New report by Working Cities evaluation team focuses on principle of 'centering community voice'
Report looks at success, lessons from sharing power with residents when collaboration was essential
Back in 2019, the Working Cities Challenge in Rhode Island got a unique opportunity when the Doris Duke Foundation contributed $600,000 in additional funds. And the WCC, one of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston’s community development initiatives, responded by turning to local teams and funders to help decide how to use the new dollars.
The result was new “Advancing Our Learning” grants open to all WCC-eligible communities in Rhode Island.
The grants aim to support local WCC groups as they cultivate new leaders and expand economic equity and inclusion. Now, a report by Mt. Auburn Associates is evaluating what it took for grant recipients across Working Places initiatives to elevate and amplify resident voices. I invite you to read it.
Grants support giving prominent decision-making roles to residents
The Advancing Our Learning grants aim to support leaders who are building on WCC lessons and taking one of the following approaches:
- Cultivating diverse leaders and integrating them into decision-making structures
- Supporting organizations committed to economic inclusion for historically excluded communities and people of color
- Testing new ideas to drive economic equity and inclusion
At its core, the goal of each approach is about better “centering community voices.” This phrase describes an evolution in the Boston’s Fed’s approach to community engagement. The Mt. Auburn report says it’s about “transitioning from encouraging organizational stakeholders to involve residents in their work to actively supporting residents in taking a more prominent role.”
Report offers insight to local leaders, describes general WCC philosophy
The eight-page report offers insight to leaders at the local level who seek to deepen the ways they engage community members in their work. It also expands more generally to provide background on the WCC and why it made “community engagement” one of its core principles.
The report shares the ways different communities think about the purpose of community voice in their work – for relationship-building, program design, broader civic engagement, and/or advocacy.
And it digs into what needs to be true for such efforts to be effective, including knowing the relationship dynamics at play, tactical approaches to things like increasing accessibility, and ensuring people are equitably compensated for their time.
Please take some time to check out the Mt. Auburn report.
I also encourage local leaders who want to deepen their understanding of community engagement to watch this short video. They’ll hear directly from Working Places leaders on how they have centered community voice in their work.
Colleen Dawicki is deputy director of Working Places, which includes the Working Cities Challenge, the Working Communities Challenge, and Leaders for Equitable Local Economies.