CEDAM Blog

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Placemaking Through Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is a popular go-to fundraising method used by people to launch new businesses or projects, raise money to help distressful situations and almost every other imaginable circumstance. While many charitable projects have depended on donations in the past, modern crowdfunding has succeeded through the development of an online platform with different donation levels and a rewards system. Donations as little as $1 or $5 are accepted, providing a low-barrier to entry. Statistics show that overall more money is  raised through a lot of smaller donations rather than fewer larger donations.

arrow-21509_1280Organizations and other groups are now using crowdfunding as a strategy to make projects without formal funding a reality, and evolved to become a community-based investment. Participation is voluntary and is used to direct the development of their neighborhoods. While those with deeper projects have typically had more influence regarding funding decisions, crowdfunding and the internet help raise awareness about different opportunities and is a very low-entry way for a person to contribute and participate. Trends show that a little skin in the game helps a project because they are actively supporting it and have an invested interest in the project success.

Public Spaces & Community Places

Enter the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC). A long time investor in communities throughout Michigan, they are a funding source for community development corporations (CDCs) and other business development initiatives. As much as anybody, they want their investments to succeed and for communities to grow collaboratively.

Public Spaces & Community Places is their newer program in collaboration with the Michigan Municipal League offering funds to communities across Michigan through a crowdfunding match campaign. The grant program is available to municipalities with projects that are designed to activate public spaces and include parks enhancements, trail expansions, outdoor plazas and other community places and are working with therestaurant-766050_1280ir communities for local momentum. To participate, a community outlines the details of their project and proposes it to the MEDC. Once approved, they work with the MEDC and Patronicity, a Detroit-based crowdfunding company focused on community development, to develop a crowdfunding campaign. Once launched, there is a specified timeline to raise money, with up to $100,000 matched by the MEDC.

Locally Driven Momentum

Since the program’s inception, the MEDC reports that 100% of municipalities have raised their goal funds, and speculate that all projects have gotten underway within 30 days of receiving funds. They have high hopes for the future of this program, and believe that successful implementation is tied directly to community collaboration.

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The Beacon Soccer Field concept in Downtown Lansing.

One example of a project going on right now is in Lansing where they have a few days left to raise money to put a soccer field in an available parcel in an existing park downtown Lansing. The goal is to help connect youth and adults through health and fitness education, and provide access to those who otherwise are unable to afford participation. There is still time to participate in this campaign, and you can watch their video here.

See a full list of some of the different participating municipalities and their projects here.

The Implications for Michigan Organizations

While all organizations would love to be able to plan large-scale projects, smaller projects are more easily attainable and can be a catalyst for even more development once completed. The MEDC and MML are ahead of the game by offering the first program of its kind with potentially big impacts across Michigan. Not only are more communities able to participate, but this program helps organizations to better articulate and plan a project by developing a solid marketing plan based on well-crafted visions considering timelines, numbers and overall feasibility, with local support at the root of the effort. That’s half the battle of any project, and groups are getting help from the professionals and funders to leverage success. This process will prevent a lot of failed projects and feelings of detachment or disengagement.

marketing-toolkit-biggerFunders (even micro investors) want to see well-thought out plans and budgets. By creating a communications and marketing plan, organizations can understand how to find more sustainable funding, engage and reach their audience and grow their programming. CEDAM members can download communications and marketing planning toolkits for free to get started on some of this research.

So, what are the projects your community hopes to implement soon and do you have a plan for how to do it?

Have You Noticed Any Immigrants?

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Graduation from a family English Second Language literacy class in Grand Rapids. Video

In Southwest Detroit, Bridging Communities began to notice that not everyone was able to participate in their neighborhood programs. The small nonprofit had been developing housing, running intergenerational programs, a time bank and services for the elderly for a long time. Over those years the composition of their neighborhoods changed. Children from many new immigrant families that observed separation of men and women in sports couldn’t be in sports programs because the boys and girls teams practiced in close proximity to each other. Second generation bilingual children moved out of homes, leaving behind seniors who only spoke Spanish. The culture of the area had become more diverse.

Arab American business owner Edna Zaid shows how her firm's videoconferencing system works in Commerce Twp.

Arab American business owner Edna Zaid shows how her firm’s videoconferencing system works in Commerce Twp.

Diversity brings great benefits – such as the fact immigrants in Michigan are 3x more likely to start businesses, 6x more likely to start high tech enterprises and therefore create jobs – but it also brings challenges like those Bridging Communities faced. Like the challenges East Lansing faced when it noticed a boom in high income international students who spoke English well, but not to the degree needed to read legal documents or understand establishing credit or purchasing a home. Like the challenges rural areas face where migrant workers have transitioned to being permanent residents or citizens.

There’s a price to doing nothing. Macomb County has a diversity initiative called One Macomb, and as part of this they give presentations to key employers about how to welcome immigrants. After a presentation at a hospital, the hospital’s HR director said that they wished they’d seen the presentation sooner. Two of their very skilled new staff had left their jobs and moved because their families didn’t feel like the people in their community wanted them there.

Devi grows and sells local food in Lansing. She is a refugee. Video

Devi grows and sells local food in Lansing through Lansing Roots. She is a refugee. Video

If people were going to feel unwelcome, it was not going to be in Southwest Detroit with Bridging Communities. They took action. They adapted youth sports programs and put adequate distance between teams so children following the new religions in the community could play too. They did not have the money to hire a bilingual staff member full time, so they hired a part time staff member. The new person trained other staff on how to direct Spanish speakers to days and times they could get in touch with the part time staff member. Bridging Communities also began new programs that would help the cultures in the area learn from each other, for instance, through cooking classes where one person teaches a recipe from their culture.

World Refugee Day in Lansing. Video

World Refugee Day in Lansing. Video

Over in East Lansing, the municipal government found out how expensive it was to have 12 single pages translated into 5 key languages of the international students and families living there: $5,000. The city declined that outrageous price and instead developed a partnership with Michigan State University, where students in bilingual classes translate the documents under their professor’s supervision. Another service that some municipalities use for ESL residents is video remote interpreting. This is a cost effective solution where you access a web service and an interpreter translates the conversation between both parties. It saves a lot of time and complication in the courtroom, as well as settings like hospitals.

ACCESS gives a walking tour of food businesses immigrants and their families started in Dearborn. Video

ACCESS gives a walking tour of food businesses immigrants and their families started in Dearborn. Video

In April 2015, Michigan lifted the restriction that said we couldn’t resettle any refugees who did not have a friend or family member in the area. Newcomers will be curious about how to start a new life here, meet people, invest their money in a business, a home, an education, a family.

Have the people you served changed?

Have you changed to include them?

2015 Community Economic Development Award Winners

CEDAM board and staff are pleased to recognize many people and organizations this year as key contributors to the community economic development field. Congratulations to all of our awardees!

Community Economic Development Leader of the Year

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Each year CEDAM recognizes a Community Economic Development Leader of the Year: a member who has engaged in creative new programming, been involved in an exciting new development, or has generally proved to be a leader in the field. The past year has been an extraordinary one, and CEDAM would like to recognize two Leaders doing very different work in different sides of the state: Urban Neighborhood Initiatives (UNI) in Detroit and Neighborhood Housing Services in Grand Haven.

uniUNI is a model for urban, place-based, community economic development. Located in the Southwest Detroit neighborhood of Springwells Village, UNI has undertaken significant public space development, including restoration of a historic chapel as a community center and the creation or restoration of five public parks and play-scapes. UNI is invested in creating a higher education bound culture in their community and their youth apprenticeship program is one of the largest in Southwest Detroit. For UNI, community beautification is key to a neighborhood’s quality of life. Its youth mural program has created one of the city’s densest collections of public art and ongoing resident-driven efforts against blight. UNI believes that all urban neighborhoods should be generational places to live, work and play.

fecNeighborhood Housing Services (NHS) understands that making homeownership sustainable requires residents who are educated, so while NHS provides homeowner and foreclosure counseling and a DHS navigation site for people to sign up for their benefits, they have also integrated financial empowerment services into the mix. Through a new Financial Empowerment Center, Ottawa County residents can get a free appointment with a financial counselor to make and meet goals like reducing debt, increasing savings and improving credit scores. NHS partnered with the County Treasurer to refer people at risk of tax foreclosure to the Financial Empowerment Center to help them stay in their home, and also with a local judge to refer clients who are transitioning out of the criminal system and need to pay debts and get their financial lives back in order.

Community Economic Development Advocate of the Year

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The Community Economic Development Advocate of the Year award goes to an organization or individual who has done the most to advance community economic development in Michigan. This year, CEDAM is recognizing two award winners, as they are both incredibly deserving: Marjorie Green and Jonathan Bradford. Both have spent their careers dedicated to community economic development, served as CEDAM board members and worked to improve Michigan for all of its residents.

marjorie-greenMarjorie has made a huge impact in the CED field across Michigan and Indiana. She spent a number of years at MSHDA as the Director of Community Development and then Director of Multifamily Housing and Construction. More recently she has been known for her work as the Community Investment Development Manager at the Federal Home Loan Bank of Indianapolis (FHLBI), where she connected millions of dollars of much needed FHLBI funding to some of Michigan’s most renown affordable housing and community investment initiatives carried out by organizations like Avalon Housing, Dwelling Place, ICCF, Goodwill, HomeStretch Housing, and local Habitat for Humanity affiliates.

jonathan-bradfordJonathan has been the President and CEO of the Inner City Christian Federation (ICCF) since 1981, starting out with 9 employees reconstructing 3 single family homes a year. ICCF has now constructed or reconstructed over 660 units of housing. Today, ICCF employs 40 talented individuals who serve 2,200 households annually. The organization has become a model for affordable housing and community economic development, as its programs develop attractive ownership and rental housing and provide resident services that enable housing success and broader life accomplishment. Jonathan was also a founder of CEDAM and the first President of its board.

Michigan Foreclosure Prevention Corps Host Site of the Year

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The Michigan Foreclosure Prevention Corps Host Site of the Year award is presented annually to recognize a MFPC host site dedicated to making a difference in the communities they serve and who exemplifies the spirit of national service. This year’s winner is Northern Homes Community Development Corporation located in Boyne City. Northern Homes is an organization who doesn’t allow its small number of staff to stop it from creating big improvements in communities. Northern Homes was incorporated 1998 and serves ten counties in northern Michigan with their Foreclosure Prevention programs.

Northern Homes has hosted Michigan Foreclosure Prevention Corps members since the program’s inception in 2009. Executive Director Jane MacKenzie and host site supervisor Alice Yeoman provide excellent support to their members. Current member Amy Evans is in her fourth year of service and has had the opportunity to take a variety of NeighborWorks trainings and attend MSHDA housing counseling certification due to Northern Homes’ support. Member Marsha Stahmer, who is in her first year of service with MFPC, has also received MSHDA housing counseling certification. It is clear that Northern Homes understands the value of MFPC members and invests in their professional development.

The MFPC members at Northern Homes build capacity in a variety of ways. Amy and Marsha facilitate financial literacy classes, host community forums in their service area, build relationships with County Treasurers’ offices and streamline the intake and triage process. “The AmeriCorps members have helped Northern Homes provide more services to more people. As a result of their service, we have been able to host 5 community outreach events to help us reach more clients and develop more community partnerships” says Jane MacKenzie, Executive Director.

New CEDAM Resources

Your organization has limited capacity and each person (if you’re lucky to have staff) is doing more than one job. In the nonprofit world, this is a common situation, with some of these extra “duties as assigned” beyond the scope of your skills and understanding.

CEDAM has identified areas where we can help you.

Interns

After a recent networking event at the University of Michigan, we learned that there are many Urban & Regional Planning Masters students who are interested in the community economic development field and want to hit the ground running. Knowing that many CEDAM members can benefit from this capacity, particularly from those with a background and interest, we created a members-only webpage with students who would love an opportunity to gain experience.

Whether you have an established internship program or not, it might be a good idea to take a look at the eager candidates and see if there’s a fit within your organization this summer or in the future.

As this program develops, we want to work with both universities and CEDAM members to fill a need in both organizations and opportunities for students to engage and learn about the industry. We are interested in hearing any feedback you may have regarding this new opportunity.

Visit this new web page with prospective interns here: cedam.info/interns.

Are you interested in posting an internship, or want to know more? Contact Lisa Assenmacher at lisa@cedam.info.

Marketing & Communications

We hear a lot that marketing and communications is a challenge for CEDAM members. There are little resources and understanding of how it works, and who has time for it anyway?

Honestly, you really can’t afford not to spend some time planning and understanding your marketing and communications. Taking some time as a collective organization to thoughtfully outline priorities and action items will save you grief in the long run, and provide measurable results that you can use to:

  • Build awareness, trust and clientele
  • Diversify your funding sources
  • Identify unrestricted funding
  • Reinvest more in your mission
  • And more!

To help you, we created a communication planning and basic marketing plan toolkit. Both are filled with worksheets, examples, explanations and guidance to help you make informed decisions with your limited resources and staff. At the very least, it can help ensure that your organization is all working toward the same goals

Visit this members-only web page to download the toolkits here: cedam.info/resources/library/marketing.

If you are interested in learning more about membership and the full range of benefits, please visit cedam.info/membership.

If you have any questions, or need help, please contact Lisa Assenmacher at lisa@cedam.info.

 

People & Places: Part 4 (of 4)

CEDAM’s national partner NACEDA, along with several other organizations, hosted the People & Places Conference in Washington D.C. March 4-6 bringing together community-based organizations from every corner of the country to showcase the effectiveness, resolve and passion of those working daily to improve lives in America’s most challenged neighborhoods. This was an opportunity to share what’s working in your community, inspire one another and raise your voice on behalf of the community that you serve. Thanks to NACEDA, we were able to provide scholarship assistance to four CEDAM members to attend. Over the next few weeks, we will hear from each of those members about their experiences at the conference in this blog series.

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The third in the four part series is by Aaron Goodman, the Community Engagement Manager at CDAD. 

People & Places

by Aaron Goodman

Last month, with the generous support of CEDAM, I had the privilege to travel to Washington D.C. and attend a convening of community development practitioners from across the county, the People & Places Community Conference. The conference title was truly apt and set the stage for workshops and discussions emphasizing community development’s mandate to not only build healthy and vibrant places in underserved neighborhoods, but to do so in true partnership and collaboration with the people who live, work, and play in the community.

The conference was an amazing opportunity to discuss the big ideas and principles of community development, breaking down silos between sectors within the industry, and focusing on the truly transformational potential of our work.  The lofty ideals were grounded in great breakout sessions focused on learning from the successes and challenges of so many inspiring advocates and leaders engaged in the real world work of building opportunity and community assets and power.

While attending the conference, I actively shared the experience via CDAD’s twitter account. To get a taste of the presentations and conversations that took place, please view this Storify from my three days at People and Places.

Coming from CDAD, Detroit’s association of community development organizations, I was eager to learn from those engaged in new models of community development across the country and look forward to applying this experience to our work in Detroit. With tracks focusing on “Community Control”, “Capital Flow”, “Neighborhood Level Economies”, and “Thriving People”, the breadth and depth of topics covered did not disappoint. The following are three of the recurring themes and learnings that I found most compelling throughout the conference.

Racial Justice and Building a Diverse and Inclusive Community Development Movement

People and Places was brought about by a unique collaboration of the National Alliance of Community Economic Development Associations (NACEDA), the National Urban League, the National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders (NALCAB), and the National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development (National CAPACD). In the opening plenary, NALCAB Director Noel Poyo stated that community development is “the next step in the civil rights movement” and the intentional leadership of these organizations focused the dialogue on racial justice both within the formal program and in informal conversations. Because so many community development organizations work and invest in communities of color that have faced decades of discrimination, segregation, red-lining, and disinvestment, our movement in inextricably bound with struggles for inclusion and justice both historical and present day. Community development has to walk the talk and working for racial justice does not just happen “out” in the community. Representation and inclusion of the communities we aim to serve must be ever-present in how our organizations operate internally as well. We often observe in Detroit and Michigan that community development organizations need to do a better job of hiring and developing leaders that reflect the communities they serve. The participants at People and Places demonstrated what the result of a concerted effort to recruit, hire, and develop talented community builders could be. It was truly inspiring to meet so many passionate and dedicated young leaders of color at the conference, who are doing the work to expand opportunities for decent housing, economic inclusion, and strong communities.

Transactions and Transforming Communities

The truth is that much of the day to day in the professional field of community development focuses on transactions: fulfilling program requirement to deliver community services, completing a real-estate deal to build affordable housing, seeking funding sources to keep the doors open. This was a recurring theme during the conference, as speakers and panels urged us to consider if such ‘transactions’ are serving the overall goal for creating transformation in our communities. Transactions are a necessary reality, but lose meaning if residents do not have access to participate and act as stakeholders in the process. At the heart of community development is the movement to put development decisions and future of neighborhoods in the hands of the residents. As a true community-led movement, we must re-emphasize organizing, community building, and engagement to ensure that the residents of the historically disinvested neighborhoods we work in are able to define their future and seize the opportunities to create more just and inclusive communities.

Community Development Response to Gentrification

Gentrification was a hot topic throughout the conference and was a particular focus of the ‘Community Control’ session track. There was robust discussion of the policy decisions that are driving rising housing costs in “hot market” cities such as D.C. and San Francisco and how community advocates and development organizations are working to preserve affordability and communities vulnerable to cultural and physical displacement. Examples such as negotiating for community benefits agreements (Sommerville , MA and soon in Detroit), establishing an affordable housing trust fund (funded for more than $100 million in D.C.), and creating Eco-Districts (Los Angeles, San Francisco, and coming to Detroit) were highlighted as community-based strategies to expand low and moderate-income housing options for those who are threatened by rising development pressures. The role of community planning and support for implementing these community identified priorities was emphasized as important for improving quality of life while also ensuring future inclusion as market conditions change. Community planning is a very important part of our work at CDAD and it was great to learn about the successes of Cornerstone West CDC in Wilmington, DE in creating the West Side Grows together Plan and then implementing the community’s vision. The nature of community change is certainly different in Detroit from other cities, and it is even a point of contention whether gentrification is happening in the city. However, it is clear that in target areas of intense investment such as Midtown and Downtown, housing costs are rising quickly and the threat of displacement for long-time residents is real. We are seeing the beginning stages of a process that has played out in the “hot market” cities. However, we also have a great opportunity in Detroit to proactively manage and plan for development differently and in a way that protects and includes existing low-income communities. It is the natural role for community development organizations to take this opening and to create inclusive communities of opportunity for all, and the time is now for Detroiters to take the lead.

 

People & Places: Part 3 (of 4)

CEDAM’s national partner NACEDA, along with several other organizations, hosted the People & Places Conference in Washington D.C. March 4-6 bringing together community-based organizations from every corner of the country to showcase the effectiveness, resolve and passion of those working daily to improve lives in America’s most challenged neighborhoods. This was an opportunity to share what’s working in your community, inspire one another and raise your voice on behalf of the community that you serve. Thanks to NACEDA, we were able to provide scholarship assistance to four CEDAM members to attend. Over the next few weeks, we will hear from each of those members about their experiences at the conference in this blog series.

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The third in the four part series is by Char Seise, the Neighborhood Development Coordinator with the City of Grand Haven

People & Places

by Char Seise

Have you ever tried to live within your means? If so, you’ll know that it is difficult because the kids get sick, the car breaks down or that old bill collector finds your new phone number. Maybe you have never had this experience personally, but many of the clients we work with struggle daily regarding their finances. So, what do you do? Many have found success in budget counseling through a local non-profit agency. But experience has shown budget counseling is different than Financial Coaching.

Financial Coaching is the process of working one on one with a qualified professional financial advocate that can help a person understand their finances in a way that will prepare them for making financial decisions for a lifetime. Financial Empowerment Coaches work with individuals to establish goals for savings, debt reduction, improving credit and evaluating financial products.

At the People and Places conference, I had the opportunity to present with other panelists from LISC and NEIGHBORWORKS about the value of integrating Financial Coaching services into existing programs and services. All clients that participate in the City of Grand Haven’s programs are expected to meet with a financial empowerment coach and establish their individual financial goals. Whether looking for down payment assistance to purchase a home or dealing with a financial crisis, residents within our county have access to FREE, personalized one on one coaching to set them up for achieving their financial goals.

Thank you NACEDA for the opportunity to meet other professionals that care about their communities and for bringing us all together to learn, grow and be inspired to continue this work and make a difference in our communities!

Arts & Culture Helping Michigan Communities

In a recent blog post, we introduced creative placemaking as a positive outlet to understand, interact and connect with our communities through arts and culture, otherwise known as the creative sector. To further dive into the benefits of the integration of arts & culture into communities, I attended the Creative Convergence on March 19 at Eastern Michigan University hosted by the Arts Alliance and partners working to leverage and promote the creative sector.

The Creative Convergence

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The road to vibrant communities relies on the intersection of Michigan’s creative, economic development, education, environment, health, government, philanthropic, placemaking and tourism sectors. The creative sector is at the forefront of the next phase of Michigan communities, with opportunities to strengthen the economy with big social impacts. Thought leaders and innovators from across the country led sessions devoted to describing best practices, common challenges and potential solutions to attract jobs, talent and offer residents a creative place to live.

Success Story Highlights Include:

  • Requiring a percentage of construction and development costs to be allocated for public art that is innovative and thought provoking.
  • Partnering with an environmental policy issue to pass legislation establishing a steady revenue source dedicated to the creative sector.
  • Strengthening a city’s brand and marketing campaign to establish cultural destinations.
  • Establishing an educational platform for creative individuals to learn skills and give back to their communities and spark innovation
full report: http://www.creativemany.org/creativestatenonprofit/

Click to view the full report.

The Creative Sector Helps Communities

From the perspective of a community finding and articulating their voice, arts and culture helps to express values, build bridges and find ways to connect with one another. The arts help support local businesses, stimulate job growth and drives tourism.

Proof in the Numbers

  • Michigan arts & cultural organizations welcomed 25,785,806 visitors, as reported by the Creative Many 2015 nonprofit report. That is enough to fill Comerica Park 618 times.
  • The Michigan creative community had $595,362,649 in direct expenditures in fiscal year 2012.
  • There are 25,900 jobs in the creative industry in Michigan with $199,690,556 in salaries and $15 million in payroll taxes.
  • Research done by the University of Pennsylvania has demonstrated that cities with a high concentration of the arts have more social cohesion, higher civic engagement, higher child well-being and lower poverty rates. (data source: Americans for the Arts)

It’s clear that supporting the creative sector in your community is an advantageous pursuit for the people within it and those you hope will visit. How does your community support arts and culture?

Missed the Creative Convergence? The Detroit Public Television’s recording from the day is available on the Arts Alliance website.

 

 

Delray Neighborhood, Detroit

Delray resident Scott Brines points at a house in the neighborhood. “This house should be white.”

delray

The house is located near a metal processing plant, one of many different industries that at this point have practically consumed the Delray neighborhood. Scott looks at the rust-tinted house. “People have been breathing in that fine metal dust for years and years.”

The scene is from the mini documentary Living with Industry: Detroit, Michigan, recently released by Community Development Advocates of Detroit (CDAD).

Anyone who knows Detroit realizes Delray doesn’t represent every area of the city – especially not places that are flourishing and the neighborhoods far from the factories – but it does make for a depressing caricature of a dying neighborhood. Historically the area was zoned mostly as commercial despite the fact it was then heavily populated by residents. As industry grew, the waterfront disappeared and the neighborhood became more isolated from the rest of the city many chose to leave. The residents who remain today do so because it’s their home. That, or they don’t have the resources to move. Considering what people know about the effects of heavy industry on health, on the health of their children, who would stay if they truly had a choice?

delray2Another neighborhood resident shows a picture her daughter drew of car exhaust clouding over their home. The local Reverend says the area has the highest rate of asthma in a City that already has a rate 1.5x that of anywhere else in the state. Addition of a new bridge to Canada will result in demolition and relocation of 700 residents. Those left will breathe in twice the amount of car emissions from increased traffic.

But what would this riverfront neighborhood look like if, before all those industries located there, they implemented Community Benefits Agreements? If every one of the industries contributed directly to the neighborhood in the form of jobs, investment, or amenities? This gets to the argument of the video: without Community Benefits Agreements, residents may see none of the benefit and all of the cost of living near large footprint industry. Without an Agreement in place, the end result is Delray.

Residents today continue to seek fair treatment and improved quality of life through organized groups like the Southwest Detroit Community Benefits Coalition.

The film is available online at https://youtu.be/912_5FjcO1E.

People & Places: Part 2 (of 4)

CEDAM’s national partner NACEDA, along with several other organizations, hosted the People & Places Conference in Washington D.C. March 4-6 bringing together community-based organizations from every corner of the country to showcase the effectiveness, resolve and passion of those working daily to improve lives in America’s most challenged neighborhoods. This was an opportunity to share what’s working in your community, inspire one another and raise your voice on behalf of the community that you serve. Thanks to NACEDA, we were able to provide scholarship assistance to four CEDAM members to attend. Over the next few weeks, we will hear from each of those members about their experiences at the conference in this blog series.

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The second in the four part series is by Denise Paquette who works with the Allen Neighborhood Center in Lansing.

People & Places

by Denise Paquette

On March 6, I attended the People & Places Conference in Washington D.C. There, I participated in the Thriving People Sessions, focusing on healthy and age-friendly communities.

Healthy Communities

The Healthy Communities Kickoff began the day featuring panelists from the Mission Economic Development Agency, Community Catalyst and the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. Discussions touched on the social determinants of health and healthy communities, as well as the effect of the Affordable Care Act on funding and the role that nonprofit hospitals can play in the improvement of a community’s health. There was also a discussion about how the health people in abutting zip codes can be vastly different. An example was that in California the average age of death can vary by as much as 10 years! There is a public campaign to let residents know about this inequality, with the goal of effecting policy.

The panelists shared sources for data regarding the social and economic determinants of health. These sources include Community Connect (which maps data), Federal Reserve’s “Policy Maps,” Community Catalyst, Green Living Institute, Lincoln Land Institute, Hilltop Institute and the Wilder Foundation.

Age-Friendly Communities

The second session was Age-Friendly Communities with panelists from East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation, National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC), AARP Foundation and National Center for Creative Aging.

Creative aging, or flourishing across the spectrum of aging was an interesting point of discussion. To put it in perspective, we did an exercise to consider aging to look like. A presentation followed about people who are aging in community, participating in artistic and cultural activities and are active members of their communities. This visualization tool helped us all understand that reality is far different from perception, and that aging doesn’t necessarily take form in an isolated retirement community or by living alone.

There is a trend of communities, nonprofits and faith-based communities taking over the traditional family role in caring for the aging. Health and human service agencies are addressing long-term care and the economics of the poor aging. With 10,000 people turning 65 every day, there is a need to foster age friendly lifestyles, for both human and economic reasons. There is evidence that creative aging increases health and reduces health issues as well as depression.

An important concern relates to housing and cost of housing for aging, a discussion led by the AARP Foundation described. 50% of those over 50 years old are paying more than 30% of their income for housing. The majority (90%) of this aging population wants to remain in their homes, or in age in place as it’s described. However, in order to do so, they must be in compliance with the aging in place criteria, with only 1% of housing nationwide accomplishing this. Fortunately, the AARP’s Housing Solution Center offers a variety of programs, and assistance in foreclosure prevention is one example that can help seniors be in a better position.

The NCRC discussed finance issues that affect elders. Specifically, 29% of older adult households are at economic risk, and 78% are financially vulnerable. $2.9 billion in elder financial abuse annually – this number is suspected to be lower than actual, due to the large number of unreported cases where friends and family are the perpetrators. Additionally, one-third of older adults say that they could not come up with $2,000 if there was an emergency, a scary statistic.

Age-friendly banking principals include training bank personnel in fraud prevention, customizing financial products and series such as view only accounts (so that another person can look at the account, but not access it) and no penalty accounts. Increasing accessibility by branches, hours and simple technology. Age-friendly banking is also beneficial to aging in place – examples include CAPABLE, a program in Baltimore that combines home repair with occupational and pain management, and ESOP Senior Property Tax Loan Program, which leverages private funds to loan seniors up to $5,000 for property tax payment assistance (so homes are not lost due to property tax arrearages).

Finally, the East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation discussed the agency’s strategic plan based on the social determinants of health. As mentioned earlier, place has an effect on health. The agency focused on a 1 ½ mile corridor, with a goal of making it an age-friendly corridor. At either end of the corridor, the neighborhoods had gentrified. The agency conducted a community assessment, developed leadership, trained and engaged residents in civic advocacy and offered mini-grants to residents. In a two year time frame 43 leaders were trained, 225 individuals received services, and $7,000 was awarded to mini-grant recipients.

Lessons learned included:

  • Value of being present in senior housing center – even if people don’t participate in a class that is being held in a common area, as they are in the common area and are hearing what is being discussed.
  • Program barriers are usually also age friendly barriers (location of services, times of day, etc)
  • Intergenerational and integrated programs offer more to the seniors

Additional thoughts from the session:

  • Banking is a BIG deal
  • Intergenerational development includes housing, libraries, banks, etc
  • Neighbors as caregivers – this can be a way for neighbors to be employed, and provide services to those aging in community.
  • PACE – (Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly) is a Medicare and Medicaid program that helps people meet their health care needs in the community instead of going to a nursing home or other care facility.

Overall, this session was inspiring and gave me ideas to share with a group of senior women who feel that they cannot age in place in their current homes, but do want to age in the neighborhood. I am going to share the information that I learned at the session, to help them as they start to make decisions on how they want to proceed.

People & Places: Part 1 (of 4)

CEDAM’s national partner NACEDA, along with several other organizations, hosted the People & Places Conference in Washington D.C. March 4-6 bringing together community-based organizations from every corner of the country to showcase the effectiveness, resolve and passion of those working daily to improve lives in America’s most challenged neighborhoods. This was an opportunity to share what’s working in your community, inspire one another and raise your voice on behalf of the community that you serve. Thanks to NACEDA, we were able to provide scholarship assistance to four CEDAM members to attend. Over the next few weeks, we will hear from each of those members about their experiences at the conference in this blog series.

Banner with partner logos

The first in the four part series is by Rosa Robinson who serves as a Michigan Foreclosure Prevention Corps Member at Elder Law in Lansing.

People & Places

by Rosa Robinson

When I attended the first People and Places conference in Washington, DC, I had no idea what to expect. The 2.5 day conference was comprised of sessions on neighborhood/economic development, gentrification, racial justice and building small businesses. Individuals from practitioners to elected officials from across the country attended the event to network and learn effective community building strategies.

I attended sessions that addressed head on the disparities in neighborhood development such as substandard/unaffordable housing, racial profiling, and limited entrepreneurial opportunities. Strategies were also discussed. The strategies included advocacy work, forming coalitions, reframing public policy, creating affordable housing and the need to change the political environment. The conversations were thought-provoking and at times spirited. The conference showed me that this epidemic is real and it affects everyone. Fortunately, there are people who recognize that and are fanatical about seeking justice for underrepresented communities. It was evident that even though strides have been made to help communities thrive, we still have a long way to go.