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Launching its Third Year, OPEN ACCESS Expands Its Reach to Close the Racial Knowledge and Access Gap in Community Development Finance

After two highly successful years, Open Access, an independent 501(c)3 aimed at increasing diversity, equity & inclusion in community development finance, an industry that serves many Black and Latinx communities but remains grossly underrepresented by diverse professionals, is expanding its reach in terms of career focus, geography, and sponsorships as it launches its third annual program.

On February 27, 2023, a new cohort of fellows will begin a 12-week paid fellowship that
includes hybrid training, webinars, and conference attendance sponsored by Novogradac
Inc. Fellows are matched with trained professionals for mentoring and career growth
opportunities. Upon successful completion of the program, fellows are positioned to bring their newfound expertise into community development finance enhanced by the unique perspective of their backgrounds and their familiarity with the cultural context. The goal is for Open Access fellows to better promote capital decision making on topics dealing with DEI in an environment that has a direct impact on low income communities.

“We have increased our reach this year in every way by welcoming professionals and recent
graduates seeking careers in commercial real estate, accounting, law, insurance, finance,
architecture, construction – all sectors serving community development finance. Further,
interest from all major urban centers nationwide is increasing and we are expanding our
presence on the West coast. Lastly, as the program has grown, we launched our first
sponsorship campaign and will host our first fundraising gala this spring”, says Rashidah
Billups, the first executive director of Open Access.

Open Access’ achievement can, in part, be measured by the high success rate of its fellows
pivoting into the field upon completion of the program. Close to half of the fellows in 2021 and 75% in 2022 were offered full-time positions or consultancies. Several others launched
entrepreneurial careers in the industry. Candidates are chosen through a highly selective
process from a pool of professionals with established careers, or four-year college
graduates/four-year college seniors seeking a change in their career.

Open Access launched in 2020 under co-founders Gina Nisbeth, then a director at Citi, now
the founder and president of 9 th & Clinton LLC and Jeff Monge, managing partner of Monge Capital, both national firms, with financial support of organizations within the Federal New Markets Tax Credit program industry.

Nisbeth and Monge now serve as co-chairs of the Board of Open Access along with inaugural board members Kermit Billups of Greenline Ventures; Jose Villalobos of TELACU; Liliana Monge of Sabio Enterprises; Etta Gumps, Esq.; and alumna fellow Desiree Thomas.

Nisbeth notes, “Through the help of our partners and supporters, Open Access has made a
measurable impact on our industry. As we build on our work, I am excited by the long term
opportunity to have a sustainable shift in business as usual.”

Adds Monge, “In a short time, Open Access has proven there is a wealth of BIPOC talent
willing and able to make a career in community development finance and serve the
communities they represent, if provided the opportunity. Open Access is that opportunity.”

Says Billups, “It’s all about closing the gaps to knowledge and access to capital. There are
multiple opportunities for BIPOC professionals to find fulfilling careers in community
development finance and, at the same time, improve the health, education, and access to
wealth for residents in the areas served.”

The group proudly presents its 2023 Open Access Fellowship Sponsors:

Sponsors: U.S. Bancorp; Chase; PNC Bank; M&T Bank; Novogradac; Greenline Ventures;
Huntington Capital; Hunt Capital Partners; TELACU/NMCC; National Equity Fund, Inc.;
Monge Capital; Baker Tilly US, LLP; Sabio Enterprises, Inc.; Cherry Bekaert; Dudley
Ventures; Lester Simpson, Fellow ’22; Stonehenge Capital

Fellowship Host Organizations: Advantage Capital; Cherry Bekaert; Genesis LA; Monge
Capital; National Equity Fund; The Affordable Housing Tax Credit Coalition; The Corporation
for Supportive Housing; National Trust Community Investment Corporation; New Markets
Support Company; HUNT Capital Partners; New Jersey Community Capital; CohnReznick;
Ohio Capital Corporation for Housing; Chicago Community Loan Fund; New Markets
Community Capital; Reinvestment Fund; Community First Fund; TruFund; The Alliance-
African American Alliance of CDFI CEOs; Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone; Capital
Impact Partners; Nonprofit Finance Fund; Novogradac; Stonehenge Capital

For more information see

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