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Learning from the Journey: Reflections on the Rebuilding Communities Initiative

The $15 million, seven-year Rebuilding Communities Initiative in five cities (Boston, Philadelphia, Detroit, Denver and Washington DC) was designed “to provide the supports needed to help transform troubled, economically disenfranchised neighborhoods into safe, supportive, and productive environments for children, youth, and their families.” 

This 15-page report focuses on six lessons:

  1. Resident empowerment must be at the core of community rebuilding efforts.

  2. The need for capacity building is critical and continual.

  3. Acting as lead agency requires balancing competing roles and interests.

  4. It takes a long time, and a lot of time every day, to rebuild communities.

  5. Partnership building is extremely difficult work.

  6. Power dynamics between funders and grantees can be greatly lessened, but never completely eliminated.

“There were, certainly, some areas of disappointment during this time as well,” the introduction says. “Many aspects of the RCI work took longer than expected, and insufficient resources, beyond the Casey grant, were a constant problem. Staff turnover, a frequent challenge in non-profit work, made continuity problematic. In some communities even success brought a new set of problems, such as gentrification. But by all accounts, the RCI years were good ones for the neighborhoods. Progress was noted in a number of areas, including physical infrastructure, social infrastructure, human service delivery, information management, leadership development, and community capacity.” RCI was launched in 1994 and lasted until 2001.

Download the full report here.

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Posted in Comprehensive Community Development: An Intro

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