Being an “Other” in America: Reflections from an Undoing Racism workshop

October 25th, 2019 by Nadine Sanchara

“Why is it important for you and your organization/institution to undo racism?” This question was posed to participants on the opening night of The People’s Institute’s Undoing Racism training. As everyone in the room introduced themselves and answered this question, I couldn’t help but ask myself, “Can racism even be undone?”

In September, three MACDC staff members and two resident leaders in the Mel King Institute’s Public Housing Training Program participated in the Undoing Racism workshop. The two-and-a-half-day workshop challenges participants to analyze the structures of power and privilege that hinder social equity, and prepare them to be effective organizers for justice.

Anti-racism training is mandatory for all MACDC staff members, as part of our internal efforts to advance racial equity. This year, our newest staff members, Communications and Operations Fellow (that’s me), Nadine Sanchara, and the Mel King Institute’s Community Engagement Fellow, Bianca Diaz, participated in The People’s Institute Undoing Racism training. Manager of the Public Housing Training Program, Sarah Byrnes, did the training for the second time, this time alongside two residents in the program.

The training took place at Tent City’s Community Room, which, given its history, was quite an appropriate location. About 40 participants sat in a circle in the large room, a deliberate set up so that we can look at each other, and everyone would be equally engaged. The first night of the training was set aside for introductions. Once that was out of the way, the next two full days were available for a deep dive into racism in America and how it impacts community organizing.

We examined the history of racism and explored topics such as power, internalized superiority/inferiority, and gatekeeping, among others. Many difficult, but necessary, conversations were had. One thing in particular that stuck with me was the use of language to perpetuate racial stereotypes. Even as a person who works in communications every day, I often fail to think about the words I use and what they mean to the people they are describing – often because many of these words and phrases have become socially acceptable.

Another part of the training that stood out to me was a segment where everyone had to say what they liked about being of a particular ethnic group. People were grouped into the “standard” ethnic groups: White, Black, Asian, Latinx, and Indigenous. I had some difficulty answering this question. I am of Indian descent, born and raised in Guyana, South America. I identify as Indo-Guyanese or Indo-Caribbean. I moved to the US four years ago and that was when I became “Asian,” since I often have no other choice but to check the box for Asian when filling out paperwork. This really made me think of how people are sometimes forced into certain boxes. America is so diverse, yet everyone must somehow fit into these five categories. Sometimes, when I’m asked the race/ethnicity question, I completely ignore the boxes and write my own thing. I feel a little rebellious when doing this, but it’s my tiny effort to step out of the box.

One resident leader who attended the training said, “It was intense and very much needed. I look forward to applying all I learned to my work with other residents.” As for me, I left on the final day of the training with the realization that I have some introspection to do, and a lot to learn. Whether racism can be undone, I am optimistic, but I think it will be a long and difficult process. The trainers emphasized that this work must be done “from the grassroots up, and from the insides out.” So, I will start with myself and with those closest to me. I have a list of books to read, and podcasts to listen to. I will try my best to think more critically about my words and my actions. And I plan to continue to have those difficult conversations with my family, friends, and colleagues.



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Rural Policy Plan Launched at State House Event

October 7th, 2019 by Don Bianchi

On October 2, Members of the Rural Policy Advisory Commission (RPAC), along with legislators and supporters, announced the release of the Rural Policy Plan for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.


The RPAC benefited from the leadership of two CDC Executive Directors: Dave Christopolis of Hilltown CDC, in Western MA, and Jay Coburn of Community Development Partnership, on Cape Cod.  MACDC’s Director of Advocacy David Bryant and Senior Policy Advocate Don Bianchi attended the launch at the Massachusetts State House. 


The Plan is a culmination of the work of RPAC, which was created by the State Legislature in 2015 with a mission to “enhance the economic vitality of rural communities.”  Defined as municipalities with population densities of less than 500 persons per square mile, the 170 rural communities comprise 59% of the land area in Massachusetts but only 13% of its population.  In presenting an overview of the Plan, Linda Dunlavy, Executive Director of the Franklin Regional Council of Governments and RPAC’s Chair, noted how rural communities in Massachusetts are losing population and are aging, and face unique challenges such as inadequate infrastructure and limited local fiscal resources and staffing capacity. 


The Plan’s top priorities are: 

  • Expand diversity and implement relocation strategies to boost population in rural Massachusetts; 

  • Develop a statewide land use plan/growth management strategy; 

  • Determine and create a rural factor within state funding formulas. 


The Plan also outlines existing best practices, ideas, and recommendations for improving the economic vitality of rural communities.  Importantly, it calls for the creation of the Office of Rural Policy, to provide purposed focus on rural issues and advance the recommendations in the Plan. 


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MACDC and LISC Launch Energy Cohort

September 25th, 2019 by Don Bianchi

More than 30 people, including representatives from 18 CDCs, participated in the first reconvening of the MACDC/LISC Energy Cohort. This is the first formal energy partnership between the two organizations since we convened the CDCs several years ago as LISC launched its Green Retrofit Initiative. At the September 18 Convening, we focused on two timely agenda items. The first was an update on the State's Solar SMART Program presented by Dick Jones of Blue Hub Capital and Ben Underwood of Resonant Energy. They also spoke about the Energy Justice Option to, among other things, better serve low-income households who reside in privately-owned affordable housing.  The second agenda item was a presentation by Adam Parker and others from Rocky Mountain Institute's REALIZE Program.  They presented its Zero Over Time Initiative, to help property owners and managers move successfully toward highly energy efficient buildings where remaining greenhouse gas emissions are offset by renewable energy generation.

We plan to convene the Energy Cohort 3-4 times per year, on topics that reflect the fast-changing landscape of energy efficiency and renewable energy. For more information, contact Emily Jones at LISC ( or Don Bianchi at MACDC (
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Three Key Learnings Central to MACDC’s Operations and IT Management

September 24th, 2019 by John Fitterer

What would you do if someone came up to you and said, I have an all-in-one solution that can increase your organization’s productivity, reduce costs, and enable you to focus more on your mission? You would probably be skeptical, or simply ignore the person altogether because it just was an annoying sales pitch with an inevitable catch. Oftentimes, technology, in all its myriad iterations, does this to us daily (I’m not yet convinced that my life would be better if my refrigerator could tell me the weather, or if my stereo system could order laundry detergent just by my talking to it) 

That being said, new technology can help advance our work if used thoughtfully and strategically. This article will focus on how technology has transformed MACDC’s operations for the better. Considering that there are many resources addressing ways for nonprofits to increase productivity and reduce costs through IT, I hope not to be repetitive, but rather to highlight how we did it and the succeeding benefits from this effort. 

Over the past six years, we’ve progressed as a team to using data collected in real time to help us make decisions.  Along the way, we’ve cut our electricity bill in half, reduced our phone bill by $1,500 annually and improved our staff capacity.  But this process took time (years, not months), and required that we raise funds, hire consultants, and dedicate time to staff engagement and training.  The result, however, is significant.  While we’re a small team of eleven staff with a $1.5 million annual operating budget, we’re higher performing and have more time to focus on our mission. 

I thought I would share three key learnings that are central to MACDC’s approach to operations and IT: 

  1. It’s not about technology, but people;   
  2. Be current, not cutting edge; 
  3. Climb hills, not mountains. 

It’s not about technology, but people 

“Do you know what you call a leader with no followers?  Just a guy taking a walk.”- Vice President Russell, The West Wing 

There’s comfort and stability in doing something the same way you’ve done it for years, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best way, especially when it comes to technology.  At MACDC, we knew that we needed to update our data management technology, systems, procedures and culture.  We also knew that we could not do it all at once.  So even after we made the decision to switch to Salesforce, we didn’t make the move immediately, nor did we have all the organization’s programs and operations move over at the same time.   

We started by building Excel spreadsheets that captured much of the data eighteen months before we began to move these business functions into Salesforce. Why? It’s often easier to update and change an Excel spreadsheet than it is to change workflows and processes in Salesforce (This also makes the formal discovery phase less arduous and filled with guesswork).  You’re able to engage with staff at the beginning of the migration process where you’re defining what the processes will be in the first place.  You’re able to begin reinforcing new behavior immediately and the staff are bought in to the changes.  Finally, even though I was leading the project, I wasn’t in charge of managing the capturing of the data; leadership of this work went to another staff member and allowed for additional project team ownership. 

Even with the level of engagement that comes with staff helping lead the change, expect more time to be spent on training and support than building out the system technologically.  Each person learns differently and has different strengths and weaknesses.  This sounds like common sense, and it is. But it’s worth mentioning because you need to plan time for multiple trainings and then extra time for one-on-one sessions.  It’s also important to have your organization’s leadership attend all the trainings.  Everyone is busy, but if you want significant institutional change to occur, you need your executive director engaged and actively learning with the team. 

Be current, not cutting edge 

When do you stop fixing your old car, I mean, file server? 

You’ve probably had an old car that at a certain point is just too old to keep repairing.  You need to buy new tires, but the cost of the tires will be more than the value of the car itself.  Maybe there’s some nostalgia, memories of a spontaneous road trip, or the time it took to save the money to buy the car in the first place that keeps you from moving on.  You can say this about your first car, but have you ever said that about your clunker of a file server? 

This was an important lesson for us.  It’s just too expensive to be on your outdated file server. We were presented with a challenge that needed to be quickly resolved.  Our file server was approaching 95% capacity and the machine was, I believe, more than 7 years old.  It had lived a good life and had done its job well, but it was time to move on.  We had a decision to make: move to the cloud or not.  Well, the decision was easy given that ordering a new server didn’t align with our goal of being current in our technology without being cutting edge. Cloud services by late 2015 were well developed and had significant adoption.  We were able to review capabilities and decide with high confidence of the technology’s stability. 

Running outdated systems, such as an aged, on-site file server, means paying to maintain the physical hardware in your office, which requires secured facilities, climate control, regular maintenance, monitoring and backups that often require onsite visits by an IT professional. Our old solution was not only more expensive than our current solution, but it didn’t provide nearly as many features that moving to the cloud provides.  Many nonprofits have moved to the cloud; it’s just common sense and there are many providers of cloud services that meet the needs of your organization.  Remember, you may love your old car, but that old server is just wasting money, staff capacity, and mission success capabilities. 

Start by climbing hills, not mountains 

Don’t run marathons before you can run a 5K. 

MACDC’s tech overhaul didn’t start with mapping business processes that would be used to build out Salesforce.  Rather, we started with moving from our file server to the cloud.  We didn’t just copy and paste thousands of files either.  We decided to organize our files going forward according to our lines of business.  In the past, our server was messy; it likely had much more structure in the beginning than it did after many years of use by staff and interns.  Our new model is still working very well after three plus years; staff do an excellent job of making sure files are well organized.  Because we had so much storage space in the cloud, we moved all our old files to the cloud too, but there’s a rule:  You can’t edit a file that’s archived.  If you edit the file, it must be saved into the current file directory.  This isn’t a personnel policy, but a tech “rule.”  Staff simply cannot save a file to Archives. 

A tidal wave of change 

“Fear is the mind killer. – from Dune by Frank Herbert 

I don’t believe many people work for nonprofits because they love operations or IT.  You’re likely here because there’s a driver within you, maybe in your spirit or soul, that wants to contribute to our world that exceeds earning a wage for your efforts. But a nonprofit is a complex system that requires solid operations to run smoothly with current IT yielding results greater than antiquated technology.  Unfortunately, IT can be confusing, freeze up and not work, and especially when it’s first launched, have bugs.  Even so, we’re in an era that requires us to adapt far more quickly to significant changes in the ways we work and it’s only going to continue to accelerate.  I think it’s worth it to seize upon our IT insecurities and find ways to build efficiencies into our operational systems.  Through this process, you’ll likely reduce costs, restructure operations to be more efficient and increase your focus on mission success. 


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Joe's Summer Sabbatical

September 9th, 2019 by Joe Kriesberg

Thanks to the generosity and support of the MACDC board and staff, I was able to take a two-month summer sabbatical this year – my first full summer vacation in a very long time.  I was able to spend lots of time with various family members, read books, travel, and enjoy countless hours of biking, swimming and hiking!  For those wondering “what did you do all summer” I figured that I would share some of the highlights.

Syracuse - The sabbatical started with a 4-day trip to Syracuse to see my dad.  My wife Dina and I picked up our son Mike in Albany and drove to Syracuse to hang with my dad and his partner.  On the way back to Boston, we packed up Mike’s apartment in Albany (he had just quit his job) and brought him home to continue his search for a job in New York City.

Backpacking - After celebrating the 4th of July in Boston (including attending the Rolling Stones Concert at Gillette Stadium!), I flew to Idaho to meet up with my brother for a backpacking trip in the White Clouds & Saw Tooth Mountain area.  The scenery was incredible; it was great to hang out with my brother; the hiking was challenging but not exhausting; and I was able to sleep (sort of) on the ground in my tiny tent!

Boston - I then had 11 days in Boston with no travel.  This was certainly the longest “stay-cation” of my life but I was able to get into a routine of biking, swimming, reading, visiting with a few friends and helping my son with his job search (mostly nagging).

My Dad's Birthday - In late July, my family and my brother’s family met up with my dad and his partner in Beacon, NY (the Hudson Valley region) to spend a weekend celebrating his 93rd birthday by going to not one, but two art museums (he loves art!)   It was great for him to catch up with all four of his grandchildren and for the cousins to reconnect for the first time in many months.  His quote of the day: “Birthdays are fun – I should have more of them!”   I agree!

Cape Cod - Dina and I finally were able to take our own vacation on Cape Cod in early August (she was NOT on sabbatical after all!). We were unable to go last year so it was great to be back on the beaches where we only had two shark alerts!  My Dad and Paula spent a couple of days with us (yes, our third visit of the summer!) and then Mike made a surprise visit as well to tell us that he had accepted a job offer from the New Israel Fund in New York City!

Reading books – not memos - After the Cape, we came back to Boston for a few more days of hanging around.  I was able to make progress on my goal of reading more books than I usually do.  Over the course of the summer, I was able to read: Washington Black, the Cairo Trilogy (Palace Walk, Palace of Desire and Sugar Street), The Bluest Eye, Evicted, Just Mercy, and Say Nothing.  I enjoyed some good podcasts (check out Crimetown to learn about the mob in Providence) and TV shows (City on a Hill; Six Feet Under) and watched a fair number of Red Sox games (although not as many as I would have thought)  Of course, none of this interfered with biking or swimming (or both) virtually every day I was in town.  I don’t think I swam so much during the summer since I worked as a lifeguard in 1984!

Glacier National Park - My next adventure was to go to Montana with my sons Mike and Josh.  We started our trip in Kalispel where we attended our first ever Rodeo.  The scene was exactly what you might imagine with lots of families, women wearing awesome boots and men wearing their cowboy hats.  There was much pageantry, including honoring our military and recognizing Native American heritage and culture. The competition was either incredible or awful, depending on your view of Rodeos, but it was definitely a great opportunity to experience a different piece of American culture.  My kids loved it.  We then spent four days hiking in Glacier National Park.  We saw amazing scenery, lots of wildlife (including a Wolverine!) and walked along and over the Continental Divide. Spending four days hiking with my kids was a great way to spend time together (no cell phone service!), create memories and share new experiences.  My son called the trip “magical” and it was.

Seattle - The three of us then drove to Seattle and they got to see for the first time how expansive and empty the American West can be. In Seattle, we met up with Dina and most of her family so we could celebrate her sister’s 60th birthday. 

My Sabbatical Buddy - One special treat this summer was spending time with my 23-year-old son Mike.  As noted, he quit his job on the same day that my sabbatical began and he began his new job with the New Israel Fund on the same day that I returned to work so we were both home and “unemployed” for the same 9 weeks!  He has been in Albany for the past five years so we have not had nearly so much time to hang out and honestly, we will probably never have a summer like this again. We talked, we played basketball, we ate, we cooked (Dina loved coming home to our (mostly his) meals!), we worked on his job search and then his apartment search.  Dina says he was my “sabbatical buddy”!  It was bittersweet to drive him to New York City on Labor Day weekend and help him set up his new apartment in Astoria, Queens.  I am proud that he had the courage to quit a job he disliked, to pursue something that he really cares about (peace and democracy in Israel) and to take on the adventure of living in New York. But I’m really going to miss having him around. 

If you are wondering whether I really avoided work during the sabbatical, the answer is “mostly”.  While I contacted the staff on one or two occasions early on, I did not talk/email/text with any staff for the last five or six weeks. Yes, I occasionally checked my email, but I did not respond to them and very much enjoyed reading an email and saying to myself “I don’t have to deal with that!”  Overall, I’ve been pretty checked out and was able to enjoy my summer without thinking about work very much.

None of this would have been possible if MACDC did not have such a terrific and dedicated staff. I want to especially thank Shirronda Almeida for serving as interim executive director and to everyone on the staff who picked up my workload over the summer.  I think it was a great learning opportunity for them and the experience will make our organization stronger, more stable and better prepared for the future.

I am eager to get back to work (starting with those emails and memos that are waiting for me) and I am excited about our agenda for this fall.  But if you catch me day dreaming at a meeting, you can probably guess that I’ll be reliving my summer memories!

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Defining Health Equity: “I know it when I see it”

August 27th, 2019 by Elana Brochin

In the five months since I started at MACDC as the Program Director for Health Equity, I have struggled to define the key term imbedded in my title: health equity. Rather than using a single definition for this important term, I have found that the term is better described through examples, in other words, I know it when I see it.  

“I know it when I see it” is a concept popularized by the former Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart in 1964 when he described the concept as the threshold test for obscenity regarding protected speech. In the same way that obscenity has variable definitions yet is recognized when it exists, health equity is better defined by examples than by a static definition.  

Health equity is the opening of a grocery store to increase access to healthy, affordable food to low- and moderate-income residents who have disproportionate rates of diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. Health equity is advocating for increased state funding for no-interest lead abatement loans for low- and moderate-income homeowners and landlords. Health equity is providing transportation services for isolated seniors to access health care services and health-promoting activities. But despite having a clear sense of examples of initiatives that fall into the health equity bucket, it is often advantageous to have a succinct definition for health equity for shorter conversations. 

MACDC has not formally adopted a definition for health equity, and so, in order to better articulate what I do, I recently did some research into how other organizations define the term. The following are several definitions of health equity, followed by my initial reactions: 

The World Health Organization (WHO) 

Definition: Equity is the absence of avoidable, unfair, or remediable differences among groups of people, whether those groups are defined socially, economically, demographically, or geographically, or by other means of stratification. "Health equity” or “equity in health” implies that ideally everyone should have a fair opportunity to attain their full health potential and that no one should be disadvantaged from achieving this potential. 

My reaction: I like that this definition begins by defining “equity” and then gets more specific in defining what we mean by health equity. The WHO leaves me wanting more detail about the systems and causes of inequity. 

Center for Disease Control (the other CDC)  

Definition: Health equity is achieved when every person has the opportunity to “attain his or her full health potential” and no one is “disadvantaged from achieving this potential because of social position or other socially determined circumstances.” Health inequities are reflected in differences in length of life; quality of life; rates of disease, disability, and death; severity of disease; and access to treatment. 

My reaction: I really like that this definition enumerates how health inequity manifests. This definition made me appreciate an aspect of the WHO definition, which the CDC definition lacks: the WHO names social, economic, demographic, and geographic as ways in which people might be subject to varying health outcomes. 

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) 

Definition: Everyone has a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible. This requires removing obstacles to health such as poverty, discrimination, and their consequences, including powerlessness and lack of access to good jobs with fair pay, quality education and housing, safe environments, and health care. 

My reaction: I really like that RWJF names the social determinants of health that cause health inequity. I have mixed feelings about the first sentence in their definition, which on one hand, describes the desired outcome (“everyone….to be as healthy as possible), on the other, doesn’t define what we mean by good health.  

American Public Health Association  

Definition: Everyone has the opportunity to attain their highest level of health. 

My reaction: Wow, this is an even more simplified version than the first sentence of the RWJF definition!I like that the definition is straight-forward, but also am concerned that its simplicity renders makes it less useful than the other definitions. 

I was curious to analyze these definitions together to better understand what they have in common. I started by creating a word bubble: 

To better understand the word bubble, I noted the words that appeared the biggest – meaning that they appeared most frequently. I came up with the following words: everyone, attain, fair, potential, opportunity. These five words seem to be moving toward a consensus definition – in fact, they almost make a sentence. But something is notably missing – there are no words that are specific to health! In fact, the words in this word bubble that are most directly tied to health, consistently appear the smallest. These words include disease, death, care, treatment, disability and almost entirely stem from the CDC definition. 


My analysis of the word bubble indicates that the definitions cited are in better agreement about how to define equity than they are about how to define health. I have a few theories as to why: 


One theory is that the definitions assume that we know what health is, but assume we need help defining equity.  


Conversely another theory is that health is just too difficult to define in the context of a succinct definition.  


The most compelling explanation for the absence of health-specific terms in these definitions is that differences in health status or health opportunities stem from the same inequities from which all unequal outcomes stem. Therefore, these definitions are more concerned with the cause (inequity) than the effect (health).  


I hope that instead of creating more confusion (which would be understandable), my analysis provides a bit of understanding of what health equity is. I think it helped me! Going forward, when someone asks me what I do, I’m going to go with something along the lines of: 


Health equity involves creating and supporting systems, environments, and policies that allow all individuals the potential to lead healthy lives. Health equity further involves dismantling systems, environments, and policies that have historically contributed to health disparities. When time allows, my explanation will undoubtedly be followed by a laundry list of examples of ways in which CDCs, and others, are actively working to promote health equity. I maintain that ultimately real-world examples will better explain health equity than any definition can. 


Do you or your organization have a go-to definition for health equity?  

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The Mel King Institute’s Public Housing Training Program trains hundreds of residents across Massachusetts

August 26th, 2019 by Nadine Sanchara

PHTP particpants at a recent training in Ludlow.

“Before the (PHTP) training, I didn’t understand the way things work… The training is serious. I like to say it’s like an oracle, it gives answers.”

Those were the words of Nicole Beckles, a resident leader and peer trainer in the Public Housing Training Program. Nicole gave a moving testimonial of her participation in the program at the Mel King Institute’s 10th Anniversary Breakfast in June.

“Changes to public housing don’t affect where other people lay their heads at night, not the Housing Authority staff, or the legislators, the changes affect public housing residents, where we live every day and raise our kids. This is why this program of training residents to understand the process and giving and getting involved is so important. This is why I’m involved,” she continued.

Since its first training in 2017, the Public Housing Training Program (PHTP) has trained more than 200 residents across the Commonwealth, arming them with the knowledge they need to fully participate in the oversight of their housing developments. A recent evaluation report of the program showed that it is building resident leadership skills and knowledge in a variety of areas such as budgets, tenants’ rights, conflict resolution, community building, etc.

The Mel King Institute for Community Building launched the Public Housing Tenant Training Program in 2016 with the purpose of increasing the voice of residents as stakeholders in decision-making in public housing management and administration. Trainings are all conducted by Sarah Byrnes, Manager of the MKI Public Housing Training Program, along with co-trainers and residents.

Director of the Mel King Institute, Shirronda Almeida said, “We are proud to have this effort under the MKI umbrella. The program reaches residents in public housing across the state and gives them the tools necessary to be leaders within their housing authority.  When we hear from these residents, we learn about the powerful impact the training and networking opportunities is having in their lives, and communities.”

Though the Mel King Institute is based in Boston, trainings are conducted across Massachusetts. Recently, Sarah drove out to Western MA for a week of trainings. The week started in Great Barrington with a learning session with two resident board members, followed by two days of resident leader training, and concluded with a resident board member training in Ludlow.

The trainings in Great Barrington were attended by residents of the community who are working to address challenges around maintenance and other issues. Great Barrington residents take great pride in the physical landscape and beauty of the town, and many of them do their own gardening and landscaping. Peer Trainer Mildred Valentin Torres helped run the training, sharing her lessons of working with tenant groups in Chelsea.

Participants had the chance to sharpen their skills in team building, outreach, conflict resolution and running meetings, as well as the opportunity to learn about state regulations and tenant protections, and how to build a strong tenant organization.

In Ludlow, residents from five housing authorities in the area, including Ludlow itself, participated in the resident board member training. Jessica Quinonez, the Resident Board Member in Springfield, helped out as a Peer Trainer.

Resident board members enjoy meeting each other and being able to share and learn from each other’s experiences and challenges. In addition to networking, participants of this training had the opportunity to learn about budgets, capital plans, and the overall role of the board member.

Moving forward, the residents and resident board members who participated in these trainings will receive continued support from our partner, the Massachusetts Union of Public Housing Tenants. They will also be invited to the ongoing learning community supported by the Public Housing Training Program, which provides regular online meet ups and scholarships to other Mel King Institute trainings.

To learn more about the Public Housing Training Program, please contact Program Manager, Sarah Byrnes at

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By the Numbers: CDCs That Led the Way in Supporting Families in 2018

August 15th, 2019 by Don Bianchi

MACDC is proud to document the collective impact of CDCs in our annual GOALs Report.  In the 2019 Report, we celebrated this collective impact CDCs achieved in 2018: 

  • Engaged 1,910 Community Leaders 
  • Built or Preserved 1,535 Homes 
  • Created or Preserved 4,305 Job Opportunities 
  • Provided Technical Assistance to 1,369 Entrepreneurs 
  • Invested $801.5 Million in Local Communities 
  • Supported 84,224 Families with Housing, Jobs, or Other Services 

What does it mean that the CDCs collectively supported over 84,000 families?  By digging a little deeper into the numbers, we’ve highlighted CDCs which led the way in delivering programs and services to families that need them. Significant attention is (rightfully) paid to the affordable housing developed by CDCs, but there is so much more to their work.  Click on the links that accompany the numbers below, to see some great examples of how CDCs are improving the lives of those who live in the communities they serve. 

 Helping Families Acquire, Preserve, and Improve Homes: 

  • Through its programs to help low-income residents deal with home repair needs in their homes and address lead hazards, NeighborWorks Housing Solutions preserved 162 homes
  • NeighborWorks Housing Solutions also led the way on homebuyer counseling, providing pre-purchase education to 1,144 first-time homebuyers. 
  • Oak Hill CDC, through its NeighborWorks Homeownership Center of Central MA, offered the assistance of certified housing counselors to 133 families to help them avoid foreclosure, with 77 families receiving a loan modification or other positive outcome.
  • Way Finders helped 1,763 maintain their existing rental housing or obtain new permanent housing (separate from their administration of rental assistance programs) 

 Assistance for Those Seeking Employment and Owning a Small Business: 

  • Codman Square NDC provided Adult Basic Education to 123 individuals.  Its Men of Color/Men of Action Initiative focused on to providing support and leadership development in the Codman Square/ Four Corners Community.  
  • Through its English language program, the Waltham Alliance to Create Housing (WATCH) offered classes at three levels to 255 people, supplemented by one-on-one tutoring. 
  • The Neighborhood Developers provided 1,769 people with Job Training and Workforce Development assistance.  Through its CONNECT Program, TND partners with five agencies working to improve the financial mobility of low-income families. 
  • Common Capital provided personalized business assistance and financing to 505 small business entrepreneurs.  An affiliate of Way Finders, Common Capital is certified by the U.S. Treasury Department as a Community Development Finance Institution (CDFI). 

Building Assets and Financial Stability: 

Helping Youth and Elders: 

  • Community Teamwork assisted 626 elders.  For more than 35 years, Community Teamwork’s Senior Corps Volunteer Program has paired senior volunteers with nonprofit organizations, children and others. 
  • Groundwork Lawrence served 1,753 young people through several initiatives.  Its Green Team offers part-time, paid positions to Lawrence high school aged students each year to learn and lead local environmental and health initiatives. 

For a full list of CDC accomplishments in calendar year 2018, see the 2019 GOALs Survey Tables. 

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Secretary Kennealy and Undersecretary Chan Visit MACDC Members’ Affordable Housing Projects

August 6th, 2019 by Nadine Sanchara

Secretary Kennealy on a visit to Valley Community Development's Sergeant House, a 31-unit supportive housing development in Northampton

MACDC would like to thank Secretary Mike Kennealy, and Undersecretary for Housing and Community Development, Janelle Chan, for taking the time to visit affordable housing projects across Massachusetts.

On August 6, they will be concluding a three-week long tour of 28 affordable housing projects. We are thrilled that they visited the real estate development projects of five MACDC members:

2Life Communities: The 132 Chestnut Hill Avenue project in Brighton boasts 61 units of affordable senior housing.

B’nai B’rith: A vacant elementary school in Swampscott is being redeveloped into affordable housing units for seniors.

B’nai B’rith: Phase 2 of The Coolidge project in Sudbury is currently in development and, when concluded, will add 56 units of affordable housing for seniors.

Housing Corporation of Arlington: The Downing Square project in Arlington spans two sites with a total of 48 units, including 16 deeply affordable, five units for homeless tenants, and a space for a food pantry.

Valley CDC: The Sergeant House Expansion project in Northampton consists of the renovation of 15 Single Room Occupancy (SRO) units, and the construction of 16 new SRO units.

Valley CDC: The Lumber Yard project in Northampton is redeveloping the former Northampton Lumber Company into 55 units of family rental housing and commercial space.

Way Finders: The Live 155 project in Northampton is a 70-unit transit-oriented development, 47 of these units being affordable housing, with access to support services for tenants.


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Strengthening Hospital-CDC Partnerships – A new focus of MACDC

August 2nd, 2019 by Elana Brochin

Massachusetts hospitals devote millions of dollars annually to public health programs that serve their surrounding communities. As hospitals shift the focus of their public health programs towards upstream issues such as housing, education, and employment, it is important that they partner with organizations that are engaged in these areas, such as CDCs.

One of my roles as the Program Director for Health Equity at MACDC is to facilitate relationships between CDCs and their local hospitals. I view supporting these partnerships as building upon my previous role in which I worked to strengthen the state guidelines that direct many of these investments. The updated state guidelines provide the tools for hospitals to increase the transparency by which these investments are made and to increase community involvement in program planning and implementation.

Hospitals, as the institutions that ultimately control the focus of these investments, must commit to engaging community partners. While hospitals may have additional tools and incentives for engaging their community partners, many community organizations continue to find the procurement of hospital funding to be an opaque process. For a CDC, securing a seat at the table in which these investments are discussed is not an easy task. However, there are muscles that potential community partners can build in order to achieve successful partnerships with their local hospitals.

One way in which community organizations can learn more about the nuances involved in hospital investments is through trainings offered by the Mel King Institute for Community Building. Last March, the Mel King Institute held a training in which participants had a chance to learn about different types of hospital investments. For example, participants discussed the distinction between Community Benefits investments – which are annually budgeted for – and Community Health Improvement investments – which are episodically tied to capital expenditures.  Becoming well-versed in these different types of investments, is the first step toward meaningful conversations between CDCs and potential hospital partners.

This coming year, in partnership with the Mel King Institute, I will be introducing several trainings in which we will discuss the challenges associated with developing partnerships and continue to develop the language and the tools needed to initiate and deepen these crucial partnerships between CDCs and their local hospitals. The following are examples of topics that we’ll discuss in upcoming Mel King Institute Health Equity trainings:

Establishing a common language to talk about health equity
 CDCs must deepen their understanding of the pathways by which various social determinants of health (e.g., housing, employment, and education) contribute to health disparities. By establishing a robust vocabulary in which to have meaningful conversations with institutional partners CDCs will be better positioned to advocate for hospital investment in their work.

Deepening understanding of hospital funding

It is important to understand how community health programs fit into the complex hospital financing equation in order to better understand the role of community organizations in this process. Better understanding hospital financing is increasingly important as the system changes, such as the trend toward shifting from the pay-for-service model to Accountable Care Organizations.

The importance of long-term partnership building

 It is not surprising that small- and medium-sized community organizations become interested in partnering with hospitals when they hear of potential funding opportunities. Partnerships, however, rarely originate from a grant opportunity. Organizational relationships must be cultivated long before an opportunity becomes available. It is for this reason that CDCs must cultivate relationships with hospitals independent of a specific funding opportunity.

Keeping track of individual investment opportunities

CDCs must devote time and resources to keeping track of opportunities. This can mean there is a lot to keep track of: in many areas of the state, several hospitals serve the same region and the timeline for hospital investments vary by hospital and by type of investment. CDCs must have a mechanism for learning about funding opportunities as they become available.

What are questions that you have about cultivating relationships with your local hospitals? What challenges have you encountered? What would you like to learn about in this area?

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