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!
When the Community Development Innovation Forum was launched in 2008, we established a collaboration working group that produced a report on different models of collaboration around the Commonwealth. The Forum has promoted collaboration as a critical strategy for increasing impact and gaining efficiencies.
Recently, the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco has published a terrific new report that highlights examples of new collaborations from around the country – including one from Boston (the Fairmount Collaborative in Boston.) The paper, The New Way Forward: Using Collaborations and Partnerships for Greater Efficiency and Impact, was written by Dee Walsh and Bob Zdenek, two of our country’s leading practitioners. I highly recommend it to all community developers.
Meanwhile, on a recent trip to South Florida to speak at the Annual Summit of the Florida Association of CDCs, I learned about the Broward Alliance for Neighborhood Development (BAND.) BAND is a coalition of more than 30 CDCs and nonprofit organizations in Broward County (Ft Lauderdale) who are committed to providing decent, affordable housing in their communities. The mission of BAND is to foster non-profits that create quality housing and strong neighborhoods. The goal of the organization is to increase the capacity of its non-profit members so that the varied housing needs of all residents of Broward County are met. BAND members have pooled resources to hire central staff and to secure NSP dollars for their communities.
Back here in Massachusetts the Catalyst Fund for Nonprofits has announced its first set of grants to nonprofits that are pursuing innovative collaborations and two of the initial grants are going to MACDC members. A recent article in the Boston Globe describes grants to Chelsea Neighborhood Developers to develop a Family Economic Center and to Urban Edge and Allston Brighton CDC to pursue a joint asset management strategy.
I think it is clear that collaboration is here to stay in the community development sector.