Monday, November 12, 2012

Investing in What Works: Purpose Built Communities

Last month, the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and the Low Income Investment Fund (LIIF) released Investing in What Works for America’s Communities. This book – a compilation of essays from leading experts in the field of community development - captures the promising practices and approaches that are being implemented throughout the nation to revitalize neighborhoods by addressing the core elements of healthy communities, such as access to quality housing, education, transportation, healthcare and economic development. In the coming weeks and months, the Investing in Community Change Blog will highlight a few of the promising approaches highlighted in this comprehensive look at community development. This month, we highlight Purpose Built Communities

Designed to address the unique challenges and assets that individual communities present, the Purpose Built Communities model recognizes that “one size fits all” solutions are not adequate when it comes to addressing the deep and complex issues that communities face, such as high rates of poverty, crime and inadequate housing. Rather than aligning resources to a single issue, community change and revitalization strategies must align resources to address the complex web of challenges that exist in a single community. The Purpose Builtmodel asserts that several “key features” must exist in a neighborhood as it tackles tough issues and provides residents with access to opportunities. These features include:
  • Quality mixed-income housing: Ensure low-income residents remain in the neighborhood while attracting residents from a spectrum of income levels 
  • A cradle-to-career educational approach: Programs, like Promise Neighborhoods, ensure children and families have seamless access to services from birth through college and career
  • Workforce development and social services: Ensure residents have the skills needed to obtain jobs and the supports needed to maintain them 
  • Community Infrastructure: Ensure residents have access to the necessary services and supports while also offering residents to build a sense of community with one another
In Investing in What Works for America’s Communities, Shirley Franklin and David Edwards explore how the East Lake neighborhood in Atlanta has implemented the Purpose Built model for the past 10 years.  Using housing and education as a foundation, East Lake transformed an existing housing development into a mixed-income community and established a local charter school, was accountable to the surrounding community.  This foundation, as well as the strategic partnerships involved in providing necessary support to the community, has led to  promising results, such as significant increases in employment and academic achievement, as well as decreases in crime. The lessons learned from East Lake, as well as other communities implementing the Purpose Build model illustrate the rich set of resources, time and partnerships that are required to transform neighborhoods. Over time, the Purpose Built model has ascribed to the following framework of neighborhood transformation: 
  • Geographic: Change efforts must be focused on a particular area, such as a neighborhood.
  • Holistic: Change efforts should be comprehensive and address the various sectors and institutions residents encounter on a daily basis, such as healthcare, education, housing, etc.
  • Specific: Change efforts must consider the unique assets that already exist within a community and consider how these assets, combined with additional resources and strategy, can lead to sustainable and meaningful outcomes. 
To read more about the Purpose Built model, please click here.

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