hub for nonprofit innovation and leadership, ReCity is home to a network of 60 community leaders driving a more equitable future for all.

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Announcing the ReCity #First100 Campaign

Help us reach our goal of 30 sustainers and $30,000 by December 31st!

Help us reach our goal of 30 sustainers and $30,000 by December 31st!

100 Leaders, 100 Sustainers, 1 Network.

2017 has been a tumultuous year in our nation. Every time we turn on the TV, it seems we’re faced with brokenness of all kinds: natural disasters, mass shootings, poverty and injustice. Sometimes, the tragedy is unavoidable; other times, it reveals the deep divisions that persist in our communities, and how far we still have to go to bridge those divides. And yet as we turn the page on a new year, there is reason for hope. 

Durham is one of those communities whose history is filled with both pain and hope. Recently Durham has been “on the rise” with a booming start-up culture and restaurant renaissance. But like many gentrifying urban cities, Durham also suffers from pervasive systemic poverty, rampant social injustice, and a great imbalance of opportunity. In a word, this incredible place we call home is also a case study in inequity. The rising tide simply isn’t lifting all boats.

And while there is much to lament both nationally and locally, there is also much to celebrate. Recent tragedies have revealed brokenness in us as individuals, communities and systems, but that revelation provides an opportunity for transformation. Here at ReCity, we’ve had a front row seat to watching the type of transformation that is possible when a community comes together and unites around a shared sense of purpose. 

In just over 12 months, our Network has grown to include 50 community leaders from over 30 nonprofits, churches and mission-driven businesses. We’ve hosted 180 community events, created 400 connections between our partners, and seen 8 sustained collaborations form to serve over 1,000 of our under-served neighbors. 

When you bring together a growing collection of social impact organizations—non-profits, faith-based groups, and mission-driven businesses—you soon find that inefficiencies are unmasked, synergies are found, and the impact grows exponentially and in short order. In our first year since inception, ReCity Network has become vital to building a more united Durham that serves as an example to other cities of how to include everyone in the dream.

I’d like to invite you to consider joining us on this journey—still early in our history—to sustain the impact we’re having in our community. Every organization needs sustainers. Whether you’re a church, a non-profit, a small business or a large one, in order to really thrive, you’re going to need a group of committed people investing in your success. 

As the New Year approaches, I encourage you to reflect on what you have to offer your community. 

Our goal for 2018 is to expand our efforts to serve 100 community leaders. Motivated by this goal, we’re looking for the ReCity #First100—a hundred sustainers who will commit to invest any amount on a recurring basis. Whether its $1 per day or even $1 per week, we need your help to catalyze the unity we’re striving for in our communities. 

Our goal is to raise $30,000 by adding the first 30 sustainers by December 31st. I promise you’ll gain more than you give. The need is great, but our resolve is greater. And we are doing this the right way—together.

Will you join us?

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Think ReCity Network for #GivingTuesday

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We exist to fight pervasive, systemic poverty and injustice, using our accelerator space to connect and equip non-profits, churches, and mission-driven businesses determined to build a more equitable Durham for all.

On November 28, millions of people will go online or pull out their checkbooks to support their favorite non-profits, churches, and community organizations for Giving Tuesday, a global giving movement that started just a few years ago. The timing for Giving Tuesday is great, as people are pausing to reflect and be grateful for the blessings in their lives,. 

For Giving Tuesday 2017, I’m asking you to support ReCity Network. We exist to fight pervasive, systemic poverty and injustice, using our accelerator space to connect and equip non-profits, churches, and mission-driven businesses determined to build a more equitable Durham for all.

Running ReCity, like any other business or non-profit, takes lots of resources and and lots of effort. When we started this organization, our board had big dreams for a better Durham. That belief has been unwavering, and we are dreaming bigger than ever for 2018, looking to add more community partners, sponsors, and capacity-building resources for the incredible roster of organizations that call ReCity home.

You can help ReCity in three different ways this holiday season—the first two involve time and talent, while the last one requires treasure.

First, you can sign up to be a social ambassador for ReCity Network. We have a great system we’ve built for helping our advocates conduct outreach via their social networks in places like Facebook and Twitter. All you have to do is sign up—we can share the details, and while no actual work is required of you, with this program you’ll maintain complete control of your accounts and ReCity-themed content. Please contact our staff at to learn more! People are already signing up for this great opportunity, and we are so grateful to our early adopters.

Second, you can sign up to offer your talent and expertise as a business and professional advisor to the nonprofits and mission-driven businesses that form ReCity Network. Through a unique partnership with local software startup Protopia, we'r launching " ReCity Connect" an innovative digital networking platform that enables us to easily match advisors willing to donate small chunks of time to community leaders who have questions in areas like business strategy, legal, accounting, marketing, and much more. In other words, you’ll spend a little time offering a lot of talent for community impact. The platform goes live in January, but you can go ahead and pre-register now

Last, but certainly not least, we’re asking for treasure. It takes money to provide the space and resources our partners need to accelerate collaboration and impact in our community. I invite you to join the ReCity First 100 by becoming a monthly sustainer of our mission. Whether you give a dollar a week, a dollar a day, or even more, visit our campaign page to be a part of rewriting the story of our city together.

Thank you for all of the ways you support ReCity Network. Our first full year of operation has yielded many success stories, but it’s only the beginning. We are looking forward to making an even bigger impact in 2018, together.

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