Explore our Timeline


Community Forge was initially founded in 2017 by eight young adults with roots in Pittsburgh and backgrounds ranging from PhD Scientists to Educators to Extreme Sports Athletes. Their goal was to revitalize the former Johnston Elementary School as an asset to the community and region, working with the community to build a more equitable economy and set of opportunities.

Starting with a partnership between Pittsburgh Learning Commons and Xpogo, a group of 8 individuals purchased the building from the school board in July 2017, and built a vision together with many Wilkinsburg residents and regional advisors on how to revitalize Johnston and create equitable opportunity.

From our outreach and community board members, we heard three main values rise to the top:
1. Johnston should continue to be a place for kids, promoting youth learning;
2. We should promote the prosperity of those in Wilkinsburg through employment opportunities and support to build sustainable businesses; and
3. We should keep Johnston Elementary accessible to all those who went to school there.

Building on those points, Community Forge sought out individuals and organizations that supported those goals to make their home with us.


Community Forge opened doors in January 2018 and during its first two years of operation, Community Forge held over 100 free community events, piloted three different economic opportunity programs for artists and entrepreneurs, began a youth leadership council with Pittsburgh Learning Commons, developed relationships with organizations across the city looking to break silos and build opportunity, and became the home to over 40 entrepreneurs and small businesses. Along the way, Community Forge has been recognized for its participatory and empowerment processes at its core.


In 2020, Community Forge began its next chapter, moving under the auspices of its 501(c)3 non-profit, Locally Grown. Locally Grown was created to increase the opportunities and expand the programs initially seeded by Community Forge and the community members that shared in its future visioning. Now under Locally Grown, the mission has expanded to include creating an equitable economy for all of Allegheny County.


Since becoming a non-profit, Community Forge has expanded its work greatly. In 2020, we began doing formal business incubation and worked with 30 small businesses on their COVID recovery strategies. We’ve run courses on all facets of financial and business literacy, and we’ve served an average of 50 small businesses per year. Starting in 2023, we are launching an ongoing business service center that can provide affordable direct services to businesses needing support in finance, marketing, and operations.


In 2021, Community Forge and PIttsburgh Learning Commons launched BootUp PGH. As Pittsburgh Learning Commons decided to move its youth work under Community Forge to simplify the back-office work, BootUp PGH became the new central nexus of youth programming. With a mixture of mentorship, after-school programming, and in-school activities, BootUp is a technology empowerment platform that asks young people to see their technology as a means to change the world rather than being a consumer. The program takes a culturally-relevant approach to making sure youth in the communities too often left out of the tech boom are getting access to cutting-edge tech and opportunities.


In 2022, the Community Forge team continued to grow as we began to run more programs suited to community needs. BootUp PGH received incredibly generous donations from multiple partners, allowing their reach to expand even further. 2022 saw the opening of PhaseFocus, Community Forge's state of the art audio/video studio right here on our third floor! The studio features a full green screen, professional lighting setup, area microphones, 4k direct streaming feeds, streaming hardware, a music studio, and podcast setup for 4 participants. Phase Focus is an amazing asset to our members, youth, and community!


In 2023, Community Forge launched CURE Violence East- a violence prevention program. This program leverages people from the community to support non-violent mediations of conflict. We also collect information of those impacted by violence to follow up with outreach and wrap-around services.

Community Forge continues to be a place to break down the silos of Pittsburgh as we host many community events such as our monthly Open Mic and our Entrepreneur Nights, where we hope to see new relationships form and community integration take place in supportive atmospheres for people to be entertained and learn.

We can use your support


Donating funds helps strengthen our programming and our ability to deliver value and paths to equitable growth for our community members