Working Cities Challenge in RI receives $600k grant to continue work for lower-income residents Working Cities Challenge in RI receives $600k grant to continue work for lower-income residents

Doris Duke Charitable Foundation says initiative has proven it’s more than “good intentions” Doris Duke Charitable Foundation says initiative has proven it’s more than “good intentions”

October 10, 2019

The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation announced Thursday that it’s donating $600,000 to the Working Cities Challenge Rhode Island, saying the initiative – which is aimed at helping lower-income residents – has proven it gets results.

“The Working Cities Challenge isn’t just a program of good intentions,” said Doris Duke Foundation President Edward Henry during a program at Cranston Public Library to celebrate the donation.

“Over time, the results will be increased employment, job training, and educational opportunities – so that all residents can better support their families, chart a path of success for children, and really participate in the best opportunities that Rhode Island can offer,” Henry said.

“We at the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation could not be more pleased to assist with this work,” he added.

The Working Cities Challenge is a grant competition overseen by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. The $600,000 grant announced Thursday will go to the communities of Cranston, Newport, and Providence, which are pursuing economic development initiatives designed to boost their economies and tackle some of their toughest challenges.

Henry, Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo and Boston Fed President and CEO Eric Rosengren were joined Thursday by representatives from the Cranston and Newport Working Cities teams.

“When most people think about the Federal Reserve, they think of monetary policy, but the goal is actually to make everybody better off,” Rosengren said to about 50 attendees at the event.

“One of our tools is moving interest rates, but another is doing projects just like this,” Rosengren said. “This work is about community, it’s about collaboration, and providing ‘soft infrastructure’ that can hopefully address a lot of problems over time.”

The Working Cities Challenge was launched in Rhode Island in 2015 with the support of the Raimondo administration. The initiative is based on national research conducted by the Boston Fed, which showed that leadership and cross-sector collaboration are two of the most important factors in the resurgence of smaller post-industrial cities.

Raimondo called the work so far in Cranston and Newport “life-giving and transformational.”

“The program is working,” said Raimondo at Thursday’s event. “It has helped so many of our communities—and I think it’s working exactly as intended. Some of our cities are really struggling. They were left behind, and we are rebuilding them from the bottom-up.”

Cranston, Newport, and Providence initially each received multiyear grants of $400,000 in 2017—funded by state, private sector, and not-for-profit backing. The grants support programs designed to spur workforce development and job creation among low- and moderate-income residents.

The Doris Duke Foundation’s $600,000 follow-on investment will bolster the cities’ programs, which are designed to have community-led and resident-involved groups at the municipal level develop shared goals, key strategies, and targeted activities that address barriers and obstacles to economic and social opportunity.

Cranston is focusing their work on racial equity and social cohesion for residents. Newport is working to lift families out of poverty through a workforce development system that prepares unemployed and underemployed North End neighborhood residents for higher-skilled, higher-paying jobs.

Learn more about the Working Cities Challenge and Working Communities Challenge efforts currently running in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

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