“We need you to help cities, towns and community-based organizations to build capacity and develop great transportation plans that build thriving communities for generations.”
– Pete Buttigieg,
Secretary of Transportation

With the federal government poised to invest billions of dollars in infrastructure and economic development, how can we ensure that funds are equitably spent in ways that support historically marginalized communities of color?

The Funders Network recently co-hosted a hybrid gathering to dig into that important question – bringing together a thought-provoking panel of speakers that included leaders in philanthropy, government and community movement-building.

The event, Communities First: Ensuring Racial Equity in Infrastructure Spending, co-hosted by TFN in partnership with  Communities First,  Environmental Grantmakers Association, and Neighborhood Funders Group,  focused on federal infrastructure, economic development and building generational wealth for BIPOC communities.

More than 300 attendees joined us either virtually or in person following our TFN Annual Conference in San Diego on March 16.

Below you will find a full recording of this event, as well as key takeaways, event resources and next steps.

Our thanks to our co-hosts and to our amazing speakers (including Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg) for giving of their time, talents and expertise.

Key Takeaways

  • Communities need access to flexible funds. The bureaucracy that often underpins government (and sometimes philanthropic) funding is more harmful than helpful. Solutions to big problems are dynamic. Funding must be dynamic to meet the need most effectively.


  • We must build criteria to align with “shovel-worthy” projects and demonstrate good practice.  There are many places nationwide that are demonstrating excellent practices of community-led visioning and planning and are detailing how they will approach infrastructure to achieve equity. By building criteria based on these demonstration sites, we can ensure that funds get to where they need to go.


  • Technical assistance should be accountable and in service to frontline communities and their priorities. The systemic under-investment in Black, Brown, Indigenous and low-wealth communities has restricted the communities’ ability to direct and to receive trillions of infrastructure dollars. A network of technical services from trusted practitioners who prioritize equity values must be mobilized to support the readiness of communities for investment, as well as to repair past harm and equitable investments.

Event Resources

Event recording 

Recording of the two-hour virtual briefing is posted on YouTube.

Graphic recordingsYen Azarro was our incredible illustrator who captured and summarized our conversation with beautiful imagery, as well as the collective operating assumptions for the briefing.

Key Takeaways

High level takeaways of the challenges and solutions related to driving the equitable deployment of federal infrastructure investment are clicked on the Challenges Jamboard and Solutions Jamboard.

Take Action
We urge you to sign-on to the Communities First Principles as these are a solid starting point of commitments from which philanthropy can move forward collaboratively as a sector.

Featured Speakers


Top row: 

Pete Buttigieg, Secretary of Transportation, U.S. Department of Transportation

Kizzy Charles-GuzmanExecutive Director, NYC Mayor’s Office of Climate and Environmental Justice

Helen ChinPresident, Communities First Fund 

Christopher CoesDeputy Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy, U.S. Department of Transportation

Michelle DePass, Immediate Past President, Meyer Memorial Trust 

Radhika Fox, Assistant Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Water 

Salin Geevarghese, President & CEO of SGG Insight, LLC

Bottom row: 

Sekita GrantVice President Programs, The Solutions Project 

Judith LeBlanc, Executive Director, Native Organizers Alliance 

Justin Maxson, Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development, U.S. Department of Transportation

Maria Lopez-Nuñez, Deputy Director of Organizing and Advocacy, Ironbound Community Corporation 

Michael McAfeePresident & CEO, PolicyLink

Deputy Asma Mirza, Chief Of Staff, COVID-19 Response Team at The White House