Sister Cities Project to hold (Eco)Exchange to commemorate third anniversary

Shawn McClondon, founder of the Sister Cities Project, at his home on Monday, Dec. 28, 2020 in Solana Beach.
(Eduardo Contreras/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Celebrating three years as a nonprofit, the Sister Cities Project is hosting an (Eco)Exchange, with the theme of “reimagining communities” to fight racism and be more equitable, on May 6 from noon to 2 p.m. at the Encinitas Library.

“It’s a huge milestone for us to get there,” said Shawn McClondon, founder of the Sister Cities Project, referring to the three-year anniversary. “And I feel like we’ve had a lot of grassroots impact, that’s been the most important and gratifying thing for me.”

Starting in the aftermath of the Minneapolis police murder of George Floyd, and persevering through the Covid-19 pandemic, Sister Cities Project was one of several local groups that wanted to take a stand against racism. It was preceded by McClondon, who is Black, making an effort to meet with his neighbors in mostly White Solana Beach after Floyd’s death.

The Sister Cities Project has three areas of focus: cultural exchanges, which include events between low-income, minority communities and their affluent, mostly White counterparts; workforce development through its “EcoAgency,” which helps Black youth tap into the digital economy; and business growth for Black women entrepreneurs to help them generate generational wealth.

“The point of that is to look at how do we raise up underserved communities, not only inside the community but how people outside of the community contribute to helping that community,” McClondon said.

The (Eco)Exchange event will have a panel discussion covering topics such as business growth as an economic equity solution, systems for workforce development aimed at the youth of San Diego, and ways to build community in places that have historically lacked resources.

“I think our biggest impact, if you ask me personally, and the whole point of what Sister Cities was created to do was to bring people who are very different together and help them understand one another,” McClondon said. “That’s why we connected communities like Solana Beach and southeast San Diego.”

Long term, the Sister Cities Project wants to expand from a grassroots level and create a model that can be replicated all over the country.

“Perfecting that ecosystem is our short-term goal, basically making it a franchise model,” McClondon said. “The point of that is to take that ecosystem and drop it into any community across America, and be able to uplift that community.”

Tickets for the (Eco)Exchange event are $20. The Encinitas Library is located at 540 Cornish Drive, Encinitas. For more information and tickets, visit