Photo of City Aly Alive Community Navigator Event

Community Navigator Q&A

City Alive Blog, Entrepreneurship, Racial Equity, Talent and Skill Development

Community Navigator Q&A

By Henry Rael, Program Officer, McCune Charitable Foundation| March 6, 2018

This month, City Alive and its partners launched the Community Navigator, one of the ways we can contribute to building a better environment for starting, sustaining and growing a business with a focus on immigrant, refugee and other marginalized communities.

Although Albuquerque’s entrepreneurial ecosystem is very active (and actively growing), it can be challenging for business owners to navigate. Sometimes, the system is not all that “user friendly” for our city’s entrepreneurs, especially those from immigrant, refugee and other communities that are often underserved. Figuring out how to get a loan or where to go for advice on taxes, or finding the right people to help with marketing or sales can be a monumental task for our city’s entrepreneurs. And for those who speak a different language or are uncomfortable in more formal, institutional environments, the challenges are even greater.

By connecting our ecosystem so it better serves all of our city’s entrepreneurs, we hope that entrepreneurs will find the resources they need when they need them, without sacrificing too much time or treasure.

The big question is how.

Creating a robust entrepreneurial ecosystem requires a lot of collaboration. Everyone from nonprofits and government, to philanthropy and service providers – even down to business consultants and educators – are part of the system and need to be aligned. It’s a big task.  

That’s what City Alive is here for: aligning leaders, institutions and organizations so we can better support our city’s entrepreneurs.

This month, City Alive and its partners launched the Community Navigator, one of the ways we can contribute to building a better environment for starting, sustaining and growing a business. By partnering with 1) organizations that specifically focus on better connecting entrepreneurs in immigrant, refugee and other marginalized communities, and 2) the funding community to provide those organizations with funding for their program, the Community Navigator will broaden access to services and help create a more “user friendly” ecosystem in communities that are often underserved.  

Where did Community Navigator start?   

Over the last three years, both inside and outside of City Alive, organizations have been gaining insights from community meetings and input sessions with entrepreneurs. We have explored what it takes to create a more effective, inclusive and successful entrepreneurial ecosystem in Albuquerque, and also assessed which areas, in particular, need to improve.  

Based on those insights, the Community Navigator was launched to align and provide resources to community partners who have their boots on the ground, and can effect change.

What is it?

Without it’s partners, the Community Navigator is just an idea: if key supports for entrepreneurs are made more accessible and culturally responsive, if we meet entrepreneurs where they are, and if economic engagement reaches the whole family, then we will see more businesses start, grow and succeed. This will create income and jobs for families within the community.

With the help of our partners – in the philanthropy, nonprofit and service sectors – the idea has become actionable. In response to the Community Navigator concept, the New Mexico Dream Team (NMDT) and Juntos Collaborative submitted proposals to better connect entrepreneurial resources in the communities they serve.

Both groups are directly connected with the Small Business Resource Collaborative (now called the City Navigator Program), which is sharing its best practices developed and refined over the last three years supporting business affected by the A.R.T. construction on Central Avenue. NMDT and Juntos will each be implementing their own flavor of the navigator concept in alignment with the City Alive vision to create an environment where every entrepreneur can easily access services to build businesses that succeed.

Who is involved?

With the generous support of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Albuquerque Community Foundation and Wells Fargo bank, two collaborative partnerships, the NM Dream Team and the Juntos Collaborative, were awarded $50k grants each to implement a Community Navigator program.

Additional Funding Partners include:

  • City of Albuquerque Economic Development Department 

  • McCune Charitable Foundation 

  • Nusenda Foundation 

What will Community Navigator programs do? / How are they helping?

The NM Dream Team will focus their program on immigrant entrepreneurs primarily from Spanish-speaking countries, especially those that need legal assistance setting up legal entities that enable them to participate more deeply in the formal economy.

The Juntos Collaborative (comprised of Encuentro, South Valley Economic Development Center, WESST and the City Navigator Program) will work with a broader population of immigrant entrepreneurs in the International District and South Valley, leveraging their organizational assets but delivered more directly in the communities.

The City Navigator Program will continue to support main street businesses along the Central Corridor while also expanding into other key neighborhoods.

Synthia Jaramillo, Economic Development Director for the City of Albuquerque said, “The City is proud to be partnering through City Alive on the Community Navigator. With the generous support of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Albuquerque Community Foundation and Wells Fargo bank, two collaborative partnerships (NM Dream Team and Juntos Collaborative) were awarded $50k grants each to better support entrepreneurs from underserved communities. We are looking forward to seeing their programs expand access to more of our city’s talented entrepreneurs.”

Can you tell me more about the Community Navigator?

Let’s get into the weeds: The Community Navigator concept is highly aligned with a theory developed during the City Alive planning year, which engaged over 100 leaders, nonprofits and providers from across Albuquerque. Those discussions made clear that while quality services are available, there needs to be more glue, guidance and direction to meet the needs of our city’s various types of entrepreneurs – at the right time, in the right sequence.

The Community Navigator concept focuses in particular on immigrant, low-income and women entrepreneurs. The key strategies are:

  1. Make Key Supports More Accessible

This strategy seeks to make key supports easier to find and more relevant, including the following: a) technical support and business expertise (e.g. accounting, legal, etc.); b) a pipeline of qualified talent and a strong workforce; c) alternative ways of accessing capital; and d) deeper support from relevant City and County agencies and departments.

  1. Meet People Where They Are

High-touch interventions are essential to providing the needed support to enterprises born in and of vulnerable communities. Many of these entrepreneurs are solo business owners, often operating informally or with systems and practices that could relatively easily be developed to help the business grow or become more profitable.

  1. Economic Engagement Should Reach the Whole Family

Low-income and communities that have been marginalized from mainstream economic development initiatives often share cultural or traditional practices and values that make it challenging to reach and engage them. City Alive partners have developed a unique approach to engaging these populations by starting with high school-aged children, developing entrepreneurial experiences that inspire them, and then inviting the children’s families and communities to participate in the enterprise development experience.

Part of our work at City Alive is strengthening philanthropic resources and working with multiple providers to bring shared theories of change to implementation. We have a concept – now we are moving on to execute the concept by partnering with the funding community and organizations willing to try new ideas to strengthen our city.

Each of the organizations, NMDT, Juntos and the City Navigator, have developed their own programs that will deploy these strategies to support entrepreneurs in the communities where they work.

This concept goes back to our shared core belief that not one leader or organization is responsible for the economic realities that we face as a city. And not one leader or organization can fix it independently. We know that together we can think smarter, remove barriers and create a better environment where entrepreneurs build businesses and succeed.


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