American Family Insurance has committed $1.2 million over three years to support four Milwaukee community organizations that it’s dubbing “Urban Future Centers.”

The Madison-based insurance company said Monday it will give $100,000 per year each to the Sherman Phoenix, Milky Way Tech Hub, Young Enterprising Society (YES) and Journey House.

American Family said it chose existing organizations that impact diverse, highly populated neighborhoods with an emphasis on innovative science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) programming, as well as workforce development and entrepreneurship.

But the initiative is more than a financial investment, said JoAnne Sabir, partnership development adviser for the American Family Insurance office of community and social impact. It’s about convening multiple organizations to amplify the work each one is doing and to make a greater impact together, she said.

“There’s this concept of leaning into the power of the collective and utilizing the resources of the group to be more effective and more impactful,” Sabir said.

American Family began piloting this collaborative model around two years ago with the STEAM & Dream program, which supports STEAM education through engaging curriculum and mentorship opportunities, Sabir said. It began as a collaboration with the Sherman Phoenix and has grown to include other organizations, including those involved in the new Urban Future Centers concept.

Each of the four Urban Future Centers organizations has a different but related focus and approach to creating equity in Milwaukee.

The Sherman Phoenix is a physical space for small businesses of color as well as community events, the Milky Way Tech Hub supports the inclusion of Black and brown innovators in the local technology ecosystem, YES focuses on STEAM education and entrepreneurship, and Journey House supports low-income households on Milwaukee’s near south side through adult education, youth and workforce development, and family engagement.

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