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Building Entrepreneurs and Equity in the Age of Covid: A Roundtable

A roundtable discussion with LISC CEO Maurice A. Jones and Verizon’s Chief Corporate Social Responsibility Officer Rose Stuckey Kirk, moderated by LISC board member and UVA business professor Greg Fairchild, delves into what it will take to get to economic equity for our country.

Recently, LISC CEO Maurice A. Jones and Verizon’s Chief Corporate Social Responsibility Officer Rose Stuckey Kirk sat down with Greg Fairchild, a LISC board member and professor of business administration at the University of Virginia, to discuss the kinds of intentional investment—financial, political and personal—required to close the racial equity gaps in our country.

“America right now has a racial wealth gap, and a racial health gap,” said Jones during the roundtable discussion. “These are some of the greatest risks that the country faces to being sustainably great. We are LISC want to go to work on those. We would like to aggregate $1 billion a year to deploy [to do so]. Consider this our invitation.”

Kirk pointed out the need for people working in corporate America to look hard at how they may be helping or hindering the pursuit of racial equity in their day-to-day business: “You have got to be very clear about who you are as a corporation beyond just this moment,” she said. “It's very easy for everyone to shout out, “Black Lives Matter,” to see themselves engaged, to have a point of view. So we've got to ask ourselves the questions about how are you actually governing yourself every single day?”

Early in the coronavirus crisis, Verizon understood that small businesses would need help filling urgent financial gaps until normal operations can resume or until other more permanent financing becomes available. The company stepped up with a $7.5 million investment in LISC to launch the Verizon Small Business Recovery Fund, which provides grants of up to $10,000 to small businesses, particularly in historically underserved communities hit hard by the pandemic. Verizon paired it with a the weekly streaming series #PayItForward LIVE and tapped some major music artists, athletes and celebrities to bring more attention and resources to small business recovery. 

Strong partnerships with the private sector, each speaker noted, are imperative to carrying out the work of connecting people with opportunity and dismantling the systems that perpetuate inequality. There is “a recognition that a company like Verizon can in fact provide the platform and the reach [in times like these],” said Fairchild, who moderated the roundtable. “And an organization [like LISC] that then finds ways to marshal those resources becomes so important.”

You can hear the full virtual roundtable above, and read an edited transcript here.