Six Massachusetts Cities Win Competition Focused on Cross-sector Civic Collaboration Six Massachusetts Cities Win Competition Focused on Cross-sector Civic Collaboration

January 15, 2014
Contact: Tom Lavelle, 617-973.3647, or Joel Werkema, 617 973-3510,

Fed chairman Bernanke, Governor Patrick, and Boston Fed's Rosengren celebrate the hard work of all 20 entrants in $1.8M competition

An unusual cross-section of leaders convened at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston on Wednesday to celebrate the Working Cities Challenge, a community development initiative for Massachusetts' smaller cities. At the event were state officials including the Governor, members of the philanthropic community, Fed officials, private sector leaders, and representatives of city government, nonprofits, and businesses in many of Massachusetts' smaller cities. Fed chairman Ben Bernanke appeared via a videotaped message.

"The variety of the people in the room represents the essence of the Working Cities Challenge that we gather today to celebrate - working with a diverse set of partners to achieve a common goal," said Eric Rosengren, head of the Boston Federal Reserve Bank. "The work really begins today. I congratulate all of the Working Cities for the progress they have made to date and wish them much success with their ambitious proposals."

Last spring, 20 eligible communities applied to participate in the initiative. From the 20 applicants, six cities won a total of $1.8 million to support projects that build on cross-sector collaboration and strengthen civic leadership. Applicant cities focused on employment challenges, adult education, and workforce development for youth, among others. The winning cities are:

  • Lawrence: $700,000 three-year implementation award for its plan to change the way its school system interfaces with the larger community by focusing on the direct correlation between economic and employment challenges amongst families and student success rates.
  • Fitchburg: $400,000 three-year implementation award for its eCarenomics Initiative, an effort to develop shared metrics for neighborhood health and well-being with the goal of making the North of Main neighborhood a place where residents choose to live, work, and invest.
  • Holyoke: $250,000 three-year implementation award to help build a link between the city's Latino population and its innovation economy through adult education and supportive services. The proposal includes a focus on social ventures and small business development.
  • Chelsea: $225,000 three-year implementation award for its Shurtleff-Bellingham Initiative, designed to engage public, private, and nonprofit sectors in an effort to reduce poverty and mobility rates by 30% in this struggling neighborhood.
  • Somerville: $100,000 seed award toward its proposal to reduce unemployment among low-income youth by creating new, youth-targeted workforce development systems infused with mobile technology and social media.
  • Salem: $100,000 seed award for its plan to bring one low-income neighborhood's economic indicators in line with rest of the city by focusing on four issue areas: economic development, small business development, workforce development, and leadership development. 

The Boston Fed's partners on the Working Cities Challenge include Living Cities (a collaboration of 22 of the nation's largest philanthropies), the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership (a coalition of the state's largest employers), and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

"I congratulate the winners of the Working Cities Challenge, and thank the Boston Fed for convening this forward-thinking program that is fueling innovation in cities across the Commonwealth," said Massachusetts Governor Deval L. Patrick.

"The value of this innovative program goes beyond the relatively modest amount of award money," said Fed chairman Ben Bernanke. "All participating cities are benefiting from technical assistance from the Fed and other organizations, advice from peers in other communities, and exposure to a growing network of community development leaders across Massachusetts."

"Collaborative leadership has been the key to the resurgence of some of America's largest cities," said Ben Hecht, President and CEO of Living Cities. "It is our belief that while the issues faced by these cities are common, these problems can only be solved when dynamic cross-sector leaders come together. I congratulate all twenty Working Cities and look forward to supporting them in the coming months and years."

Among the future planned activities and resources of the Working Cities Challenge, Rosengren added, will be workshops and peer learning forums; capacity-building and planning resources; access to new sources of capital, including grant funding and flexible debt; and exposure to a growing network of public, private, nonprofit, and philanthropic leaders.

Funding awards have been made possible by the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, MassDevelopment, Living Cities, Bank of America, The Boston Foundation, Surdna Foundation, the Move the World Foundation, the Hyams Foundation, and Boston Private Bank and Trust. Other key partners in the endeavor include Boston Community Capital, which will serve as fiscal agent, and MassINC, which is a long-time leader on small city initiatives.

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