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Voices from the Field: Learning from the Early Work of Comprehensive Community Initiatives

This report distills lessons and conclusions from an early period in Comprehensive Community Initiatives, which were themselves a “reformulation of earlier approaches that build on the conceptual foundations of community development theory and practice that are represented by the Gray Areas Program, the Community Action Program, the Community Development Corporation movement, and related efforts.”

Though written more than a decade ago, the report offers a conception of CCIs that is consistent with many of the strategies used by today's comprehensive practitioners. The Aspen Roundtable outlines the following five focus areas for comprehensive community pursuits today:

  • Expansion and improvement of social services: Filling service gaps in the neighborhood, co-locating and integrating social services, or promoting developmental rather than remedial social services.
  • Education and training: Encouraging school reform, organizing job training and placement programs, or developing local leadership.
  • Economic development: Working with financial institutions to ensure investment in the neighborhood, providing loan funds and technical assistance for small business development, or providing capital for neighborhood projects.
  • Physical revitalization: Collaborating with a community development corporation, public housing agency, or private-sector investors to improve housing or physical spaces.
  • Quality-of-life activities: Working with local police to improve safety, establishing community gardens, developing a recreation center, improving environmental conditions, promoting ties across diverse ethnic communities, or organizing cultural celebrations.
The Aspen Roundtable concludes that “lasting neighborhood change will require all actors to move beyond traditional definitions of their roles. Initiative staff, governance participants, funders, technical assistance providers, and evaluators will be required to take on multiple and overlapping roles, and the definition of "stakeholders" in the neighborhood will need to be broadened. Moreover, the complexity of the CCI undertaking requires a rethinking of how these players interact with one another and, in the words of one CCI stakeholder, the development of 'new partnerships for change' at the neighborhood level.”
Download the full report here.

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Posted in Comprehensive Community Development: An Intro

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