A cross-section of leaders convened at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston on Wednesday, January 15, 2014 to celebrate the Working Cities Challenge, a community development initiative for Massachusetts' smaller cities with a twofold goal:
- To advance collaborative leadership in Massachusetts' smaller cities;
- To support ambitious work to improve the lives of low-income people in those cities.
From the 20 applicants, six cities won a total of $1.8 million to support projects that adopted a cross-sector and systems-changing approach to human and economic development. The winning cities were Salem, Somerville, Chelsea, Fitchburg, Lawrence and Holyoke. At the center of five of the six winning applicants were Community Development Corporations, each taking the lead on community engagement within their city's neighborhoods.
"We are pleased to see CDCs participating in these coalitions as we believe this sort of cross-sector, collaborative work represents the future of community development," commented Joe Kriesberg, MACDC's President. "The fact that CDCs are playing a prominent role in five of these cities is not a coincidence, but rather evidence of the vital role that CDCs play in comprehensive community development."
Community development corporations involved in winning Working Cities Challenge Grant teams include: Lawrence Community Works (Lawrence), Twin Cities CDC (Fitchburg), The Neighborhood Developers (Chelsea), North Shore CDC (Salem) and Somerville Community Corporation (Somerville).
The City of Lawrence was awarded $700,000 over three-years for its plan to change the way its school system interfaces with the larger community by focusing on the direct correlation between a family's economic and employment challenges, and student success rates.
"LCW is delighted by this recognition of the positive changes afoot in the City of Lawrence," said Jessica Andors, Executive Director of Lawrence CommunityWorks. "We are excited to work together with the schools, and our outstanding nonprofit and employer partners, to address the direct connection between families' economic challenges and student success. This will be a true team effort and we feel that as a community development corporation, we have a vital role to play in bringing parent voices and institutional partners to the same table."
The City of Fitchburg, along with Twin Cities CDC, was awarded $400,000 over three-years for its eCarenomics Initiative, an effort to develop shared metrics for neighborhood health and well-being with the goal of making the North of Main neighborhood a place where residents can thrive.
Marc Dohnan, Executive Director of Twin Cities CDC remarked, "We are thrilled to be recognized by the Boston Fed. We are fortunate to have a great partner at the City, wonderful leadership from Mayor Wong and lots of hard work and effort from many organizations, but in particular the Montachusett Opportunity Council, which is serving as the backbone agency for the initiative. This could not have happened without the work of so many residents of the North of Main Neighborhoods, who have worked so hard to make their neighborhood a better place to live, work and invest."
Chelsea and The Neighborhood Developers received $225,000 over three-years for their Shurtleff-Bellingham Initiative, designed to engage public, private, and nonprofit sectors in an effort to reduce poverty and mobility rates by 30% in this struggling neighborhood.
The City of Somerville, along with Somerville Community Corporation, was awarded $100,000 in a seed award toward their proposal to reduce unemployment among low-income youth by creating new, youth-targeted workforce development systems infused with mobile technology and social media.
The City of Salem and their lead partner, North Shore CDC, was awarded $100,000 in a seed award for their plan to bring one low-income neighborhood's economic indicators in line with rest of the city by focusing on four issue areas: economic development, small business development, workforce development, and leadership development.
"We are grateful for the support of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and the Working Cities Challenge Grant funders. This support will enable our team to implement the Point Neighborhood Vision & Action Plan, a community-driven plan poised to bring major economic development and opportunity to Salem," said Mickey Northcutt, CEO of North Shore CDC.