Relationships Are Currency: An In-depth Look At T. Rowe Price’s Commitment To Equity
Photo Credit: AfroTech / T. Rowe Price

Relationships Are Currency: An In-depth Look At T. Rowe Price’s Commitment To Equity

There are a few things Black people do not play about: faith, family, food and finances.

Money is the currency that allows one to make transactions, and it’s a means for wealth. The O’Jays told Grandma and Auntie that money can be a real problem if not used properly, while Cardi B is encouraging the new generation to make sure they go after the bag. Wherever you fall on the spectrum of collecting coins, money isn’t the only means to success and wealth. Time is currency. Education is currency. But what is one of the other most notable means for wealth? Relationships.

History has proven that the power of collaboration can take any concept from mere idea to paradigm-shifting movement. T. Rowe Price is replicating this by leveraging the power of connectivity to impact community. T. Rowe Price is showing up for Baltimore in a big way with its long-standing relationship with Baltimore Corps. Often referred to as the “Human Resources for the City of Baltimore,” Baltimore Corps’ mission is to “enlist talent to accelerate social innovation in Baltimore and advance a citywide agenda for equity and racial justice.”

Off the back of a recent $520,000 donation from the T. Rowe Price Foundation, AfroTech learned how the collaborative partnership aims to elevate Baltimore Corps’ already impactful work.

Putting On for the City

Founded in 2013, Baltimore Corps is spearheaded by CEO Fagan Harris. After graduating from Stanford University, Harris was set on moving back to Baltimore to start a career in city government. Admittedly, he had a hard time getting connected and told his friend, and co-founder, Wes Moore that it shouldn’t be hard to do the right thing. That experience ignited passion, and that’s what they do at Baltimore Corps: make it easy for people to do the right thing.

“People want to make Baltimore a place that is prosperous, safe and healthy for everyone. What I find is that we have a hard time connecting the dots. We have a hard time breaking through the barriers of institutional racism to help the people who live in the city have the power and access to do something about the problems they really want to solve,” Harris explained.

Because of the systemic challenges that exist in pushing social change, Baltimore Corps is committed to making sure people are positioned in spaces that will advance equity in the city.

Will You Be My Neighbor?

Communities and neighborhoods are strengthened by the level of investment and resources available to them. When many major companies moved their headquarters and administrative offices out of Baltimore, T. Rowe Price stayed committed to the city. This is pivotal to the business industry of Baltimore, and it served as a point of connection with Baltimore Corps. 

During the Freddie Gray uprising in 2015, John Brothers, President of the T. Rowe Price Foundation, had just moved to Baltimore to start the new role, and he experienced a complicated environment. Though a tumultuous space to enter, it exposed Brothers to the city’s passion for social justice. This resonated with his history as an organizer.

Brothers and Harris met at an event, and the conversation was game-changing. Brothers identified Baltimore Corps as an intermediary, a company that could help other organizations succeed by connecting them to people and resources. This conversation changed the course of the Baltimore Corps’ work, and Harris knew it had to scale up to change the city. 

“John really saw us. At first, we had no idea what he meant by us being an intermediary. After he explained it, he confirmed what we already knew: our work was important, and we needed to scale to help change the landscape of the city,” Harris explained.

The initial interaction with Brothers empowered Harris and his team to identify their North Star: advancing social innovation and a citywide agenda for equity and racial justice. This is done by connecting people to full-time work in the public and social sectors or to capital so they can build enterprises and businesses in communities that have historically lacked access.

The Power of Partnership

One of the first initiatives that Baltimore Corps and the T. Rowe Price Foundation worked on together was the Elevation Awards. Based on feedback from community meetings, Brothers recognized there was a ton of genius that needed resources to move forward. He approached Baltimore Corps to change how people and groups gain access to resources and capital.

“A lot of times, the best ideas to change the world come from people who are living in these communities — living their lives, working their jobs, raising a family — who see a problem every day. They have fantastic insight on how to do something about it,” Harris pointed out.

The Elevation Awards provide planning grants of $10,000 and personalized support to Baltimore City residents of color who are piloting novel approaches to strengthen Baltimore communities. This program works from the premise that elevating those ideas to directly leverage community assets can pioneer new solutions in social entrepreneurship and support the early-stage pipeline of social entrepreneurs in Baltimore.

As a result of this initiative, Baltimore Corps has been able to partner with some of the “who’s who” of the city’s social innovation scene. The individuals who were a part of that program have now gone on to raise millions of dollars in capital and create a sense of inevitability around their work. 

The Elevation Awards create a path for individuals to get resources. Brothers and the team at the T. Rowe Price Foundation leaned into the need to provide access and created a model contrary to the dogma of the philanthropy sector, which is often full of red tape and barriers.

Building on the already established relationship between Baltimore Corps and T. Rowe Price, the foundation recently deployed $520,000 to help establish an artist navigator program. This will give local artists access to resources to expand their art, as well as provide exposure to the thriving art community in Baltimore. Through this program, local artists will be empowered to serve their community. Harris and his team are managing and lifting up this program to center the humanity of the artist and provide them with the same access to resources as entrepreneurs and thought leaders who receive Elevation awards.

The Future Is Equity

Equity-based work is not for the faint at heart. Baltimore Corps has always been about this justice life, but it recognizes that the heightened focus on racial justice has provided additional space for conversations and initiatives to be implemented. This focus has been pivotal in the development of initiatives like Elevation Awards and the artist navigator.

“It shows up in our work with T. Rowe Price. These initiatives were ideas that were not fully baked. It took a lot of back and forth, and frankly, on the part of T. Rowe Price, a lot of patience,” Harris explained.

Balancing how programs are implemented is the secret sauce to success. T. Rowe Price is dedicated to listening and establishing itself as a leader by yielding to the heart of the community and trusting Harris and his team to push the culture forward. This thoughtful approach is helpful because consistent conversation and a meticulous process can help ensure communities become better.

Harris and the Baltimore Corps team recognize that the work they’re involved in can be heavy. But there are stories from people like Antoin Quarles, who started a weekly, self-funded anti-recidivism program hosted in a church basement, that keep Harris motivated. It’s the local heroes like Antoin who deserve a chance, and if people and community programs can get funded through partnerships like the one that exists with T. Rowe Price, Baltimore Corps is a success.

“Meeting people like Antion makes it tangible. It makes it all worth it. And if we can do what we did with Antoin over and over again, Baltimore has a chance. It really is that simple,” Harris shared.

While it’s done and continues to do amazing work, Baltimore Corps is gearing up for a spring spotlight with T. Rowe Price called Moonshot. It’s about featuring community leaders like Antoin to raise awareness about the work they’re doing and gain additional exposure and elevation of their stories.

There is no doubt that T. Rowe Price is committed to the cause of justice, which is evident through its work and collaboration with Baltimore Corps. To learn more about how T. Rowe Price is advancing racial equity, click here