The Community Development Innovation Forum has helped to spur numerous efforts to expand and deepen collaboration with the goal of improving effectiveness and efficiency in the sector. With the help of new funding from Citi and Bank of America, MACDC is now leading a major planning effort to explore the efficacy and viability of a statewide partnership among CDCs and others who provide technical assistance to local entrepreneurs.
For years, MACDC members have helped entrepreneurs start, grow and sustain small businesses that provide jobs and opportunity for local communities. In 2010, our members served over 2,000 entrepreneurs develop business plans, find new locations and markets, access financing and deal with the slumping economy. CDCs have frequently partnered in these efforts with each other and with other organizations such as Small Business Development Centers, local governments, banks, and CDFIs (many of our members are CDFIs themselves.) Perhaps the most sustained and deepest of these partnerships has been the Community Business Network in Boston through which several CDCs have worked together since the mid 1990s.
Earlier this year, MACDC received funding from Citi and Bank of America to explore the potential for a statewide partnership that builds and expands on these earlier efforts. We formed a planning committee comprised of practitioners, public officials, bankers and scholars to guide our planning effort and hired two experienced consultants, Leslie Belay and Jason Friedman, to conduct research, planning and program design work. Jason is examining best practices around the country and Leslie is conducting interviews and focus groups with stakeholders here in Massachusetts. At a recent meeting with the SBA and their partners, national SBA Administrator Karen Mills joined the meeting and voiced her strong support of the effort and specifically encouraged SBA partners like the SBDCs to partner with CDCs and vice versa.
The planning efforts has already identified several areas where collaboration could yield significant benefits. These could include: shared information technology and outcome measurement systems; shared protocols for intake, assessment and business plan assistance, shared expertise in specific sectors or areas of support (e.g. food industry, or green technologies); shared market research that would provide local businesses with access to better market data; joint partnerships with other organizations, professional development and training for practitioners, joint fundraising, and special projects.
We expect the planning process to proceed through the summer with the hopes of making a determination by early Fall as to whether such a Partnership makes sense. If we decide to move ahead, the next stage will include fundraising, recruitment of the initial class of members, and refinement of the program design, structure and services.
If you are interested in learning more or getting involved, please contact me.