2017 in Review: The Working Cities Challenge 2017 in Review: The Working Cities Challenge

A look back at the initiative’s progress A look back at the initiative’s progress

December 27, 2017

The Boston Fed’s Working Cities Challenge, launched in 2013, had a momentous year in 2017 of celebrations and further collaboration in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. The Working Cities initiative builds on Boston Fed research that identified cross-sector collaboration and leadership as the key ingredients in resurgent smaller cities across the country.

We took a retrospective look at 2017 progress for each of the four Working Cities Challenge initiatives currently underway:

Connecticut Connecticut

In April, the communities of Bridgeport, Danbury, East Hartford, Hartford, Middletown, New Britain, New Haven, Norwich, Torrington, and Waterbury received $15,000 design grant awards.

The awards support the Connecticut round’s design phase, which allows teams to build their collaborative, engage community residents, and thoughtfully construct a solid implementation plan that can be used whether or not a team wins the larger Working Cities grant. Over a span of six months, the teams participated in a series of four day-long 'design sessions' to help them create ambitious goals and a plan to implement programs designed to spur workforce development and job creation among low- and moderate-income residents.

Massachusetts Massachusetts

Two rounds of the Working Cities Challenge, launched in 2013 and 2015 respectively, continued to run simultaneously in Massachusetts in 2017. Working Cities efforts across the Commonwealth have launched, maintained, and expanded initiatives impacting its low-to-moderate income residents in tangible and important ways.

In October, representatives of both rounds gathered at the Fed to discuss and learn about the sustainability of cross-sector collaborative efforts for systems change. Sustainability is the capacity of teams to build upon their early success, to grow and deepen stakeholder engagement, and achieve longer-term, population-level results. To date, the Round One teams have raised $8.4 million in follow-on funding to sustain their initiatives beyond the Working Cities grant period.


Rhode Island Rhode Island

Over a two day span this past May, Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren joined Rhode Island state officials and members of the philanthropic, nonprofit, business, and local government communities to celebrate the cities of Cranston, Newport, and Providence as the winners of the Rhode Island Working Cities Challenge. The three cities each received multiyear grants of $400,000.

President Rosengren toured each of the winning cities to engage with cross-sector leaders from each team, which included a tour of affordable housing and the Florence Grey Center in Newport, a conversation on bridging the city’s east and west divide at the Pastore Youth Center in Cranston, and a dialogue on workforce systems change in Providence.