Our second day of research took an unexpected spin as we learned about development in a context outside of the traditional boxes of entrepreneurship. Today we met an extraordinary woman – Ms. Linetta Gilbert of the West Bank Development Initiative – working to develop her community from a real estate perspective.
Ms. Gilbert has a long history of working in community development and philanthropy, having served as a Program Officer at the Ford Foundation and on the board of several organizations including nonprofit Goodwork Network. Her current goal is to transform the West Bank (“Old Algiers”) into an area where millennial African-Americans want to move and start businesses, and she is currently working towards this goal by studying relevant focus groups and working with the local government (which offers tax credits for redeveloping old properties) as well as private developers to stimulate interest in the local real estate. However, she faces several challenges in the area, including lack of formal financial institutions, shopping centers, or hospitals in the community as well as drug trafficking and lack of interest from external and internal entrepreneurs.
“Economic development on this side of the river needs to be commercial, residential, and cultural,” she comments.
Before today, the cultural aspect of economic development was not something we had considered. Ms. Gilbert’s commitment to preserve the culture of the community shed a crucial light on the complexities of economic development.