New Report: Faith-based Organizations, Manufacturing’s Emerging Partners

Faith leaders and manufacturers are partnering in ways that create economic opportunities and have great potential to benefit communities in the future, according to a recently released report by the Urban Manufacturing Alliance (UMA).

Last month, the UMA released Manufacturing’s Emerging Partners: Faith-Informed Organizations Supporting Employment and Entrepreneurship. Manufacturing Renaissance is featured in the report, which weighed in on how these partnerships can spur workforce and economic development.

The report builds on many decades of clergy and faith-based organizations playing a vital role on social justice and social equity. In Chicago, there is a longstanding and direct connection between religious institutions and community organizing on public safety, education, and many other issues.

A webinar focused on the report brought together leaders of several Midwest organizations focused on manufacturing. Participants in the webinar included David Robinson, External Affairs Director at Manufacturing Renaissance in Chicago; Dan Meyer of Nehemiah Manufacturing in Cincinnati, Ohio; and Brianna Schults of Manufacturing Works in Cleveland, Ohio. Elmer Moore of Scale Up Milwaukee moderated the discussion.

“Change happens with the acts of people who believe and are committed, so we encourage and commend all who continue this hard work and rely on faith and spirit,” said Robinson during the webinar. “We are in a moment where we can really make some change.”

The report showed how faith-based organizations can help inspire holistic solutions for development, reach out to community members, and facilitate the sharing of resources that promote community wealth-building:

Partnerships inspire holistic solutions: The context of this report includes the history of deindustrialization that has impacted Black and brown community residents in a disproportionate way in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. In Chicago, Robinson noted, the city lost more than 250,000 jobs. In Cincinnati, one strategy for inclusive manufacturing featured the development of wraparound services that integrate other key issues into the picture, including affordable housing and education. In Chicago, Manufacturing Renaissance’s Ministers for Manufacturing Committee links congregants and their families to the regional manufacturing sector through advocacy, community engagement, and education.

Faith-informed organizations as intermediaries: One key strategy for cultivating a skilled manufacturing workforce, panelists in the webinar said, is to conduct outreach to community members. Manufacturing company owners and managers, Robinson said, are often disconnected from the communities where their firms are located because of racial and economic segregation. Ministers can play a leading role in getting the word out about job opportunities.

Resource-sharing: In Cleveland, Manufacturing Works partnered with clergy through a mentoring initiative for parishioners who were navigating challenges to retain employment. The group also worked with clergy to create a ride-share program that addressed transportation barriers. In Chicago, Robinson shared how ministers and community members have built relationships and shared resources in another way – by becoming manufacturing business owners in their own right.

Another way clergy can make a difference is by organizing members to advocate for legislation. Manufacturing Renaissance is also part of a growing national coalition of organizations that are advocating for stronger and more equitable industrial policies in the U.S.

The “Emerging Partners” report reinforces the important role of faith-based and faith-informed organizations in manufacturing. Authors of the report also emphasize the importance of partnerships.  The report cites “the value of cultivating a diverse network of partners, and the importance of organizational leadership in establishing a mission and carrying out their commitment to lead the change that they want to see in their communities. The mindset of ‘we are all in it together,’ is the foundation for achieving inclusive, sustainable industry growth and lifting up communities.”

Partnerships between faith-informed organizations and manufacturers can mobilize communities and resources for inclusive manufacturing and community development. Learn more by reading the full report: Manufacturing’s Emerging Partners: Faith-Informed Organizations Supporting Employment and Entrepreneurship.

Read the report here.