Zoomed. Out.

We can’t ignore that 2020 was a year unlike any other for the Fund for Our Economic Future,
our region, our state, our country,
and people the world over.

To learn more about what we believe our region's recovery must include, click here.

We began the year full of excitement and promise, as we welcomed new board members and a new president—only the second in our history. We marked these momentous changes with a lively civic gathering—our Northeast Ohio County Fair—which, for many, turned out to be the last big social event they attended before the world around us shut down and we moved to a largely virtual environment.

As a global pandemic raged, economies staggered, communities reached a boiling point over systemic racism, and a presidential election dominated headlines, our Fund adjusted our work and responded to immediate needs where it made the most sense to ensure our region not only recovers from these crises but thrives.

Despite its challenges, 2020 reinforced the following:

Ricardo León,
Executive Director of Metro West Community Development Organization
Treye Johnson,
regional outreach manager for the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland
Teresa LeGrair,
President and CEO of the Akron Urban League;
Trevelle Harp,
Executive Director of the Northeast Ohio Alliance for Hope;
Meredith Gadsby,
Associate Professor of Africana Studies and Comparative American Studies at Oberlin College
Yentil Rawlinson,
Director of Inclusion and Diversity at The Sherwin-Williams Co.
Phoebe Lee,
CEO of Affinity Apparel

The Fund’s eight new board members, from left to right: Ricardo León of Metro West Community Development Organization, Treye Johnson of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, Teresa LeGrair of Akron Urban League, Trevelle Harp of the Northeast Ohio Alliance for Hope, Meredith Gadsby of Oberlin College, Phoebe Lee of Affinity Apparel, and Yentil Rawlinson of The Sherwin-Williams Co. (Not pictured: Victor Ruiz of Esperanza Inc.)

Our work is more important now than ever before, and we are stronger because of the collective perspective, wisdom, influence, and action of all of our members.
See photos from the County Fair
Zoom in!

Remaining Responsive

While our vision and strategic focus remained constant throughout 2020, our day-to-day work in pursuit of those aims adapted to respond to the crises at hand.

Stabilization Resources

In Cuyahoga County, for example, the Fund supported efforts to identify and connect small businesses to available stabilization resources.



Within The Paradox Prize initiative, we introduced a matchmaking platform to connect transit providers around the state to area nonprofits with COVID-related transportation needs. Once that urgent need abated later in the year, we worked with Paradox Prize grantees to adapt their pilot projects to relaunch with safety measures in place for riders and drivers.


We also took proactive measures to coordinate with our members and civic leaders to pursue CARES Act funding from the Economic Development Administration (EDA) Economic Adjustment Assistance Program, ultimately submitting two proposals.

The “R7” manufacturing recovery and renewal program submitted by MAGNET received $650,000 to support small- to mid-sized manufacturers to safely re-open and pursue new innovations.

Small Business

The second proposal was for a revolving loan fund for small businesses in Cuyahoga County, submitted by the Urban League of Greater Cleveland. We provided grantwriting funding and worked with partners to aggregate $450,000 of match funding. Although the initial application was turned down, the EDA invited the Urban League to resubmit and we are hopeful for a favorable outcome.

Staying Connected


ur first board meeting of 2020, on March 19, marked the official start of Bethia Burke’s presidency, as well as the joining of eight civic members to our board. As it turned out, that day also fell within a week of Ohio’s governor announcing the closure of schools and many types of businesses, and eventually, the shelter-in-place order that drove all meetings online.

Adie Tomer of the Brookings Institution joined us for our Post-Election Speaker Series on Job Access to discuss how the economic priorities of the incoming administration was expected to influence transportation and infrastructure policy.

Amidst the uncertainty, staff initiated weekly video calls with members to unpack the latest economic headlines and stay on top of the rapidly changing world around us. As weeks turned to months, we condensed our board meeting agendas, adopted innovative in-meeting activities, recorded messages from the president, and launched a speaker series on the impact of the presidential election.

We closed out 2020 with a virtual holiday happy hour, complete with hand-delivered cocktail kits.

We’re honored to have been virtually welcomed into our members’ homes, to have met their children and pets, to have seen their holiday decorations, to have celebrated virtually when celebrations were warranted, and to have held space for grief, anger and worry when personal and communal hardship followed us into our workdays. The virtual environment is not an equal substitute for in-person gatherings and the network building that happens when our members can be together face to face. Even so, there is something to be said for the collective experience of the last year—connections were made and made a real difference in our work.

We put together a special download to help make

your next virtual meeting a little more fun.

Complete the form below to request a set of virtual meeting cue cards.