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Working Cities Challenge offers resources to our communities
By Chris Barnett / April 19, 2016 /   Loading Disqus...
In late 2015, we committed $150,000 for the Working Cities Challenge, an innovative economic development program of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston that is coming to Rhode Island. With eligible communities facing a rapidly approaching deadline of April 29 to express an interest in applying, this seemed like a good opportunity to talk with you about why the Foundation is such an enthusiastic supporter of the Challenge.

The Working Cities Challenge is not your typical grant program. It is based on solid research about what struggling communities need to become resilient. It is aimed at building community capacity and civic infrastructure, critical to solving long-term challenges. And it includes valuable supports and resources beyond millions of dollars in grants.

Small cities across New England possess unique assets and face a unique set of challenges. They are struggling to rebuild their economies and civic infrastructure. Boston Fed researchers looked at similar cities around the country that have managed to rebound and identified several factors driving their resurgence: collaborative leadership, the role of anchor institutions, investment in infrastructure, and extension of benefits to the community as a whole. Similarly, Living Cities learned through its Integration Initiative the importance of collaborative leadership in creating systems-level changes.

And so the Boston Fed created the Working Cities Challenge to help build collective leadership, which they define as the ability to work together across sectors over a sustained period with a comprehensive vision. Winning initiatives will receive $300,000-$500,000 over three years, along with coaching, capacity-building, and research and data analysis support.

Thirteen Rhode Island communities that meet the program’s population, family income, and poverty rates requirements are eligible to apply: Burrillville, Central Falls, Cranston, East Providence, Johnston, Newport, North Providence, Pawtucket, Providence, Warwick, West Warwick, Westerly, and Woonsocket. Each application must come from a partnership that includes public, private, and nonprofit entities. There is a three-stage application, with supports and resources provided along the way:
1. Expression of interest (due by April 29)
2. Design grant application (due by May 31, to result in $15,000 grants to help partners plan and design their program over six months)
3. Implementation grant application (2017)

You can learn a great deal more about how to apply at an information session on April 26. I also suggest checking out these video updates from Living Cities on the projects underway in Massachusetts.

We are proud to join with the state, Delta Dental of Rhode Island, Verizon Wireless, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Kresge Foundation, Living Cities, NeighborWorks America, and others to support this program. Building our capacity and collective ability to work together on complex problems in meaningful ways is crucial to Rhode Island’s future.

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