David Radcliffe, Senior Community Affairs Analyst, Regional and Community Outreach, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston
Challenge moves forward for CT’s Working Cities
"Today, we are celebrating the passion, collaborative spirit, and ingenuity of Connecticut residents to push forward proposals toward bettering their cities and our state economy." These words from Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy echoed throughout the non-profit art space Real Art Ways in Hartford this past April. The celebration was in honor of ten Connecticut city teams that are pursuing collaborative and ambitious economic development strategies to improve the lives of their low-income residents through the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston’s Working Cities Challenge (WCC).
Each team was awarded a $15,000 grant to support a six-month “design phase,” allowing them to fine-tune their proposals and compete for larger implementation awards expected to be between $300,000 and $500,000.
What is the Working Cities Challenge?
The WCC, launched in Massachusetts in 2013, builds cross-sector collabora¬tion to solve issues impacting the lives of lower-in¬come residents and communities of color. Grounded in Boston Fed research, the grant competition encourages leaders from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors to advance proposals that tackle complex challenges facing smaller post-industrial cities and achieve large scale impact across communities. In 2016, Governor Malloy’s office and the Boston Fed announced Connecticut would join Massachusetts and Rhode Island as the latest New England state to participate in the Working Cities Challenge competition.
Collaboration is key
The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston believes that smaller cities have important resources and great potential to drive regional economies; the WCC is an opportunity to demonstrate excellence and change perceptions of such communities. The WCC itself is collaborative: the Boston Fed provides leadership and staff support for the initiative, while funding is provided by the State of Connecticut, national and local philanthropic, public, and private organizations.
Of the sixteen eligible cities, ten were selected to participate in the design phase (Bridgeport, Danbury, East Hartford, Hartford, Middletown, New Britain, New Haven, Norwich, Torrington, and Waterbury). Cross-sector teams from these communities are now participating in a four-part series focused on the core elements important to city success: collaborative leadership, community engagement, system change, and learning orientation. The importance of racial equity is also emphasized throughout the planning process to ensure teams engrain this into their proposals.
Teams are now doing the difficult work of building their collaboratives, engaging their communities in a meaningful way, and refining their proposals. Following the design phase, up to five winning initiatives will be selected in early 2018 based on the strengths of comprehensive, actionable implementation initiatives. Cities will be selected by an independent jury based on merit and selection criteria aligned with the core elements.
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