Rethinking the role of collaboration in community-focused projects

The successful communities of the future will be those that can develop and manage large, complex community collaborations.

Traditional neighborhood development for many communities in Detroit involve a variety of players. For many projects, the key players have been the city, community development corporations (CDCs), neighborhood groups and in some instances community foundations. City planners have worked on urban renewal projects, community planning, business development, site plan review, infrastructure improvements and a host of other neighborhood efforts. Much of the funding came from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Traditionally, strong community development corporations worked with the citizens and the city to aid in the revitalization of many of a city’s most challenged neighborhoods. Effective development involved a variety of players all with different roles. Some groups, such as social service agencies, brought programs and activities to the neighborhoods and provided members to serve on local boards and committees.

Successful communities and neighborhoods in the future will be the ones that are able to maintain those traditional groups, add more community-based stakeholders and, if necessary, create new nonprofit corporations to implement community revitalization programs.

Revitalization in the future will become even more holistic as community stakeholders come together to address the myriad problems such as vacant and abandoned homes, low literacy rates, commercial disinvestment, high school dropout rates, affordable senior housing, after-school programs for kids, and neighborhood unemployment.

Shrinking budgets for many of the community players will require greater collaborations and a pooling of resources in order to be successful. But, for the neighborhoods that master these larger, more complex collaborations and interactions their reward will be well-organized, focused community development activities that will preserve communities and create cool places where people with want to live, work and play.

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