Collaboration has become such a popular word in our field that one wonders at times whether it has lost its meaning and importance. Has collaboration become a cliché? Is it a passing fad? Has it been oversold?
I would have to say, from what I am seeing in Massachusetts and around the country, that the answer is an emphatic no!
The first meeting I ever attended on behalf of MACDC – way back in 1993 – was at the Bowdoin Street Community Health Center. The purpose of the meeting was to strategize ways to reduce childhood lead poisoning by building a coalition of community development, housing, environmental and public health advocates to fight for changes in policy and practice that would better protect our children.
Performance and accountability are the subject of substantial discussion these days throughout the nonprofit sector. Government agencies, private funders and non-profit leaders themselves are increasingly focused on taking steps to ensure that we fund programs "that work" and stop funding those "that don't". Last week, I wrote about Social Impact Bonds, a new approach for doing this about which I have serious concerns.
The Obama Administration has appropriately placed a high priority on driving better performance in both the public and nonprofit sectors as they seek to tackle serious social and economic challenges. This includes a heightened emphasis on research, evaluation and funding “programs that work.” All of this is certainly welcome news. Unfortunately, as part of this effort, the Administration has embraced a new idea that I fear could take us in the wrong direction.
A new report by Enterprise Community Partners provides an insightful analysis into the financial challenges facing community developers and offers thoughtful recommendations for how to address them at the organizational and system levels. It should be required reading for all community developers and their supporters.
Throughout my years at MACDC, I have been an active participant in a network of CDC associations from around the country. The network – first convened by the National Congress for Community Economic Development and now by the National Alliance of Community Economic Development Associations (NACEDA) – provides an opportunity to learn about programs and policies in other states that might be applicable in Massachusetts. (It’s also a great place to commiserate with the very small group of people who do the same work we do at MACDC!)
Last month I travelled to Indianapolis to attend a meeting of the Institute for Comprehensive Community Development's National Advisory Committee and to tour some of Indianapolis’ hardest hit neighborhoods. It was inspiring to see how local CDCs and CBOs are working together and with LISC and other partners to undertake long term and comprehensive community development initiatives. Indianapolis has had a strong CDC sector for many years, thanks in part to support from LISC, the City, the Eli Lilly Foundation and other supporters.
This past week, I had the opportunity to make presentations in Washington, DC and in Boston about the future of the community development field. On September 28 I gave a presentation to the National Coalition for Asian and Pacific Islander Community Development on 21st Century CDCs as part of a Town Hall Forum on the future of Community Development. More than 200 practitioners that serve Asian and Pacific Islander communities across the country engaged in a lively and interesting discussion
I have probably been asked that question 1,000 times since I started working at MACDC in 1993. It seems like a rather simple question and certainly one that the President of a CDC association should be able to answer.
Bob Van Meter, Executive Director of LISC/Boston, and Joe Kriesberg write about a recent conference in Washington, DC that highlighted the importance of working comprehensively to build strong neighborhoods.