CDC Theory of Change

What are CDCs?

Community Development Corporations (CDCs) engage local residents and businesses to work together to undertake community development programs, projects and activities, which develop and improve urban, rural and suburban communities in sustainable ways that create and expand economic opportunities for low- and moderate-income people.  CDCs improve communities through real estate development, small business development, asset building, community leadership identification and resident engagement. CDCs are a critical component of lasting and durable community change founded upon the principal that a community's residents can come together to effect change and to help transform their own neighborhood together. Effective CDCs have the skills, capacity and networks to accomplish significant community change transforming a community’s vision and aspirations into tangible projects and results.

In 2010, the Massachusetts Legislature enacted a formal CDC certification program. Sixty-three organizations are currently certified. CLICK HERE to learn about Certified CDCs.


Building Communities

"In 2020, CDCs in Massachusetts engaged 1,586 community leaders." - 2021 MACDC GOALs Report

The first step is to change the way people in a community work together to create a functioning civic culture that includes everyone and allows things to get done. In many places, each constituency has just enough power to stop things, but none have enough power to get things done on their own. This can lead to gridlock. Effective CDCs help people in the public, private and nonprofit sector work together. They also help address another common problem in the civic life of many communities – the fact that certain groups in the community are not always at the table – lower-income people, new comers, linguistic minorities, youth and disabled people are generally less likely to be engaged unless there is an intentional effort to include them. In Boston, we are seeing the power of this model as CDCs, with the help of the local LISC office, lead comprehensive community initiatives in Dorchester, Roxbury, and Mattapan in which literally hundreds of new community leaders have stepped up to reshape and redefine their neighborhoods.

CLICK HERE to take a photo tour of CDCs working to build community.


Improving Places

"In 2020, Massachusetts CDCs attracted $842.6 million in both public and private investment to support their community efforts, and built or preserved 1,043 homes." - 2021 MACDC GOALs Report

As communities begin to come together, the physical environment in a neighborhood or community can begin to change. New housing, businesses, jobs, parks, and infrastructure can provide residents with the stability, safety and access to opportunities that they need to improve their lives. CDCs have the technical and financial capacity to undertake the complex development projects that are needed to create and to sustain effective local economies, while also creating safer and healthier environments for local residents. In Massachusetts, our members consistently produce or preserve over 1,000 affordable homes each year. Often, CDCs are able to undertake a series of development projects over a period of years to completely transform a neighborhood, as the Neighborhood Developers have done in the Box District of Chelsea, MA.

CLICK HERE to take a photo tour of CDC projects the significantly transform a community.


Transforming Lives

"In 2020, Massachusetts CDCs supported 63,359 families with housing, jobs, foreclosure prevention counseling, homebuyer education, and other services." - 2021 MACDC GOALs Report

As the place where people live transforms, they can begin to change their life trajectories. Stable housing enables adults to better compete for jobs or obtain the job training they need. Students with a stable home do better in school and have the ability to pursue their dreams and talents. CDCs often complement their placed-based work with a wide variety of programs designed to help residents enter the economic mainstream and connect to the regional economy. These programs can include financial education and savings programs, homebuying classes, foreclosure counseling, ESOL and youth programming. Here in Massachusetts, many of our members work with local businesses to create jobs, build wealth and provide critical services to local communities. On Cape Cod, for example, the Community Development Partnership is helping local fisherman manage new federal restrictions on fishing as well as increased competition through the Cape Cod Fisheries Trust. In Western Massachusetts, the Franklin County CDC’s Food Processing Center helps local farmers bring their products to market.

A key common thread to CDC success stories is that they are specifically designed to leverage the assets of the local community. By tailoring their initiatives to the local context, CDCs are able to achieve durable results. Moreover, as these efforts help to stabilize people’s lives and they gain entry to the economic mainstream, they are better able to participate in the civic life of their communities. Time and again, we see participants in CDC programs become leaders in their communities, helping to pay it forward for the next family that needs help. And the cycle begins anew.

CLICK HERE to take a photo tour of highlighting how CDCs have changed lives.