CEDAM Blog

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Membership Spotlight: AmeriCorps at Lakeshore Resource Network

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Written by Kaylee Kellogg, Communications Intern; In Collaboration with Stevie Chilcote, VISTA Leader

In our newest additions to our Membership Spotlight series, CEDAM will be featuring organizations across the state where our AmeriCorps VISTA members are serving communities.

The Lakeshore Resource Network

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“The organization was designed by the community to help us all work together to better serve our local families in need.”

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On the coast of Lake Michigan sits the city of Ludington. While a beautiful city, those in the area face a number of challenges, with poverty and the working poor being a huge concern. It is also a rural area, and challenges come along with this as well, including transportation and consistent work. In all these areas, this is where the Lakeshore Resource Network (LRN) comes in to help.

2ea7e0_82af72c218f3400097e96b7637c22e11-gifThe LRN is not only important, but vital to community members. Board member Monica Schuyler says this is because “it is empowering the community. The organization was designed by the community to help us all work together to better serve our local families in need.” Within the network’s building, they house offices for the Lakeshore Food Club, Pennies from Heaven Foundation, the United Way of Mason County, MIWorks West Central, Staircase Youth Services, Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity and True North Community Services, along with work stations for a number of other organizations. It aims to be a one stop shop for any needs the community has. While this is certainly admirable, it is also a huge job. As Schuyler puts it, “No one person at our foundation or in the community could dedicate themselves full time to help develop and expand the LRN.”

AmeriCorps VISTA member Sarah McMahon Joins the Team

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“[…] it takes a special person to leave a career working over 60 hours a week in order to serve their community, but Sarah McMahon did just that.”

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sarahThat is, until they applied for an AmeriCorps VISTA member. As proposed by John F. Kennedy, VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America) was founded in 1964 to combat poverty and has a strong commitment to capacity building for nonprofits. It sounds cliche, but AmeriCorps is a calling. There is a living stipend, but members are compensated with an educational award, practical experience and a nationwide support network. Regardless of the compensation, it takes a special person to leave a career working over 60 hours a week in order to serve their community, but Sarah McMahon did just that.

McMahon says “I joined AmeriCorps because I was looking for a career change. I wanted to be a change maker and I had an opportunity in my hometown to make a difference.” As an AmeriCorps VISTA member at LRN, McMahon has done various types of work, including “[putting] ideas into action, fine tuning policies and procedures and taking time to meet with [various community members].” McMahon is doing everything from picking out the refrigerators for the food pantry to writing grant applications for multimodal transportation in Ludington. Board member Schuyler continues by saying they are grateful to have her. “Sarah in particular came on board because she loved the idea of the LRN, and it is clear she is passionate about the work and wants to make a difference in the community.”

To hear more from McMahon about the Lakeshore Resource Network, click here. If you’re interested in learning more about AmeriCorps and the VISTA program, click here. We’d like to thank Monica Schuyler, Sarah McMahon and the Lakeshore Resource Network for their cooperation in writing this blog.

memberspotlight-smallMembership Spotlight are blogs highlighting the great work that our member organizations do within their communities. If you are a CEDAM member and would like to be featured, please contact Lisa Assenmacher at lisa@cedam.info.

6 Reasons Why Organizations Should Invest in Online Video

Written by Paul Schmidt, Production Manager at UnoDeuce Multimedia

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“If you plan to have a foothold in the social media space, then adding online video is the very next step and it should be part of your online persona.”

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computer-767781_1920In today’s world, a relative majority of the population has access to the Internet. Along with that comes the opportunity to interact with organizations, and gives organizations the opportunity to reach out and show what they are all about. One of the best ways to do this is through the use of online video. It’s probably a decision you should be making when thinking of any marketing plan. If you plan to have a foothold in the social media space, then adding online video is the very next step and it should be part of your online persona. Why? Well, here are a few reasons:

1.) You know your field

You are the expert in your field. You have control of your story and have to set yourself apart. What better way to do that than by showing what you can do?

2.) Online Video is Popular Among Nearly All Internet Users

More and more people are watching video online. A recent statistic showed 82% of Internet users watch online video. That is all users, not just teens and millennials.

3.) You’re in control of what you’re putting out

You control the distribution, content within, and length both of the video and availability of viewing.

4.) Online Video makes you easier to find

It increases your Google ranking with organic search. Videos entice people to spend more time on your site once they find it, and the amount of time the average user spends on your site is a part of Google’s rank algorithm, increasing your rank.

youtube-1614709_12805.) The most popular Online Video site, YouTube, is easy and free to use

YouTube, the second most used search engine in the world, links with all of your social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter, etc. and offers embed codes and links to paste to your website and e-mails. YouTube also keeps your video on their server, so you don’t have to worry about taking up your server space or bandwidth. On top of all this, it’s free!

6.) Online Video interacts with viewers in multiple ways

Video uses more than one of your senses, both sight and sound, that leads to a retention rate of over 65%.

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“[…] give them another reason to stay and keep coming back by showing off what you can do.”

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Those are just a few of the many reasons to add online video to your social media toolbox, and to have it play a major part in your overall marketing strategy. Living in a society that wants to choose what they watch and when they want to watch, it’s a must to go online. If you have built or are in the midst of building your audience, give them another reason to stay and keep coming back by showing off what you can do.

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linkedin_profile_2404_2Paul Schmidt has been a visual storyteller for as long as he can remember and decided to turn that into a career. He chose video as his medium and his award winning style has been seen nationally as well as praised locally. A self-proclaimed community proponent and pro-Michigan advocate, he owns and is production director for UnoDeuce Multimedia which is celebrating its 6th year in Lansing. Paul was just recently awarded the 2015 Entrepreneur Institute Micro-Entrepreneur of the Year.

AmeriCorps: Those Who are Willing to Serve

Written by Stevie Chilcote, VISTA Leader

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“I feel that these life changes that I am making would not be possible without AmeriCorps offering me this incredible opportunity.”

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AmeriCorpsAmeriCorps has always been bigger than one person. Since John F. Kennedy proposed a national service corps in 1963, over one million members have chosen to serve. Each member is unique and has a story to tell, but together our impact can be even greater. After serving with the Northeast Michigan Community Service Agency during the foreclosure crisis, Apollo Schuch summed up his service: “I am so grateful to be able to be a part of such an amazing program that not only helps those living in the community around me but also in the organizations that assist those individuals.” Apollo’s service is powerful, but even more so when added to the other 30,000+ hours the Foreclosure Corps served providing over 4,500 people with assistance.

Serving through AmeriCorps can also bring the opportunity to bring a new twist to a community’s history. Tori Dillinger, who has a passion for historical preservation, put a whole new spin on it for Milan Main Street by spotlighting the haunted buildings in her community, which was, as she put it, “a really fun experience” that she was not expecting to get to do.

Finding Your Way

Sometimes your service can even push you to investigate a career you never considered. Mandy Barlow was the mother of two teenage boys when she taught financial literacy at a juvenile detention center for young women. She had no idea how to plan for the life they imagined for themselves. During her service, she started looking into ways to continue her own education so that she could help more youth make productive contributions in her community. “I feel that these life changes that I am making would not be possible without AmeriCorps offering me this incredible opportunity.”

Those who serve have the opportunity to grow and learn during their AmeriCorps experience in unexpected ways, but it creates a supportive network nationwide. Sarah McMahon ended up meeting a woman who served as a VISTA in one of the first programs in the 1960s, while explaining to a board of directors about her AmeriCorps service with the Lakeshore Resource Network. For her, it proved that we are “part of something bigger than [ourselves]” and “bigger than our organizations as well.” Sarah’s supervisor said that she has “allowed our organizational capacity to rapidly expand to allow us to take ideas into action.”

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“[AmeriCorps members] get things done for non-profits, communities and families that may never have been accomplished without someone willing to serve, and we love doing it!”

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More Than a Year of Service

An AmeriCorps member in training once asked me, “Why so many years of service?” As I looked back over two years of Peace Corps, two years of AmeriCorps State and the year of AmeriCorps VISTA in front of me, the first thing that came to mind wasn’t the gardens built, the energy conservation lessons or conference presentations. It was all the amazing people I have met over the years. The dedicated individuals who put their idealism to work in a way that makes a visible difference in their communities and touches the lives of millions. They get things done for non-profits, communities and families that may never have been accomplished without someone willing to serve, and we love doing it!

These members and the million others who came before have inspired me through four years of service and continues to push me every day to be the change and to better my community. AmeriCorps serves where there is need and fights poverty on every front. They teach environmental conservation, respond to disasters, support veterans, write grants, manage volunteers, preserve history, make history and create a future for communities nationwide. Why be average, when you can be AmeriCorps? Learn more about AmeriCorps and the VISTA program here.

AmeriCorps in Michigan

Michigan Cities Through the Eyes of NACEDA’s Executive Director

Written by Kaylee Kellogg, Communications Intern

michigan-23565_1280Michigan: a state that can display the growth and prominence of great times, as well as how to pull through and endure difficult circumstances. Certain cities continue to grow exponentially, while others are struggling to  draw citizens back in. Recently, the National Alliance of Community Economic Development Associations (NACEDA) executive director, Frank Woodruff, used his visit to three prominent Michigan cities to create a blog series that he described as a “Goldilocks-themed tour of Michigan.”

Grand Rapids – Hot

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“As the second largest populated city in the state, Grand Rapids is hitting a peak in growth.”

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In Woodruff’s first post of the series, he was able to visit the bustling city of Grand Rapids. As the second largest populated city in the state, Grand Rapids is hitting a peak in growth. Due to this, though, the city is having to innovate how to invest in local attractions and housing. One of the ways they are doing so is to support Grand Rapid’s own businesses in creating these areas, rather than counting on outside businesses. This helps the city’s own workers get the jobs they need to continue to draw people in.

inner_city_christian_federationAs far as housing for such a large population, the city has the capacity for large growth – they just need to make sure many of the homes they are offering are up to par. This is where a number of CDC’s that double as real estate developers come in, such as Grand Rapids’ own Inner City Christian Federation (ICCF). These nonprofits acquire struggling areas of property and find groups or organizations that want to flip them into houses that hopeful homeowners would want to buy. While the strategy can be a hit-or-miss, it seems to be suiting Grand Rapids just find to fulfill the demand.

Read Frank Woodruff’s full Grand Rapids article here.

Flint – Cold

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“Houses were being abandoned in all areas due to the water crisis. It is a struggle the city shares, regardless of status.”

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Once a bustling city, Flint has taken the center stage of struggling cities in Michigan. Declines in manufacturing work and public revenue have taken their toll on the once prosperous city; then the water crisis hit, and added to the cities issues.

flint_water_tower275One story Woodruff began to tell was driving through different neighborhoods in Flint. Some that he encountered were as Flint has been displayed nationally since the water crisis started: downtrodden neighborhoods with unkempt homes, overgrown lawns and dirty surroundings. The only active businesses to be seen in these areas were “storefront churches, auto and payday lenders”. On the other hand, some neighborhoods seemed to be doing well. Homes were well kept and looked cozy, but nonetheless, homes were empty here as well. Houses were being abandoned in all areas due to the water crisis. It is a struggle the city shares, regardless of status.

Unfortunately, the city had few truly active CDC’s before the water crisis, but these groups are now being kicked into high gear to address Flint’s citizens. The Mott Foundation, an LISC office, has promised to contribute $100 million dollars to help in Flint’s recovery. Neighborhood foundations can expect money to be coming their way to help hire and train new staff to help the communities they serve. Although it may take some time, help is on the way for Flint, and hopefully this help will turn around the condition of the city.

Read Frank Woodruff’s full Flint article here.

Lansing – Just About Right

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“Lansing is a city with ‘innovative’ written all over it”

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michigan-1191024_1920When pondering on Lansing, the phrase “making it work” comes to mind. Lansing doesn’t have the size of other cities, nor does it have the demand for new housing. What Lansing has is the balance to use the space, size and resources they do have to make a great city.

Lansing is a city with “innovative” written all over it. The example that Woodruff brings up when discussing this point is Lansing’s Financial Empowerment Center. This service provides hands-on counseling to residents on a number of financial topics. While the service is powering along to help citizens, it is also not self-sustainable as of now. Only 1/3 of costs to run the center are paid through their own resources; the rest are generous donations. While this is great for now, Lansing is well aware they cannot run the office forever counting on philanthropy. They have plans to roll out the program statewide, with pilot operations in several key cities across Michigan. The same story can be told for CDC’s in Lansing, which are often highly multi-faceted in the work they’re involved in.

Along with the “making it work” mentality, Woodruff described Lansing as a place that is just “fun”. The city often has a variety of festivals, sporting events and places to visit that make both visitors and citizens enjoy their time there.

Read Frank Woodruff’s full Lansing article here.

 

Food Forward MI: Farm to Institution: A Supply Chain Opportunity (Part 2)

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This is part two of a two part series. To read part one, click here.

Regional economic partnership can build a local, healthy food supply chain

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“The challenge in expanding the local food systems is to match the cost and convenience of customary distributors.”

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cherries-1268235_1920Across Michigan through partnership support from philanthropic, health, academic, government, business and nonprofit organizations, consumer education initiatives and new market development is helping drive demand. Saginaw Mayor Dennis Browning says, “More people are getting interested in local healthy foods and farm-to-table.” He notes this has been a major part of the success of new restaurants downtown and on the city’s west side. Researching how local Saginaw institutions make such local food purchasing decisions, Dayne Walling, Manager of 21st Century Performance notes, “The challenge in expanding the local food system is to match the cost and convenience of customary distributors.”

While developing a cost-effective local regional food supply chain challenges communities across Michigan, some municipalities are capitalizing on this problem as means for development. In Saginaw, new SVRC Industries food hub is working with the non-profit Downtown Saginaw Farmers’ Market, quasi-governmental Downtown Development Authority and statewide business Cherry Capital Foods (CCF) on employment, logistics, marketing, storage, outreach and education. Through this partnership, CCF will assist with the business and trucking operations while SVRC employees help CCF expand their local food supply nodes from the Upper, Central and Southeast Michigan out to the Thumb. The Farmers’ Market will be housed on the first level of this new development and help attract foot traffic, beautify the riverfront and act as a vendor host for many area businesses. Joint community outreach and education activities as well as fun for all ages will be available.

chef-1245676_1920In Tuscola county, economic developers are partnering with Mid-Michigan Restaurant Consultants, Tuscola Food Hub, East Central Planning Commission, Eastern Michigan Council of Governments, the Caro Farmers Market and Incubator Kitchen as well as the Small Business Development Center to develop a pilot for improved community food access and economic well-being. With additional support from the Thumb Area Tourism Council, Intermediate School District and Cass City Village Council and Chamber, this collaborative body is developing a five year vision with goals of: increasing access to healthy foods grown by local farmers; employing local talent (with particular emphasis on logistics), and; kick-starting entrepreneurship by working across traditionally silo’d organizations. Supply and value chain creation lie at the crux of this new partnership’s success.

“We are striving to build the essential gateway to greater community food access by partnering with our school districts, community organizations, Michigan Works, small to medium sized food entrepreneurs and food producers! We are a food desert in one of the lushest regions in the United States, and the highest organic producing area in Michigan. We have an opportunity to keep our kids here through this employment opportunity as well as feed our community. We achieve this by becoming the nonprofit that oversees this food aggregation/distribution function and making it a community highlight. This is why we’ve created the Greater Thumb Agri-business Center.” Vicky Sherry, President Greater Thumb Agri-business Corporation, Communications Director, Tuscola County EDC.

Going mainstream by paving the way to community health

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“Across Michigan as communities have worked together to test such ideas, efforts are beginning to bear fruit.”

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For those community collaboratives desiring to build a sustainable partnership or entity that provides such a sense of place, avenues for business logistics and expansion, health and well-being: market assessment is the first step. Gauging regional business desire for locally sourced foods and producer capacity is possible with the help of resources such as Michigan State University Extension and local farm market masters to understand who is buying, what and how much from whom. Whether urban or rural, opportunity exists to further connect suppliers with purchasers and the general public through hosting inclusive events such as community workshops, roundtable dialogues or “Meet the Buyers” events.

farmers-local-market-1547315_1920As business must first vision and then scale their goals, so too must community. Taking a note from the pages of supply chain development – strategy that creates a horizontal process to guide the flow of product across enterprise–communities at a macro level may also create partnerships to lead process for cross-sector place-making strategy, food access and jobs creation. At the micro level, these partnerships can also build the foundation from which to staff, market and facilitate the aggregation and distribution of local food to consumers. Across Michigan as communities have worked together to test such ideas, efforts are beginning to bear fruit.  By facilitating access to healthy, locally made food products, we also facilitate reduction of our carbon footprint and spur economic and public health. In the long run it may just be the same supply chain that carries local to mainstream also paves the way for community development to well-being.

For more information about supply chain strategy as a community well-being tool, please contact Mary ZumBrunnen, founder of One-Community Consulting at mary.zumbrunnen@gmail.com or connect with her on Twitter @OneCommCon. For more information about healthy food access initiatives, please contact Jessica AcMoody, CEDAM senior policy specialist at acmoody@cedam.info.

We hoped you’ve enjoyed the Food Forward Michigan blog series. This is our final post in the series.

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Glasses2About the author: Mary ZumBrunnen is the CEO of One-Community Consulting, a social enterprise connecting business, non-profit, academic and philanthropic organizations to empower vibrant community. She holds multiple degrees in agriculture and community development and is currently pursuing an MBA. Mary’s passion is fostering sustainable development through citizen engagement. Follow Mary on Twitter @Mary_ZumBrunnen. Learn more at one-communityconsulting.com.

Food Forward MI: Farm to Institution: A Supply Chain Opportunity – Part 1

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This is part one of a two-part series.

How does local go mainstream?

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“While some thought it was passing fancy, this movement is clearly not just for hipster foodies desiring an authentic experience.”

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farmers-1311017_1920“Growing Community,” “Know Your Farmer,” “Taste the Local Difference” and many other tag lines are helping build public awareness by highlighting opportunity to make a positive personal impact through buying locally grown and made food products. While some thought it was passing fancy, this movement is clearly not just for hipster foodies desiring an authentic experience. After more than a decade of data tracking, the results speak for themselves. Today, the USDA estimates that local food sales from farmers markets, food hubs, community-supported agriculture, farm stands and farm to school programs have more than doubled – growing from about $5 billion in sales in 2008 to $11.7 billion in 2014. This growth is in part due to an informed consumer base that actively researches and seeks certain products. Equally important, community support of increased access, such as that of non-profit collaboration, educational outreach and funding opportunity, have made it possible to expand clientele and experience.

The local food movement has typically implied literal physical movement to personally bring farmers and consumers together in direct sales transaction. Today, such inefficiency can prohibit Michigan business from expanding. In some ways this is an outlier in the Mitten’s otherwise growing agricultural industry. The supply and demand are documented, but connecting the two can be a challenge.  “Cultivate Michigan,” the Michigan State University Center for Regional Food SystemsFarm to Institution Network’s campaign to help organizations source 20% of their food from Michigan by 2020 has been working to track Michigan institution’s local buying habits throughout the state.  Across its 51 participating organizations, it is estimated that about 127,500 locally grown meals are served per day. For example, more than half of school food service member directors now report purchasing local foods – with more signing up every season – and nearly half of Michigan vegetable farmers indicate interest in selling produce to institutions.

Typically, the market economy would naturally help ramp this up….however, as small to mid-sized businesses attempt to scale, gaps in supply chain are prohibitive. Just think, how many eggs are daily necessary to feed one college cafeteria? How do those eggs get from many area farms to processing, storage and refrigeration into the chef’s hands? Getting “local” into everyone’s hands requires a supply chain to the mainstream.

Through the lens of a farmer…

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“Due to this, farmers must determine how volume, risk, when and where they sell impacts overall profit.”

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Often times the challenges of regional local food supply chain development affects the farmer more than consumers may realize. Produce will not wait to be harvested, talent shortages, transportation barriers, storage and a host of other challenges, including quality, freshness and appearance of product may be affected. Due to this, farmers must determine how volume, risk, when and where they sell impacts overall profit. St. John’s grower and CEO of the Learning Connection, Kristine Ranger, speaks to seasonality challenges: 

tuscany-428041_1280“The summer months are an extremely busy time period for growers and producers of all types. If vegetable growers sell at farmers markets, for example, these vendors most likely sell at several different locations each week. For many, the majority of their business income is generated from June through August revenues, so their main focus during that time is to sell, sell and sell some more!”

While small to mid-sized farmers are willing to expand, additional car time, staff time and day jobs typically hamper customer face time. Historically, those personal relationships have been critical to direct transactions. Today, in many cases, there is simply no return on additional production when it may rot on the limb with no guarantee of sale at the market. Yet consumer demand continues to rise…So who connects the dots providing necessary marketing, pick-up and delivery? It may just be that the non-profit sector can leverage strategies from supply chain development as a business crossover tool to kick start new community planning, placemaking and economic development.

For more information on Farm to Institution, please contact MSU Center for Regional Food Systems specialist, Colleen Matts at matts@msu.edu. For more information on local, healthy food access, please contact Jessica AcMoody, CEDAM senior policy specialist at acmoody@cedam.info.

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Glasses2About the author: Mary ZumBrunnen is the CEO of One-Community Consulting, a social enterprise connecting business, non-profit, academic and philanthropic organizations to empower vibrant community. She holds multiple degrees in agriculture and community development and is currently pursuing an MBA. Mary’s passion is fostering sustainable development through citizen engagement. Follow Mary on Twitter @Mary_ZumBrunnen. Learn more at one-communityconsulting.com.

Beyond the Public Meeting: Raising the Bar for Equitable Community Engagement

Written by Aaron Goodman, CDAD Community Engagement Manager

Equitable Public Involvement

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“When engagement is treated as an add-on to the “real” decision making or something that is done only to minimally satisfy legal or community requirements it leads to decisions, plans and developments that likely don’t reflect the input of the whole community.”

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cdad-blogWe’ve all been there: the dreaded community meeting that features more argument than dialogue, leaving residents feeling unheard and disempowered, while meeting organizers wonder why they are getting beat up by angry neighbors. This circumstance is linked to the fact that all too often, public meetings and hearings are looked at as the beginning and end of public engagement around policy and development decisions that affect local communities. When engagement is treated as an add-on to the “real” decision making or something that is done only to minimally satisfy legal or community requirements it leads to decisions, plans and developments that likely don’t reflect the input of the whole community. Such decisions can actually end up being more costly in time, money and energy as lack of meaningful community by-in and engagement at the front end of a process results in anger and organized opposition at the back end. So, if we know what an insufficient engagement process looks like, what exactly is good community engagement and how do you know you are doing it in an equitable manner?

Who Cares About Public Participation?

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“…A practical framework for analyzing various kinds of engagement strategies and tactics as they move from just informing the public to actually empowering residents in decision-making for the future of their communities.”

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This question was on my mind as I recently attended the International Association of Public Participation (IAP2) North American Conference. IAP2 members are community engagement professionals working in a range of fields and dedicated to promoting a holistic approach to engagement. They are perhaps best known for publishing the “IAP2 Spectrum of Public Participation” which provides a practical framework for analyzing various kinds of engagement strategies and tactics as they move from just informing the public to actually empowering residents in decision-making for the future of their communities. The theme of the conference was “Who Cares About Public Participation?” and it was inspiring to spend two days with folks working across many fields who are passionate about this topic and work hard to increase the impact of meaningful public participation. This question of “who cares?” also made me think of the tireless neighborhood advocates and organizers in the community development field in Detroit and across Michigan. Whole-hearted and intentional community engagement and decision-making that drives development speaks to the very core of why I am proud to be in this work.

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“‘Nothing about us, without us, is for us’ is particularly relevant for community development work in a time of rising economic, social, and racial inequality in cities.”

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For many of us, it is the mission of community development to move the needle for the equitable rebuilding of our neighborhoods that includes everyone, in particular the most disadvantaged, and historically dispossessed members of the community. As our cities and communities continue to evolve and change, we know that meaningful and equitable community engagement is critical in pursuing this goal. The community organizing saying: “Nothing about us, without us, is for us” is particularly relevant for community development work in a time of rising economic, social and racial inequality in cities.

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Raising the Bar for Equitable Community Engagement

By now you may be thinking that these are all great ideals and slogans, but how do we exactly raise the bar for engagement so that we can have better, more inclusive results in our communities? CDAD’s work in recent years in community planning and engagement has helped us learn a lot about what works and doesn’t, and we have been inspired by innovative practices across the country that center residents in decision-making such as Community Benefits Agreements (currently a hot topic in Detroit), Participatory Budgeting, and expanding access to local Boards and Commissions. There is also a growing body of research and advocacy that is helping to raise the profile and expectations for meaningful community engagement for both nonprofits and local governments. Some of our favorite resources include: Building the Field of Community Engagement, Policy Link Guide to Community Engagement, Authentic Community Engagement – Voices for Racial Justice and plans for equitable community engagement published by municipal agencies in Seattle and Minneapolis.

To further explore these themes and best practices, we invite you to attend the upcoming Destination Vibrant Communities Conference on November 10th in Detroit. CDAD staff are excited for our workshop which will discuss foundational ideas about equity in community engagement and how to implement strategies and tactics that will build trust and relationships by including the whole community in your efforts. Learn more about the training and register here.

Two Ideas to Inspire Community Development

Written by Lisa Assenmacher, Communication & Training Specialist

What inspires your work? Is it hearing about innovative ways that community developers have implemented solutions that change the way we problem-solve in our own neighborhoods? Or, is it experiencing the energy and passion of people who have spent a number of years working towards similar goals? Is it sharing information with peers from across the state to share experiences?

For most of us, it is a combination of all three. That’s part of the reason why we plan our annual Destination: Vibrant Communities day of professional development. At CEDAM, we are driven to discover new opportunities to connect those in the field with ways to make our communities more equitable and sustainable places to live. When we meet individuals or find organizations that are inspiring, we want to know how they tick and learn their processes so that others can successfully adapt them to their own ideas and communities.

Then we make it our goal to bring them to you. This year, Destination: Vibrant Communities will include a full day of speakers and sessions that will help take your organization to the next level. Here’s a snapshot of two that you can engage with on November 10 in Detroit.

Amy Hovey: Leveraging Experiences and Assets for Community Development

amy-hovey-400x400There are some people who find ways to utilize every experience they’ve had to positively influence their projects, and Amy Hovey is an exceptional example of this. Amy uses her collective experiences in banking, politics and nonprofit community development to address the challenges and leverage assets in the Flint area as the Special Projects Coordinator for the Flint area for C.S. Mott Foundation. Her story is inspiring, and she will share her journey and describe her influences and the impact on her work as the opening keynote speaker.

Moreover, she will moderate a session that takes a closer look at the Flint water crisis and how we can be empowered to protect our communities. Watered Down: Why Flint’s Residents Weren’t Taken Seriously and How Do We Change that in the Future will provide an outlet for a discussion centered around emergency planning, the state of other communities in Michigan and the potential role of neighborhood-based organizations and leaders in similar catastrophes.

Gary Reiter: Changing Transit Oriented Development

reiterThere are many instances where we might feel a disconnect between ideas or conversations that should be, but aren’t, taking place. When people see opportunities to form a connection and outline a new path toward the same goal, it is certainly worth noting. Gary Reiter, Vice President of BMO Private Bank, noticed that there lacked conversation about affordable housing as part of transit-oriented development (TOD) even though TOD was occurring at a rapid pace in Indianapolis. After identifying the problem, he invested time to research a new concept for acquiring and holding land for future affordable housing developments, and worked relentlessly to lay the groundwork for what would become the TOD Fund, including partnership and fund development.

Can this type of program be useful in your community? Can your idea be a new approach to a problem in your area? Gary’s session Ideas in Transit: The Story of Vision Becoming Reality for Transit-Oriented Land Banking in Indianapolis is designed to share best practices for successfully implementing a new idea, or your customized version of a TOD program.

Join us in Detroit in November

Do these topics and speakers inspire you? Check out the full agenda here and discover other opportunities, ideas and leaders to learn from, engage with and utilize in your community. We hope to see you November 10 in Detroit!

 

Measuring and Evaluating Neighborhood Change

Written by Nina Holzer, Manager of CDC Advancement, Cleveland Neighborhood Progress

We’ve all seen them. Article after article highlighting the comeback of cities, flocking of millennials to urban centers and revitalization of downtown. Many rust belt cities, whose population numbers plummeted over to the course of the past fifty years, are starting to see a deceleration in population decrease.

Cleveland’s Revitalization

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“Cleveland’s downtown now boasts a 97% occupancy rate, has seen $6 billion in investment between 2008 and 2015 and has seen a 79% population increase since 2000[1].”

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cleveland-454067_1920Cleveland, a city once booming with a population of nearly one million, teeters near the 400,000 mark. Though the city’s population has more than halved, the tides have started to turn. Cleveland’s downtown now boasts a 97% occupancy rate, has seen $6 billion in investment between 2008 and 2015 and has seen a 79% population increase since 2000[1]. Many surrounding neighborhoods are also seeing positive development, with increased property values new construction and rehab projects and fewer vacant storefronts in their commercial districts. This good news for Cleveland is also the good news for many cities across the Midwest, from Detroit to Minneapolis.

Ensuring Equitable and Inclusive Change

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“Therefore, as Midwestern cities re-populate and grow it is imperative that community developers get ahead of this positive development to ensure that neighborhood change is inclusive and equitable, especially for those residents who are not benefitting from the progress.”

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Though this news is exciting, we still have a long way to go and much work to do. In many cases, development is uneven, with certain segments of the population benefitting while others continue to be left behind. Cleveland continues to be highly segregated, with many predominantly African American neighborhoods dealing with blighted and/or abandoned housing; negative health outcomes and health disparities; high poverty and unemployment rates; and poor schools and education outcomes. These are realities that we cannot ignore as our city changes.

Therefore, as Midwestern cities re-populate and grow it is imperative that community developers get ahead of this positive development to ensure that neighborhood change is inclusive and equitable, especially for those residents who are not benefitting from the progress. One way to do so is by digging into available data and making strategic, data-informed decisions.

The Progress Index and Using the Data

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“Every CDC gets an updated dashboard for their service area and neighborhood on a yearly basis, thus allowing them to identify trends and develop strategies to address issues gleaned from the numbers in their dashboard report.”

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cnp-logo-pms-2Several years ago, Cleveland Neighborhood Progress partnered with the Center on Poverty and Urban Development at Case Western Reserve University to develop a progress metric dashboard for our community development corporations called The Progress Index. This index uses publicly-available data housed in the Poverty Center’s NEO CANDO database, as well as other data pulled from the center’s CHILD and NST integrated data systems, to create a dashboard of indicators of interest to our local CDCs. The dashboard first looks at two primary Progress Metrics: median sale price of homes and median household income. Next, the dashboard digs deeper and explores other indicators that drive neighborhood vitality and success: diversity, education, housing, household makeup, income mix, population, quality of life, housing stabilization and vacancy. Every CDC gets an updated dashboard for their service area and neighborhood on a yearly basis, thus allowing them to identify trends and develop strategies to address issues gleaned from the numbers in their dashboard report.

In addition to equipping CDCs with the data necessary for evaluating change in their neighborhoods, CNP has also developed Performance Standards which synthesize nonprofit and community development best practices. This allows us to further build and support the capacity of CDCs so that they are best positioned to stay ahead of the curve and meet new demands or changing dynamics in their neighborhood.

Join us on November 10 at Destination: Vibrant Communities to Learn More

Interested in learning more about Cleveland Neighborhood Progress’ model for comprehensive community development and strategy measuring and evaluating neighborhood change? Join us in a discussion about assessing CDC capacity, creating a dashboard to evaluate neighborhood change and developing standards for community development best practice at Destination: Vibrant Communities 2016.

Pro Bono Legal Referral Program

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Written by Amanda Gregory, Legal & Policy Program Manager at Michigan Community Resources

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“This is frustrating for the organizations, because often the filing fee is all that is standing in the way of these immigrants working legally.”

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img_8736cmykSeveral years ago, the Grand Rapids Dominican Sisters and the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center wanted to create a “fee bank” pilot project to allow their immigration legal clients to borrow money for the required government filing fees.  These fees are usually hundreds to thousands of dollars and, for some types of applications, they cannot be waived.  This is frustrating for the organizations, because often the filing fee is all that is standing in the way of these immigrants working legally.  Through the years, these organizations watched dozens of clients languishing who were eligible for status but just didn’t have the government filing fee to move forward.

Susan Reed at the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center said, “Being a lawyer, I knew banking involved a bunch of laws, but that’s about all I knew, so we asked Michigan Community Resources to find us banking lawyers to help.  They connected us to Mara McNeill from Honigman who helped ensure compliance and assisted us in drafting our promissory notes […] as a pro bono project. Blue Ox Credit Union in Battle Creek agreed to service the loans for us at no cost.”

The Michigan Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights hosts the loan program and is formally the lender.  Member organizations of MCIRR can nominate their clients for loans as long as they are providing legal services at no cost to the client. They have made four loans to date, and the first loan was repaid in full well ahead of schedule! That client now has immigration status through the DACA program!

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MCR’s Pro Bono Legal Referral Program can connect hard-working nonprofit organizations with expert attorneys willing to volunteer their time.

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mcr-logo-legal_rgbSince 1998, Community Legal Resources’ Pro Bono Legal Referral Program, a part of Michigan Community Resources (MCR), has connected hundreds of nonprofits with volunteer attorneys to provide free legal assistance. With over 91 volunteer attorneys in 2015, we were able to provide our partners with approximately 3000 hours of pro bono service.  It is the only pro bono legal referral program in Michigan focused on transactional work for nonprofits. To date, we have provided over 15 million dollars in pro bono services.

The attorneys who volunteer through this program tackle a broad range of legal concerns including contracts, real estate/real property, intellectual property (trademark, trade secret, and copyright), employment, tax, 501(c)(3) reinstatement, fiscal sponsorship and fundraising, joint ventures, dissolution and more!

In addition to direct referrals for pro bono services, MCR produces high-quality legal publications, tools, workshops and eLearning modules aimed at serving the legal needs of our nonprofit clients.  Some of our most popular publications include our legal guide to Crowdfunding for Nonprofits and our Employment Law Manual (currently being updated). MCR is also updating its groundbreaking Community Land Trusts (CLT) Manual, which has been used statewide by nonprofits interested in this unique tool for neighborhood revitalization.

Nonprofits, like businesses, face many legal requirements.  Michigan Community Resources is here to help! We understand that dealing with legal issues and lawyers can be intimidating. For nonprofit organizations on a shoestring budget, the prospect can be so unnerving that dealing with important legal issues might be avoided all together. MCR’s Pro Bono Legal Referral Program can connect hard-working nonprofit organizations with expert attorneys willing to volunteer their time. It is easy to apply.  Just visit our website and fill out an application.

memberspotlight-smallMichigan Community Resources (MCR) is a nonprofit organization that works to drive policy change, connect and improve systems that impact quality of life and the economy in low income communities, and bring a voice to those who have not been heard. A long-time partner of CEDAM, we work together to share programs and services that would benefit our members and clients.