Interactive Workshop (*Up to 40 Participants)

Project Community Capital: How you can help low-income communities prosper.

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It’s common knowledge that the people with the highest levels of social capital control the job market. People from low-income communities struggle to find employment, even when they have years of stable employment experience on their resumes or they successfully complete numerous workforce development programs. With little social capital, job opportunities remain elusive for people from historically disadvantaged populations.

As the principal of a private organization that has been in business for more than 20 years, and a black woman with a professional degree, I have rare access to the owners of professional service firms, construction companies, financial institutions, and technology companies, just to name a few. My life as a minority has allowed me to identify with these social issues and driven me to invest my time in working with low-income communities.  My level of social capital is rare for women of color, but it allows me to be a bridge to social capital for these communities.

When you really invest yourself and your time in low-income communities, you will discover what I have known for a very long time: people from low-income communities are quite capable of working for an extended period of time. These folks aren’t lazy or unreliable, they just lack access to opportunity – they have very little social capital to help them ascend the economic ladder. My SoCap Workshop would facilitate discussion and critical thinking on topics of employment in low-income communities, our closed social capital networks, and our preconceived notions about people in less privileged, and farther removed social circles.


Three Breakouts would facilitate a discussion of these three areas


  • Jackson’s Dilemma: A Case Study

An exercise that focuses on a low-income resident’s journey and difficulties in finding employment. Participants will discuss the social challenges that Mr. Jackson faces in the case.

  • Contractors Falling Short

An exercise on the common occurrence of contractors not fulfilling the established socio-economic goals on projects or contracts with public investment, costing projects money, and failing residents. Participants will brainstorm ways to improve contractors’ employment and retention rates in completing projects.

  • Employment Redlining

An exercise that demonstrates the divide between social networks and harmful economic and sociological effects to our society, as well as possible solutions to bridge that divide and cross that line. Participants discuss the affection of employment redlining and share their ideas on how to solve it.  They also will also perform an activity that allows them to assess the strength of their own social network and the power of privilege it holds.

Social capital has become an increasingly important factor in access to opportunities for all communities from the academic to the affluent. Eighty percent of all jobs are found utilizing social capital, and only seventy percent of them are shared in the public realm. Social capital, indeed, is the most valuable capital there is. Already, I have leveraged my social capital to assist over 100 low-income people, including public housing residents and formerly incarcerated individuals, in obtaining employment with people I know. The challenge for low-income communities is that the traditional model of social capital as a means to access employment doesn’t apply to them– they can’t cross the redline.

The reality is that individuals from low-income communities still have challenges accessing job opportunities regardless of their skills, training, or past employment status. If they had meaningful social capital, then perhaps the most vulnerable citizens in our society wouldn’t have to rely so heavily on social programs. Perhaps those same funds could be reinvested in platforms that provide social capital to low-income communities.  My mission with this workshop is not only to expand my social network to help more low-income people but change the way people view employment in these communities and affect their influence on employment practices.  We, as a society, need to come together and lend our social capital to those who lack it. By being a bridge to social capital, all of our communities will benefit.

Confirmed Panelists

Facilitator – Gina Merritt

Gina Merritt is an experienced development and investment manager. She has been involved in over 7,500 units of housing in various stages of development; managing the entitlement process, structuring and securing the required financing, managing the design, and the overall project construction process.

Ms. Merritt has particular expertise in managing large development projects with complicated financing and ownership structures. She has also underwritten over $4.0 billion in real estate transactions.  Her real estate development expertise includes mixed-use development, apartments, condominiums, single-family homes, and public-private real estate transactions.  NREUV recently completed a $60M 180,000 square foot mixed-used development project in Washington, DC, and is currently developing over $400M in projects.

Ms. Merritt also recently trademarked Project Community Capital®(PCC) which includes a legally protected software product. PCC is a social capital platform that bridges small businesses and local community residents with job opportunities.  PCC assists public agencies, private developers, and contractors in meeting their socio-economic goals by maximizing the most valuable asset we have — Community Capital.

Ms. Merritt earned her BBA from Howard University and her MBA from the Darden School at the University of Virginia. Ms. Merritt is currently studying for her Doctorate in Social Innovation at the University of Southern California. Ms. Merritt’s recent industry recognitions include Built by Women – two site award winner for North Capitol Commons and The Nannie Helen at 4800, Developer of the Year – 2017 by DC NOMA and 2018 Washington Business Journal Minority Business Leader Award Honoree. She resides in Baltimore, Maryland, with her husband and daughter.


Unconfirmed Panelists

Speaker: Thomas Gallas – Principal of Torti Gallas

In his role as Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Gallas has helped Torti Gallas + Partners gain international recognition as a firm dedicated to advancing the principles of the New Urbanism and Smart Growth.

He has extensive experience managing complex community revitalization projects involving diverse teams. This knowledge and expertise are of great significance in arriving at successful and transformative strategies. Additionally, Mr. Gallas’ financial and management background provides him with a deeply rooted appreciation and understanding of project management tools that are critical to keeping projects on schedule.

As testament to his leadership and expertise, President Barack Obama appointed Mr. Gallas to the National Capital Planning Commission in 2016. He is serving a six-year term as the Presidential appointee representing the State of Maryland.

Mr. Gallas received a Bachelor of Science in Accounting degree from the University of Maryland. He is a Certified Public Accountant and a LEED Accredited Professional.

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