Roundtable Series: Community Leaders Come Together to Discuss Place-Based Strategies at the Second Shared Prosperity Roundtable

Community leaders assemble to discuss key strategies in the development and implementation of place-based approaches at the second Shared Prosperity Roundtable.

On December 12, 2013 the Mayor’s Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity (CEO) convened the second installment of the monthly Shared Prosperity Roundtable sessions.  The roundtables are settings where organizations and individuals interested in partnering to promote Shared Prosperity Philadelphia can come together to deepen our knowledge, share ideas, and discuss our mutual agenda.

Over 70 organizations and individuals were represented at the December Roundtable. The conversations touched on the core elements of successful place-based approaches, including stakeholder engagement, community needs assessments, strategy development, and implementation.  The thoughtful insights shared by presenters and participants, and the engaging roundtable discussions will inform the work of Shared Prosperity Philadelphia going forward.

Josh Freely, Chief Policy Analyst with The Reinvestment Fund (TRF), opened the discussion by presenting an overview of what it means to employ a place-based strategy, the tools and techniques that TRF uses when it is invited to develop place-based strategies, and examples of how these tools can be used.  

 What are place based strategies?

Place based strategies seek to impact a particular geographic area or zone, and stand in contrast to people-based strategies (e.g., housing vouchers, income supports). In 2010, the White House, Office of Management and Budget (OMB), elevated the priority of policies that integrate factors of place or geography directly into program goals and regulations. Examples of programs that account for the way that people cluster in space include the Harlem Children’s Zone, Promise Zones, and the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative. The goal of these place-based programs is comprehensive community change brought about by interventions tailored to impact specific neighborhood conditions.

When working in a new place, TRF starts from the following basic assumptions: (1) public subsidy is scarce; (2) the only proper use of public funding is to “clear the path” (or remove entry barriers) for private investment dollars; (3) neighborhood development strategies should build from existing strength; (4) all community residents should be treated as “customers”; and (5) data should drive decision making.

With these principles in mind, TRF collects and analyzes the data that is needed to evaluate local area needs and develop appropriate strategies that are sensitive to the particular issues of place. The process can be summarized in two sequential steps:

  1. Develop an understanding of the place by asking key questions, including: Who lives there? What are their needs? What are their assets? What are the specific challenges facing people in their day to day lives?
  2. Explore feasible options for intervention, to determine which tools in the TRF toolbox work in a particular setting (for example deciding whether commercial investment is most needed, or if a more institutional investment is needed, such as a new school).

The Tools used by TRF include Geographic Information System (GIS) analysis, Policy Map, Market Value Analysis (MVA), and supply and demand models. These tools enable TRF to look at a community in a holistic manner – it can examine the basic features of the housing market, as well as the availability and quality of child care resources, health care, or other community support services.

Please click to see the full power point presented by Josh Freely.

Small Group Discussions

For the initial round of small group discussions, participants were invited to join a table facilitated by representatives of agencies and organizations currently involved in place based revitalization efforts:

  • Brian Abernathy, Executive Director, Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority
  • Anne Marie Ambrose, Commissioner, Philadelphia Department of Human Services
  • Jennifer Britton, Interim Director, Dornsife Center for Community Partnerships, Drexel University
  • Cynthia Douglas, Philadelphia Department of Recreation
  • Andrew Frishkoff, Executive Director, Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC)
  • Maria Gonzalez, Vice President, Hispanic Association of Contractors and Enterprises (HACE)

The facilitators led small group discussions centered on their current work in Philadelphia neighborhoods. Each small group discussed: (1) The goals of the approach, (2) The steps taken to develop their model, (3) Key elements to success and challenges to the approach, and (4) Impact of the approach.

Some of the major themes raised in the small group discussions included the following:

Elements to Success: Creating effective partnerships is a key component to successful place based initiatives. Intermediaries such as LISC can help community based organizations develop the planning and implementation capacity that will attract needed funding support.  Anchor institutions (such as universities, hospitals, large employers) are key place based stakeholders and should be recruited for some role in your partnership. Anchors may be particularly helpful in serving as a convener, offering community facilities for meeting space or programming.  It is also important to set specific goals, eliminate duplication, and identify any proposed City initiatives around your project to leverage additional resources. High priority should be devoted to identifying evidenced based strategies, which are interventions that have undergone rigorous evaluation by scholars or policy analysts to measure effectiveness.

Identified Challenges: Agencies sponsoring place-based initiatives should be careful not to steer the agenda towards their own interests, but to instead develop goals that are balanced and reflect the wider needs of the community. Institutional partners (e.g., City Departments, universities) may often have to overcome a negative history with community residents, requiring extra time to establish trusting relationships. Perhaps the most daunting challenge is assembling the necessary resources.  For example, LISC recommends that a neighborhood try to secure a minimum of $500,000 to support resident engagement activities, planning and implementation. LISC can often bring matching resources to the table for implementation once the initial funds for resident engagement and planning have been secured. In addition to HUD programs, the Wells Fargo Regional Foundation is a good source for communities to secure funding for neighborhood planning.

Small Group Discussions by Area

The second small group discussion session was broken out by geographic area of the city (North, South, West, Northwest, and Northeast) to focus conversation on the issues facing specific neighborhoods and to allow opportunities for networking. Despite the diversity of the areas, the small group discussions generated insights that are common to place based initiatives everywhere.

  • Place based revitalization activities can spark gentrification pressures (or fears of gentrification), which will need to be addressed early on in the planning process.
  • There may be a lack of agreement around the definition of a neighborhood boundary, which can make it difficult to recruit resident stakeholders who may rely on informal neighborhood definitions.
  • Set up measurement systems early on in the process, but recognize that for many programs, change happens over a longer term time horizon.
  • Be sure to record your successes (including what it took to get there) so that you can share your progress with others.
  • When there is limited organizing or development capacity in your neighborhood, it makes sense to start with small projects that can generate quick successes. City staff (OHCD, PRA) can help fledgling organizations start to make connections with partners and help organizations locate sources of seed money or technical assistance.
  • Place based efforts will still require an investment in outreach to area residents (especially vulnerable or isolated populations) to connect them to new resources.
  • To encourage parental involvement in neighborhood youth programming, consider providing incentives to show that you value their time. Examples of incentives could include raffle tickets tied to attendance at meetings and activities.

If you are interested in participating in a future roundtable meeting, please sign-up for updates from CEO through our “Get Involved” page.