Launched in 1993, the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s (AECF) Rebuilding Communities Initiative (RCI) aims to provide the support services needed to help transform economically distressed neighborhoods into safe, supportive, and productive environments for children and families. AECF already had a well-established track record of working with state-level agencies to better address the needs of families and children. RCI represents the foundation’s increased effort to help neighborhoods develop tools and skills to transform the way they interact with support services. At the initiative’s core is an emphasis on collaboration, comprehensive planning, and participation.
RCI’s initial framework set the course for an initiative that would significantly shift the way services were delivered to communities, reconnect families and residents as active participants in community change, and strengthen support systems that enhance family stability. The framework listed five “critical elements” for the initiative to address:
- Maximizing capacity and impact of neighborhood resources and institutions;
- Reforming existing investment streams to maximize positive neighborhood economic impacts;
- Developing capable and effective neighborhood collaboratives to which governance authority could gradually be devolved;
- Improving housing and infrastructure development and maintenance;
- Increasing public and private capital investments in the neighborhoods.
AECF selected five neighborhoods – in Boston, Denver, Detroit, Philadelphia, and Washington – that had community-based organizations capable of leading the initiative in their communities. RCI’s first phase required these “lead” organizations to develop comprehensive neighborhood plans and governance structures through a collaborative, resident-driven process. Phase two, the initiative’s three-year capacity building phase, allowed the five sites to focus on developing skills, building partnerships, developing and refining their plans, and attracting investments. Sites are now moving into the third and final phase of the initiative, the demonstration phase. This will allow neighborhood groups to demonstrate the capacity to work around a single issue or group of issues.
The 7-year, $15 million initiative encourages neighborhood organizations to focus on the process of coordinating with other community organizations and residents, with the hope that projects produced under the initiative will be sustainable after the foundation funds are spent. Toward that goal, RCI emphasizes creating a governance structure to help guide the neighborhood through the ongoing tasks of revitalization.
Annie E. Casey Foundation, 710 St. Paul St, Baltimore, MD 21202 410-547-6600. http://www.aecf.org
RCI Lead Organizations
Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative
504 Dudley St.
Roxbury, MA 02119
48 East Penn St.
Philadelphia, PA 19144
Marshall Heights Community Development Organization
3917 Minnesota Ave., NE, 2nd Fl.
Washington, DC 20019
1029 Santa Fe Drive
Denver, CO 80204
Warren/Conner Development Coalition
11148 Harper Ave.
Detroit, MI 48213