Christina Cummings (M.P.A ’11) injects equity into federal investment, helping to restore services, economies and justice in disinvested communities across the nation.
ATLANTA— Alumna Christina Cummings is a champion for investing in disinvested communities, first in the City of Atlanta’s planning department, and now on a larger platform as vice president of operations at Partnership for Southern Equity (PSE).
Her work has joined her with a new PSE partner, the Justice40 Accelerator, as project manager. The Accelerator was conceived by philanthropic partners and nonprofits that privately raised approximately $8 million to forward the work laid forth in the Justice40 Initiative, an effort to ensure federal agencies work with states and local communities to deliver at least 40 percent of federal investments in climate and clean energy to disadvantaged communities.
“If you look at history and the law, only certain types of businesses could contract with the federal government. The system has been doing what the system was designed to do,” she said. “So, what would it look like to do this work differently? What if we helped frontline agencies prepare to win federal contracting and procurement opportunities?
“Our work is to reimagine that operation as reparative, restorative and just. It holds the system accountable to frontline communities.”
Cummings works on the front lines with nonprofits and community organizations that serve frontline communities—those experiencing ongoing injustice due to long-standing systemic racialized inequity in home and work places, environmental quality and economic opportunities. Funded with a pre-development grant from the Accelerator, she provides the technical assistance and support they need to navigate the process of applying for and securing federal investments in energy, water, housing, transportation and local business development.
“It takes well-resourced organizations about 120 hours to apply for federal grant dollars,” she said. “If you’re a small organization, you have real barriers to access. The Accelerator’s program benefits these organizations by providing grant-writing education, technical training and chill-and-chat sessions with former government officials who share best practices, detailed procurement expertise and insider information on how proposals are typically reviewed and ranked.”
During its first round of funding, the Accelerator has chosen more than 50 eligible organizations from across the U.S. to receive $25,000 each in development grants they can use to prepare to apply for federal funding.
“It costs $10,000 to do a single audit, and you have to have an audit to be considered for federal funding,” she said. “These are the real and financial barriers people have when trying to access this process.”
Additionally, the Accelerator and PSE have created a map of the federal resource delivery system that displays the location of 120 projects in the queue for federal funding to illuminate where barriers exist.
“We believe fundamentally that the people closest to the problems are closest to the solutions,” Cummings said. “We just have to resource them adequately and appropriately so they can implement those solutions and bring them to market.
Story by Victoria Bowden, M.P.P. Candidate, & Jennifer Giarratano