The UPLift with Tzedek: Real Talk for Real Change

Transcending the Check: Cultivating Trust in Community Partnerships

February 26, 2024 Tzedek Social Justice Fund Season 2 Episode 2
The UPLift with Tzedek: Real Talk for Real Change
Transcending the Check: Cultivating Trust in Community Partnerships
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

In this episode of TheUPLift, Delia Noemi Jovel Dubón of Tierra Fértil Coop and Stephanie Swepson-Twitty of Eagle Market Streets Development Corporation dig into the fundamental importance of trust-based community partnerships and the power of authentic, reciprocal relationships. When these social change powerhouses come together, it's nothing short of inspirational magic. Clear communication and mutual respect emerge as the heroes of this story as we unpack the delicate dance of dialogue between funders and grantees, revealing a world where questions can build bridges rather than barriers. 

About Delia: Delia Jovel Dubón was born and raised in El Salvador and has always been passionate about the social justice movement. After moving to North Carolina in 2014, she started working with local nonprofits supporting Hispanic immigrants in the Henderson and Buncombe areas. In 2020, she started Abundancia, a culturally appropriate food distribution, and Tierra Fértil Coop, a Hispanic-owned farm cooperative with various community initiatives. She loves to share time with her daughter, look for reasons to laugh, be in nature, listen to music, and plan road trips with her family.

About Stephanie: Stephanie Swepson-Twitty is the President and CEO of Eagle Market Streets Development Corporation. She is a 27+ year veteran in the Not-for-Profit Industry with skills spanning banking, finance and accounting, fundraising, grant-writing, nonprofit management and board governance, and community-centered funding strategies. Her work with Eagle has resulted in the creation of the first of its kind Community Equity Fund, an innovative community capital funding program leading the way in how historically underutilized businesses are funded. She is on the Hatch AVL Foundation, Catawba Vale Collaborative, and The Block Collaborative Steering Committees, and is a CoThinkk Core Member.

The currency of social transformation isn't just money—it's the authentic connections and strategic collaborations that Delia and Stephanie champion. Tune in to discover how these dynamic leaders cultivate a more connected and empowered Western North Carolina.


We'll see you same time, same place next month. Until then, peace.

Speaker 1:

We're profoundly, profoundly interconnected. We don't always live that way, we don't always acknowledge it, but if we're going to heal, we have to live it, experience it and create institutions that celebrate it. Can we create a we where no one's on the outside of it?

Speaker 2:

Welcome to the Uplift with Zedek Real Talk for Real Change.

Speaker 1:

Before we jump in, a quick reminder of why we're here and what we hope to achieve.

Speaker 3:

We're here to build authentic communities, relationships and help fuel social transformation in national North Carolina. We believe collective liberation is not only possible but probable as we share, listen and learn together. We're here for the process. However, the views and opinions expressed in this program are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of any entities they represent. Welcome everyone. I'm Jennifer Langton.

Speaker 4:

I'm the director of organizational grant making and the director of organizational grant making. I'm joined here by three amazing people today my newest colleague, tara Coffey, who's director of community-led grant making, delia Noeme Jovel Dumon of Tierra Gertil Co-op, and also Stephanie Swepson-Twitty of Eagle Market Street's Development Corporation, co-think and some other organizations I've not mentioned, I'm sure. Welcome all of you, hello, hello. I just wanted to share a brief introduction to the Tierra Gertil Co-op. I'm going to share a brief bio right now, just to give a little bit of a background. Delia was born and raised in El Salvador and has always been passionate about the social justice movement. In 2014, she moved to North Carolina and started working with local nonprofits supporting Hispanic immigrants in the Henderson and Buncom area. In 2020, she started Oboncia, a culturally appropriate food distribution, a farm cooperative that has a variety of community initiatives. She loves to share time with her daughter look for reasons to laugh being around nature, listening to music and planning road trips with her family.

Speaker 5:

Welcome, delia, and I will share a bit about Stephanie. Stephanie is the president and CEO of Eagle Market Street's Development Corporation, cdc. She is a 27-year veteran in the not-for-profit industry with skills spanning banking, finance and accounting, fundraising, grant-making, nonprofit management and board governance and, importantly, community-centered funding strategies. Her work with Eagle has resulted in the creation of the first-of-its-kind Community Equity Fund, an incredible community capital funding program leading the way in how historically and underutilized businesses are funded. She's on the Hatch ABL, kataba Vale Collaborative and the Block Collaborative Steering Committees and is a Co-Think core member. All around baddies, wonderful human beings. Welcome to the show, ladies. It's thrilling to have you here, thank you?

Speaker 4:

Yeah, it's very exciting. Stephanie and Delia, what are the hats that you wear in community? Tell us more about your work.

Speaker 1:

Okay, that's a big question. I will say that, yes, as a community member, sometimes I have to wear different hats, but I like some one more than others. I will say that I am a parent, a community member, organizer, a facilitator, a. I have different hats, but I will say that the one that I love better is just a community member. I don't want to compare to anybody, but I think it's somebody who just is there, also observing and living. You know all the challenges about being immigrant, about being woman, about being many different, having different roles as well.

Speaker 2:

I would echo that by saying that my greatest role in community is being a wife and a mother and a grandmother and a citizen, to where many hats board chairs and sitting on committees and champion different advocacy roles in the community, but being able to sit with my grandsons and help them understand their role in community is probably the role that I am most proud of.

Speaker 5:

I love this centering of ourselves first and in the ways that we directly, every day, impact our loved ones. Lives. We go about life. That's something that I think really speaks to what our topic is. We're looking at building community partnership. We're looking at sustaining community partnerships. Your work looks really differently, right, and how you impact community, but they're both really deeply seated in community partnerships. I'd love if you could tell us a little bit more about how sustaining and building community partnerships affects your work, what that looks like in your work.

Speaker 2:

I would say that partnerships are certainly at the root and at the heart of the work that Eagle has done and continues to do, and that nothing that we have done could be done had it not been for strong partnerships, and oftentimes they took on different reflections, but one of the strongest partnerships that we've had has been our partnership with Zedak and with Co-Thing, and those partnerships were two of the stronger ones because they came at the value of trust. In those relationships we found the ability for the partners, right from the onset, to build trust around a set of values that they had in common was the key to building a strong partnership.

Speaker 1:

Yes, I will add that you know for us, like a grassroots group and just community members organize, we have identified different levels of partnership. I think we have a big partnership with our community because it has to be the first one that we try to create some common values. I will say also organization who have trust in us, because that has been for us one of the big challenges but at the same time, the big gains I don't know if it's the right word Just identify organization who has been able to see what we do, accept the way we do and honor who we are, because that is something that for immigrant community being seen and also be respect as we are that's for us really important and I would say that partnership is what has made us become what we are now and we expect that partnership going to continue, make us become stronger and become also impactful.

Speaker 5:

Hearing you two talk about. First, your relationship is with your community, this idea that you have this deep relationship it's a two-way street with your community. You know this idea of different levels of partnership that you're talking about, I think, as perfect as we talk about. What does it look like to build that relationship, that partnership with funders? So, being in the role of a group who traditionally has less power is completely reliant on these external funds, that then you kind of experience the relationship at a deficit almost, but instead having something that's rooted in relationship. I'd love if you could talk about what does that look like to have a trust-based relationship with your funders from a grantee perspective? What does that look like for you?

Speaker 2:

So, for me, it was absolutely the confidence builder that we needed to create the kind of programming that our participants and the community was hungry for, particularly in our community equity fund.

Speaker 2:

The community equity fund at the 10,000-foot level is a program that offers BIPOC and other entities the opportunity to have capital.

Speaker 2:

That is very innovative and very flexible in a way that no other capital is. It gives the participant 24 months of bridge before they have to return anything to the fund and then, when they do, they return it to the fund by way of revenue share instead of principal and interest. There is nothing on the market that offers that kind of flexibility in deploying capital right now. We would not be able to do that if it were not for trust-based funders like Zedek and Co-Think and others, who really trust us to be able to deploy capital in that way and to have businesses that trust us to be able to give them an agreement that isn't onerous in how it is presented to them, so that they can be comfortable to go and create jobs and raise their profits and then have those profits not be extractive on the back end. So it is utterly important that that kind of trust between a funder and a grantee be in place to really be able to be impactful in community Right.

Speaker 5:

Also to that. Stephanie, I want to highlight what you said there around. Providing that trust in you is something that you were then able to flip around and provide for those folks that you are a partner with in providing this kind of capital as we're saying, these dollars from a fund that looks at them in partnership so that when they are restoring the fund right, it's not paying back with interest the loan that you get from a traditional funder or traditional bank, how that normally looks for a small business. You're paying into a fund that funded you. So there's that reciprocity, that partnership there. That's so incredible and it's based on trust that you experienced from your funders that you're then able to show as well. Because they trust equal. You're able to spread that trust around, which is this really incredible way of building relationship that hopefully continues to cause waves and ripples throughout the community as they take that sort of trust with their own business and how they do business with community. So incredible, incredible work, stephanie.

Speaker 2:

Thank you for summoning it that way. Yeah, thank you for summoning it that way, tara, because, yes, it's us trusting them, them trusting us and then them further trusting the community, because that trust allows them to create jobs and hire within their businesses employees who they can then trust and build greater impact 100%, because you focus on historically underutilized businesses of folks at LGBTQ intersections, bipoc intersections, women who traditionally have never been given trust, and so you are restoring that into the community.

Speaker 5:

Incredible work and, the same way, very different, look right. But, delia, your work is so deeply cooperative. Tell us about it.

Speaker 1:

I always said that building trust is the most complicated work, but it's something that you can love really easy, and I think one of the reasons is because sometimes we make some assumption about what it means to be partner and we don't talk about what it means for you, what it means for me, and because we don't have that conversation, we assume that has to happen in some different way. And it's where that trust can be loose, because you haven't necessarily put on the table those conditions of partnership. And, sadly, something that you learn by making mistakes. I am somebody who has been making a lot of mistakes and maybe I'm gonna continue making mistakes about saying yes to almost many options, and sometimes that is a big risk because you lost autonomy by saying yes sometime. You lost your identity by saying yes, and that's why it's important, before any decision, put those papers on the same place, say what do you mean for you, this partnership, what do you expect? What I can do as well, because sometimes we don't have the capacity to fill that gap or fill that request. That's why I think about trust is something that we need to create conversation, making discussion about what it means to partner with other.

Speaker 1:

I was thinking this morning about my daughter. When we have a conversation with a nine years old girl I'm 49 almost and do you know, it's like I cannot put on the same. The negotiation are not. I cannot request to her full my demand because she has other resources, other capacity, other condition. That's why, sometime between funders and organization or grassroots group, there are these, these balance about expectation needs, because we are not on the same platform and that is something important to say and I'm sorry, I don't have 49, I'm 47. There you go.

Speaker 5:

Tell us true, tell us true.

Speaker 2:

I love that Delia went there and if we can stick there just a minute Again, I have to hasten to Zadak and to Jennifer in particular, someone who asked the right questions.

Speaker 2:

So in conversation oftentimes which is what happens in a application with Zadak isn't the traditional type of application where you're just checking the box. In that conversation, the question might come to you well, what is the capacity that it might take? And let me hasten to say too, here that the way the question is posed to you is equally important. So it's not do you have the capacity to do that, stephanie? It's what is the capacity that's needed? That's a whole different ball of wax than someone pointing out the fact that you don't have One hundred percent. So I would say to you, delia, that that was so important, the way you couched that about being in partnership and your partner recognizing their point of privilege and the point that you might be at, and how to help you get to the next level without injuring you at the point that you already are. So, yeah, I love how you couched that.

Speaker 5:

Ooh, that's y'all. Look new.

Speaker 2:

I said, I told y'all I told y'all baddies, I told you, that's right.

Speaker 5:

The big thing that I'm thinking about too, as we're talking about this is a piece you said, delia. You know we have to be really clear and not to make assumptions. You know, those assumptions are something that are all based in that power dynamic and we assume a lot when we frame things in a way that's very deficit heavy. Obviously, if you're asking for money, you need things. What do you need? What can't you do, what don't you have under control? Right, and that's very other than insulting. It's a very big miss from people who do hold power in that particular way. I think community holds tons and tons of power, but in that particular way, when you have all of these resources, you're missing a lot that you really would know if you paused and you thought of it from a perspective of we wanna be in partnership because we see what you're doing and we just wanna get there. We wanna amplify your work.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, we just wanna. Can we be in?

Speaker 5:

Can we come to the table right, jennifer? Take us away with the next question.

Speaker 4:

Well, we started talking about this, really kind of sussing out the funder's role in fostering trust and reciprocity in its partnerships with grantees, and also what's the grantees role in that too.

Speaker 2:

As I sat, with that, I thought about each partner having shared or common set of values and, once they had those agreed upon values, that they would have trust in those values and, as they went along a journey or a path with those out in front of them, that they would hold each one accountable. A lot of things can have happened along that way. Let's, in our accountability, allow for what has happened and trust that we're not going to be injured in some way by what has happened, that we haven't made a mistake, that nothing in our trust has been broken because the cash flow wasn't right. To me, that is the two-way street, if you will, around where accountability and that reciprocity rest and the grantee can hold portion of that by being honest and transparent. Look, we really thought that we were going to be able to hold five classes and we honestly thought that they were going to show up and they did not, and we honestly don't know why.

Speaker 4:

Sure funder's making space to just listen and to know that everyone makes mistakes and we learn from those mistakes. All of us. That's such an important part of growth and learning right.

Speaker 1:

Yes, of course, I was thinking about the role that funders and grantees has to play, and I think one of the main role of us as grantees is to be coherent, focus on what we are good to, what is our capacity, what we really want to build. And by being coherent, we are honest. We are honest with ourselves, but honest with everybody who is around us, and I love that word because I think it doesn't mean be perfect, it doesn't mean don't make mistakes, is make a lot of mistakes Because you make mistakes. You realize that you are trying to become coherent and I think that's gonna be the main role as grantees Now talking about funders, it's be there, be there, just look what we do, help us if we need help, ask us also if you have any doubt about something.

Speaker 1:

The intention is create a conversation, create a relationship that is a cross relationship, but also focus on dialogue. Creating dialogue Because it is the only way to solve any situation and issue. Another thing that is important is be present. By reading a report, by looking to a budget, all these different way that we report, what we do is not the only. You have to be present. Be with us and you're gonna understand, maybe more than reading a report or looking at financial.

Speaker 5:

I think of it this way, especially when it comes to being in a place where we have those dollars right. I want these solutions. If I want that to happen and I really wanted to happen I'm tired of seeing in my community how can I get out the way and be a conduit. I think that's the perspective funders have to take as well. Where it's not a gatekeeping of you have to prove you're good enough to get our dollars. Rather, oh my gosh, I can't believe I met somebody who is actually solving these problems that are plaguing our community. How can we make that happen?

Speaker 5:

Where you have the resources, you need to stop these issues from plaguing our communities, and that's a really different way of thinking about your place in this ecosystem of resource distribution. From the funder perspective, what can you do to change your thinking around being a conduit for resources instead of being a blockade? But what does it really look like to have this two-way street so that you can pursue these really creative and different ways of being in relationship with each organization, with the community, and achieving new models for the ways that we can be in community with each other?

Speaker 2:

I think it really helps you to build even more robust partnerships and trust, because we're in not for an amazing trust partnership with power and numbers. Who's our accounting firm. We might not be able to do this type of programming. They have stood in partnership with us because I trust 100% that they will manage the administrative accounting side of what we do. Having built this over time and over years has just allowed us to build more trust relationships here.

Speaker 1:

I want to bring something that is important. It's how we can create more organization and where, about the kind of work you do, and also how we can create capacity as well in new leaderships. I always wonder how we can create those capacities in our communities as well, how we can create this kind of organization that can really be supportive, because I think we continue doing the thing in the traditional way Big organization, nonprofit, and that's it. I will advocate, and I hope you can support me as well. I hope we can build this kind of organization as well. I feel honored to be here today because we have been thinking about option to meet you. We have been together in some other spaces, but just looking what you have done for me a great inspiration, stephanie, and it's amazing that you have that ability to create those opportunities for people of color in Western North Carolina.

Speaker 2:

Thank you, delia. Thank you so much. I'd love to talk offline and see what we can do.

Speaker 5:

Yes, Ooh, networking in real time, that's great.

Speaker 4:

You know, I'd like to ask what you two are excited about in this moment, about the work that you do, before we let go and end this conversation. Just really, what's keeping you excited?

Speaker 2:

So I think for me, I see an amazing opportunity in this moment for a shift in what I call community capital ecosystem. You know, I think that capitalism at its core is probably not the dirty word that we've made it to be Initially. Certainly, bartering for goods and services is not inherently wrong. I think that over time man's inherent nature to do what's wrong is what got us here and greed. But I think our ability as humans also to be compassionate to each other and to understand that even though the poor may always be with us, they don't have to be the 99 and then the 1 percent, you know, has advantage, so that this community capital ecosystem is swelling.

Speaker 2:

I had conversation earlier in the day and I likened it to the earth, because I feel the more that we get closer to the earth and I'm getting there the more that we start to really be able to touch it and fill it and be at one with it.

Speaker 2:

I talked about the ocean and the plates in the ocean and how they move ever so slightly but how they can cause an actual tsunami that can happen in Japan and how that tsunami can absolutely be destructive in some way, and so I see that happening with our ecosystem of economics and with capitalism, is that someday, really soon. We're going to look out the window tomorrow or the next day and it's going to be there. So I would say for us to stay in a posture of ready every time that we have an opportunity to think about what we can do to affect it or or have some impact around the community capital ecosystem, that we should do that so that we have systems and processes in place that will be beneficial to it. That that's what we should do and that's what gets me up every morning.

Speaker 1:

Beautiful. Do you know? In my case, I think what keeps me dreaming and visioning about my community is that I am so proud of my community. Do you know? It's a community who has been so resilient, has been there doing many things that nobody look out. I see a community who has a lot of capacity, a lot of strength, a lot of power, but it's under the table. Do you know? It's something that it's like a volcano, I would say.

Speaker 1:

It's growing, growing, and I see so much potential in people who have taken the decision, the big risk, to move to another country, sometimes with nothing but creating something new, creating a life, creating a family.

Speaker 1:

That, for me, is something that makes me believe that what I am doing has to be powerful and going to be powerful, and that's why I think about.

Speaker 1:

You know, tierra Fertil is just a tiny grain of sand, but I hope that tiny grain of sand can create this awareness about the Hispanic community in Western Carolina, who is growing, who is becoming more diverse as well, coming from different countries, different capacities, different backgrounds, and I think it's the right time to just understand that we can do more, that we are able to do more, but we're going to need help and that's the thing that makes me inspired.

Speaker 1:

You know, I see Tierra Fertil in five years. You know, maybe I'm going to share very fast the dream we have. It's creating like a community farmstead where we can build some other cooperatives related to agribusinesses, and we see people there doing a fair way of living, people who support each other, people who not necessarily make money but build will be. That's the dream I have and I hope we're going to see that together. But that is what keeps me dreaming about continuing working with the Hispanic community, because I see a lot of potential. I see a generation as well who is growing in both cultures, and that is mainly the reason why I continue dreaming on this.

Speaker 5:

Thank you both Beautiful. Building well-being. That's really incredible. Oh my gosh, is this the title of it?

Speaker 4:

No, Tectonic Bladescreens of Sand. And Alex and the Environment right, yes, are there any events coming up that your organizations are engaged in that you want the community to know about?

Speaker 2:

So EGLE is involved in First Friday, every First Friday in the month on the block. There's this amazing opportunity for the community to come out and visit the merchants on the block to one pay patronage to the different businesses there, but also to kind of be in community and network with the businesses there. Also Juneteenth, which is a little ways off, but there are some really exciting things that will be happening this year with that event. So those are the two things that I know EGLE is participating in.

Speaker 1:

Excellent. I'm going to just share something. We're going to start an amazing partnership with a organization named Transplanting Tradition. It's a community farm in Chapel Hill. They have been working with immigrant population as well, from Burma, and they have been always interested to work with the Hispanic community, and we're going to start a relationship with this organization to continue building educational opportunities about farming for Hispanic community members in Spanish. That is a great opportunity for us because it is also connect with an organization who has the same values and ambition.

Speaker 1:

And something else that I want to share is more a request. They are very trying to identify some land to hold our project. Honestly, it has been really hard because, as you know, we are lost in farmland and what it's possible to have it's not affordable for us and I want to use this space to identify the right land for our project. We are trying to identify at least 10 acres because our intention is, as I said before, creating some other agribusinesses but also hold some affordable housing for some of the business members, and that's the intention. Maybe somebody in the audience can just make the connection about the right piece of land that can hold their referty. Thank you.

Speaker 4:

Incredible. Thank you for sharing that. Well, thank you so much. This has been an incredible conversation. We've been so lucky to have you both here. No, thank you for having us.

Speaker 1:

Yes, pleasure.

Speaker 5:

Until next time, same time, same place. Not the same people. Not the same people Next month. Thank you.

Community Roles
Building Trusting Community Partnerships
Community Equity Fund
Importance of Communicating Expectations
Funder and Grantee Roles in Trust-Building
Excitement Fueling the Work
Things to Share