Community Conversations - We Raise Foundation

Community Conversations

Community Conversations

Interested in digging deeper and learning more about the complex issues at the intersection of poverty, violence, and inequality? Join We Raise Foundation as we host topical, interactive conversations on these issues via Facebook Live. We’ll hear from practitioners, researchers, and experts in the field, who will share their personal and professional experiences creating solutions to these issues in their communities.

Revitalizing Economic Health in our Urban Communities

West Side Forward

Held on August 15, 2019, this Community Conversation on economic development featured Roxanne Charles, Chief Engagement Officer, West Side Forward, Chicago, Ill., and Matthew Bruce, Executive Director, Chicagoland Workforce Funder Alliance, Chicago, Ill. 

Economic development. Community preservation. Displacement.

Revitalizing economic health in our urban communities can seem daunting and impossible; exciting and full of opportunity all in the same breath. Our cities face unique challenges and opportunities when it comes to drivers of economic functions and sustainability. Join us for a discussion of how we got here and what the five pillars of economic development and revitalization say about how we move forward in ways that benefit all neighbors.



Matt Bruce

Executive Director
Chicagoland Workforce Funder Alliance, Chicago, Ill.

Matthew Bruce became the first Executive Director of the Chicagoland Workforce Funder Alliance in October 2012. The Funder Alliance is a workforce development funder collaborative working with employers and other workforce stakeholders to increase employment, earnings and racial equity for underprepared workers in the Chicago region. In five years, the Alliance has raised over $7 million, grew from five to 27 funders and initiated a set of strategic initiatives focused on industry workforce partnerships, systems change, and workforce innovation. Prior to joining the Funder Alliance, Bruce was Manager of Regional Sector Initiatives for the Boston Office of Jobs and Community Services, where he started sector workforce initiatives such as Green Jobs Boston and the Skilled Careers In Life Sciences initiative. He has a master’s degree in public policy from the Harris School at the University of Chicago.


Roxanne Charles

Chief Engagement Officer
West Side Forward, Chicago, Ill.

Roxanne Charles is the Chief Engagement Officer at West Side Forward, a nonprofit organization missioned to reduce concentrated poverty on the West Side of Chicago. A lifelong Chicago area resident, Charles has dedicated herself to helping individuals and organizations break through self-imposed barriers impeding growth and sufficiency. As a working professional, entrepreneur, and mother, she is passionate about families, communities of color, and creating legacies. Charles is an advocate and change agent for overlooked and misrepresented socioeconomic issues and her 20 years of nonprofit leadership has encapsulated supporting, nurturing, and elevating individuals and organizations to reach their full potential. Outside of her work at West Side Forward, Charles serves as the board chair for an Illinois-based girl-centric nonprofit and is the curator of a series of initiatives to mentor and support young adult black males.

This conversation was facilitated by Joanne Otte, Director of Programs, We Raise Foundation.

Past Conversations

Holistic Re-Entry Support After Prison

Holistic Re-Entry Support After Prison

Held on July 23, 2019, this Community Conversation featured Dr. Michelle Anderson, Clinical Supervisor at Adler University Community Health Services, Chicago, Ill.; Dr. Angela Moss, Assistant Dean of Faculty Practice and Assistant Professor at Rush University College of Nursing, Chicago, Ill.; and Ms. Joni Stahlman, Chief Program Director at St. Leonard’s Ministries, Chicago, Ill. 

This conversation focused on our partner, St. Leonard’s Ministries and the holistic support they provide to returning citizens as part of their unique campus-integrated health model.

From Challenges to Celebrations: How Community Collaboration Serves Junior High Youth


This Community Conversation was held on June 20, 2019 and featured Elizabeth Galik, Executive Director, River City Community Development Center Chicago, Ill., and Y’Shanda Young-Rivera, Ph.D., Learning Sciences Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill., who discussed building programs to work with junior high youth.

This conversation, focused on the work of our partner, River City (R CITY) Community Development Center, and how they are building a path from cradle to career, particularly for junior high youth in Chicago’s West Humboldt Park neighborhood. Learn about their partnership with Y’Shanda Young-Rivera as she walked alongside a cohort of R CITY junior high youth during three turbulent, but important years.

Community Conversation: Mass Incarceration

Our first Community Conversation was held on June 13, 2018 and featured Ms. Onie Riley, Lawndale Christian Legal Center, Chicago, Ill., and Dr. Heath Carter, Valparaiso University, Valparaiso, Ind., who discussed the complex topic of mass incarceration.

Onie and Heath shared history, stories, and information about an innovative new approach to address this brokenness through the lens of the North Lawndale neighborhood in Chicago.

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