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.