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History of DRIVE

The Power of Data

In 2018, the Brookings and Urban Institutions came to Fresno and provided a summary of their research on the economies of several hundred cities in the United States, including Fresno.  Though much of the data was not foreign to us, what stood out was that Fresno ranked 59 out of 59 among large cities in California for racial economic inclusion. Racial economic inclusion means that ALL people have access to market opportunities. Addressing this realization was the spark that would eventually become Fresno DRIVE. To assess the current landscape of work in Fresno County, Central Valley Community Foundation (CVCF) President and CEO Ashley Swearengin invited community-based organizations to provide a summary of their work. This call led to 125 submissions. Each submission created an asset map of the Fresno community that was then reviewed and refined into 19 initiatives that created three categories, Economic, Human, and Neighborhood Development. 

The Launch

Over the summer of 2019, these 19 initiatives went through an economic development planning process. Working groups for each initiative built out an investment plan that included a problem statement, data to support the need, and strategies to create a solution. The collection of these 19 initiatives created the DRIVE strategy to address Fresno’s economic racial inequities.


A 300-person steering committee was formed, as was a race equity committee. The race equity committee was championed by key leaders who wanted to ensure equity was at the center of DRIVE’s work throughout the life of the initiative. Over the course of 2020 and 2021, these investment plans were refined, and consolidated to form the current 14 initiatives. With each investment plan a results framework, measurement and evaluation, and implementation plan were created as was the Fresno DRIVE Theory of Change model which is our “blueprint” for success over the 10 years of the initiative.


In mid-2022, we formed a governance committee, and they revised the DRIVE leadership structure. A new executive committee consisting of 38 individuals, of which 21 reflected our neighborhood and resident voices, and 17 consisted of institutional leaders. This was intentional as we wanted to be a community-led initiative.

Our Role

CVCF serves as the “backbone” organization providing the connective tissue between the various elements of DRIVE. With support from CVCF, the Fresno DRIVE team convenes the executive and race equity committees. The CVCF and DRIVE teams assist the 14 initiatives by creating structures to measure DRIVE’s impact, and provide opportunities for community organizations and members to participate in the collective work. Some of Fresno DRIVE's most visible work is providing educational opportunities to the community, such as the DRIVE Innovation speaker events including author Heather McGhee, Dr. Christopher Emdin, and Richard and Leah Rothstein.

Where We Are Now

The work of each initiative is moving forward. Neighborhoods are getting organized, individuals are developing skills to launch or strengthen their small businesses, students are receiving certifications in flying electric plans, and individuals with barriers to employment are getting opportunities for jobs through quality internships. Fresno DRIVE’s Measurement and Evaluation team is tracking all this work to ensure we are making the impact we hope to see. Stories highlighting this community impact initiative will be the focus of our future newsletters. 


We welcome your voice and participation. DRIVE isn’t just about the 14 initiatives. It’s also about creating a movement that changes lives.


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