Transforming Birmingham by creating a more prosperous and equitable future

Prosper is a coalition of community, civic and business leaders committed to creating a more vibrant, racially and gender inclusive economy.


Transforming Birmingham 

by creating a more prosperous and equitable FUTURE


Prosper is a coalition of community, civic and business leaders committed to creating a more vibrant, racially and gender inclusive economy.

What is Prosper ?

Prosper is not a program to replace good work already under way nor another operating organization; rather, it is an effort to align existing initiatives, supplement them with select new opportunities, and scale a collaborative civic agenda. Think of Prosper Birmingham as a table that will:


Connect corporate, civic, and community leaders to understand issues and increase equitable economic growth.


Advance inclusive, long-term economic strategies that allow us to achieve our economic potential as one community.


Fuel priority initiatives through private, public, and philanthropic sources to generate change.

Why is Prosper Important?

With this thought in mind, civic leaders engaged the Brookings Metro to conduct an objective economic situation assessment. Their work, involving engagement with business, civic and educational leaders throughout Greater Birmingham, concluded that:


Birmingham is creating fewer quality jobs because it is not generating and growing enough young “export” businesses.


Birmingham is becoming more skilled, but higher education will not benefit all workers without addressing racial inequity and exclusion.


Unequal access to economic resources hits Black residents and women the hardest, limiting the impact of Black entrepreneurs’ creation of jobs and community wealth.

More about Brookings Institution

Focus Areas

Using the results of our data as the driving force, Prosper Birmingham initiatives will focus on transforming the Greater Birmingham economy in three core areas:

Job creation

Job Creation

Catalyze growth of businesses and industries that create good jobs.


Job Preparation

Invest in college and career opportunities for Birmingham’s diverse youth.

Job access

Job Access

How Metro Birmingham ensures that all residents, regardless of race, gender or zip code, have access to those jobs and can fully contribute.

Our Initiatives

Prosper will begin with four key initiatives supporting its framework.

A youth apprenticeship and scholarship program for Birmingham City Schools high school students and graduates, helping to provide internships, and pay for college tuition and fees for up to four years in public Alabama colleges, preparing Birmingham’s workforce for quality jobs. Click here to learn more about the Birmingham Promise.

New initiative to make Birmingham a center of health technology solutions through investments in entrepreneurship, talent, and community engagements.

The Prosper HealthTech Accelerator, powered by gener8tor, connects cutting-edge, health technology startups to the coaching, capital, and connections they need to build and grow their businesses. Learn more about the Prosper HealthTech Accelerator here.

Prosper’s B-Included online portal created by Birmingham-based startup company Acclinate™ will engage 10,000 Jefferson County residents. B-Included is a website designed to reduce the minority wealth gap by educating residents on relevant health conditions, providing easy access to resources, and helping remove health-related barriers to employment. More info coming soon.

A hands-on development program that will connect Black entrepreneurs with the coaching, capital, and connections they need to build and grow their businesses, which will generate accessible jobs and community wealth. (Under development)

Business Advisory Services and the growth of small business is key to Prosper’s initiatives. We’re partnering with The Alliance to launch Supplier Scale as part of our Business Advisory Services. This initiative will host 20 eligible local small businesses to participate in Prosper’s first small business cohort. Applications to join Supplier Scale are open to privately owned companies headquartered in Jefferson County that employ two to 10 people, and/or generate between $100,000 and $999,999 in annual revenue. These efforts are part of Prosper’s and the Alliance’s strategic commitment to growing good jobs and supporting the growth of local and minority small businesses through connections to curated services and connections.

Learn more about Prosper’s Supplier Scale partnership with The Alliance.

Our Commitment

Prosper will establish a structure for long-term community building, creating energy and momentum that moves our community forward sustainably. We will position community engagement early and often, ensuring we are listening, learning and making decisions in partnership with the community at each phase. Our commitment is to engage, develop and implement.

In the News

Alabama news center article

Alabama Newscenter: Birmingham leaders launch new Prosper collaborative

Read More
Bham now article

Bham Now: New initiative works for all Birmingham residents to Prosper

Read More

Birmingham Business Journal: Birmingham leaders launch economic initiative to increase equity in city

Read More

Our Leadership

J.W. Carpenter
President of Prosper 

J.W. Carpenter began his tenure as the inaugural president of Prosper Birmingham in February 2021. Previously, he led the Birmingham Education Foundation for eight years and prior to that was the inaugural executive director of Teach For America-Alabama, the same organization where he began his career as a classroom teacher in Helena, Arkansas. J.W. also practiced law for nearly four years in Birmingham. He is married to Becky and has two children (Jack and Kate) and Ellie the dog. Carpenter earned a B.A. in Political Science from Boston College and J.D. from the Georgetown University Law Center.

Angela Scott Abdur-Rasheed
Communications and Community Engagement Director

Angela Scott Abdur-Rasheed is a Birmingham-raised leader with a career dedicated to nonprofits, broadcasting/PR, fund development and civic engagement for organizations like YWCA, Baptist Princeton and ABC 33/40. Her Telecommunications/Film degree from The University of Alabama and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion certification has allowed Angela to train groups nationally on social justice, media, and workforce development.

Angela has served with over 25 local and national organizations, is an author of multiple books and former publicist for Rickey Smiley. She enjoys mentoring and spending time with her husband and family.

Dee Manyama
Initiatives Director

Dee Manyama is a native of Bessemer, Alabama and proud parent with two recent BCS graduates. She earned a BBA in Economics from Jackson State University and an MBA from UAB. After an extensive career in the Mortgage industry, Dee served as a Program Manager at the Birmingham Education Foundation where she applied her skills in logistical organization and attention to detail towards facilitating exciting and “edutaining” career and personal development curricula and large-scale conference activities for Birmingham City students. As a previous AmeriCorps VISTA, she has a genuine heartfelt desire towards giving and especially giving back in order that the next generation may have the tools to pay it forward. She attributes this commitment to community to her strong faith and loving extended family.

Aubrie Strange
Fundraising Manager

Aubrie Strange is Prosper’s Fundraising Manager. The Samford University graduate and Tennessee native holds a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication. During her time at Samford, Aubrie interned for and received glowing reviews from the Mann Center on Samford’s campus and the Jefferson County Memorial Project with success helping secure grant funding. Aubrie is a recipient of the Niswonger and Joe McDade Scholarships, which are both concentrated around demonstrations of character, ethical leadership and service to others. Her background in journalism empowers her to bring values of accessibility and contextualization to her role at Prosper.

Douglas Watson
Managing Director HealthTech Accelerator

Douglas Watson is a M&A professional, angel investor, and company builder. Over the course of his career, Douglas has worked with large corporations to help align their technology and operations during post-merger integrations. He’s also worked with startups and small businesses helping them raise capital, create growth strategies, and improve operations. Douglas is an Alabama native and is based in Birmingham, AL. He earned both his Bachelor of Science in Accounting and MBA from The University of Alabama.

DeCarri Wells
Program Manager HealthTech Accelerator

Through his upbringing in Birmingham, AL, Herman “DeCarri” Wells grew a passion for entrepreneurship, technology, and culture firsthand from his family’s business endeavors. He attended Auburn University at Montgomery majoring in Information Systems with a minor in Graphic Design. Prior to joining the Prosper team as Program Manager, he was an associate at the Bronze Valley Accelerator in Birmingham and a Near-Peer Facilitator for the Alabama Youth Relationship Education Project through Window Seat Creative group of Montgomery, AL.

In his spare time, DeCarri is a freelance graphic designer, musician, and entrepreneur including preparing his own startup.

Board Members

Steve Ammons
Jefferson County Commissioner,
District 5

Rich Bielen
Protective Life Corporation

Melanie Bridgeforth
Women’s Foundation of Alabama

Jimmie Coleman
Birmingham Citizens Advisory Board

Mark Crosswhite – Chair
Alabama Power

Kelly Caruso

Jim Gorrie
Brasfield and Gorrie, LLC

Rosilyn Houston
Santander Bank

Mike Kemp
Kemp Management Solutions, LLC

Kendra Key
Board Member Woodlawn Foundation

Chris Nanni
Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham

Shegun Otulana
Harmony Venture Labs

John Sherman
Coca-Cola Bottling United

Sanjay Singh
Pack Health

Lee Styslinger III
Altec, Inc.

Mark Tarr
Encompass Health

John Turner
Regions Bank

Tim Vines
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama

Dr. Ray Watts
University of Alabama at Birmingham

Mayor Randall Woodfin
City of Birmingham, Alabama

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