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Reinventing Our Communities (ROC): A Coast-to-Coast Convening

By Danielle Susa & Grace Kaufman

On July 21st, 2023, Valley Vision had the unique opportunity to visit Cleveland, Ohio for an in-person gathering of cohorts from the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia’s Reinventing Our Communities (ROC) Program. The ROC Cohort Program is an in-depth racial equity training program for cross-sector community groups across the U.S. to apply local solutions to increase opportunity and strengthen local economies. Valley Vision served as the facilitator for the Yolo County cohort, which consisted of the following organizations:

  • Yolo County Health & Human Services Agency/YoloWorks!
  • Yolo County Public Health
  • Yolo Workforce Innovation Board
  • Winters Chamber of Commerce
  • Woodland Community College
  • Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco

Joined by several other cohorts across the United States, the ROC program provided specialized racial equity training sessions hosted by Race Forward, as well as workforce development workshops from Federal Reserve personnel and industry experts. This program aimed for participants to gain skills and create a tailored racial equity plan that addresses local challenges.

For 2022, the ROC program asked participants to focus on equitable workforce recovery. As Yolo County is known for its abundance of farmland, the Yolo County Cohort chose farmworkers as the demographic to center their year-long project. The consulting firm, Race Forward, helped us shape our goals through an exercise called the Root Cause Analysis.

In this exercise, we were instructed to start with our goal–in this case, a racially-equitable workforce recovery plan for farmworkers–and delve into the obstacles in its path. Some of the obstacles our cohort identified were: lack of adequate funding sources, especially for undocumented individuals; the rising cost of living, including food; unsafe working conditions; and a lack of affordable, sustainable housing.

This exercise helped us create the following framework: 

  • Our cohort knew that because farms are busier during certain times of the year, many seasonal employees are hired to work during these specific bursts and are often unemployed during slower, winter months. As a result, the winter months pose a significant challenge to farmworkers, whose quality of life depends on the harvest season. 
  • A lack of stable income makes it difficult to afford viable housing and sufficient food for themselves and their families year-round. 
  • This issue is even more problematic for undocumented farmworkers who are ineligible for federal aid, such as CalFresh and unemployment benefits.

During this process, the Financial Assistance Plan (FAF) for Farmworkers program was created. The FAF program provided unemployed farmworkers timely and accessible one-time checks of one thousand dollars to be used in the procurement of essential needs during the winter off-season. When it was launched in the spring of 2023 by Yolo County Health and Human Services, the application was highly successful, filling up the available slots in less than a day, which shows the dire need for support for farmworkers. This pilot was a valuable opportunity to test the demand and process, both of which matched our expectations. Our cohort’s hope is to continue this program so that it is more widely accessible to even more farmworkers who need assistance with affording housing and food. 

This project is only one example of what came to fruition during the ROC program. In Cleveland, Valley Vision presented these findings and the FAF program to cohorts from the 2020, 2021, and 2022 program years. In addition to learning about the projects from other regions, attendees received additional in-person racial equity and communications training to take back to their communities.

We are incredibly grateful for this opportunity, the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, and the organizations who partnered with us to make this possible!

To read more about the 2022 Reinventing Our Communities program, click here. More information about the 2024 application process can be found here.