What Is Community Development in Detroit?
There are many different ideas about what community development actually is. This lack of consensus impedes the creation of a system. The BECDD process has generated a “working definition” as a way of creating a common, city-wide concept for community development. Equally important, in 2020–2021 with the COVID-19 pandemic and the racial reckoning we are experiencing, discussions are underway on how the role of community development should evolve in the face of these challenges. For now, we are using the definition below, to guide our system-building work.
- Community development is the work of building and sustaining neighborhoods. It brings opportunity and services to bear on behalf of residents and businesses in a defined neighborhood. It is facilitated through community development organizations partnering with grass roots organizations and other neighborhood stakeholders.
- Community development embraces sustained resident empowerment and equity: social, economic, racial and environmental. It strives to build social cohesion. It holistically integrates planning, community education, advocacy, resident support and economic development in a defined neighborhood.
- Community development coordinates a set of strategies chosen by leaders within the neighborhood. These strategies are derived from locally-driven planning in partnership with city government, and aimed at building neighborhood power, social cohesion, physical amenities and great services.
- Community development supports residents in their advocacy for their neighborhood: influencing positive change in city government practices, human services, safety, equitable development, environmental equity or school reform; or organizing around other related issues that affect the life of a neighborhood.
- Community development is facilitated through Community Development Organizations (CDOs), in partnership with Grass Roots Organizations (GROs) and other local stakeholders including local businesses and institutions.
What Is a Community Development Organization (CDO) and a Grass Roots Organization (GRO) in Detroit?
A Community Development Organization (CDO) is a professional not-for-profit tax-exempt organization, and the key facilitator of community development work in a defined neighborhood. A CDO is a place-based organization accountable to local stakeholders (especially residents), who comprise the majority of its Board. A CDO is distinguished from other organizations by its role as the “sustained voice” in the community it serves, working with other partners. A CDO is a trusted neighborhood institution with strong relationships that knows stakeholders’ priorities and needs.
Grass Roots Organizations (GROs) are volunteer associations that focus on small geographic areas or projects within a defined neighborhood. GROs partner with CDOs to create plans and carry out projects. Examples of a GRO: block club, neighborhood council, business association, school organization, youth group.
Five Community Development Functions
- Convening and Facilitating: Creating a Strong Voice for the Neighborhood
This is the distinguishing role of a CDO, working with its GRO partners. CDOs bring organizations and stakeholders together for planning, joint problem-solving, community education, advocacy and physical development. CDOs act as an intermediary between residents, city government and major private institutions.
- Resident Engagement and Empowerment: Building Residents’ Power for Decision-Making
The priorities, plans and activities in the neighborhood should reflect the priorities of neighborhood residents and other local stakeholders. Residents are engaged in the work of the organizations serving that neighborhood. Residents have a decision-making role in the neighborhood, helping to define and name the neighborhood and building pride in the neighborhood.
- Community Planning and Advocacy: Sustaining the Neighborhood
Partnering with residents, local stakeholders and city government, looking at all aspects of community life in the defined area, with residents making key planning decisions and staying engaged to help carry out and advocate the plan.
- Economic Development: Bringing Jobs, Physical Amenities and Necessities to the Neighborhood
Using an equitable development approach that reflects neighborhood priorities: housing development/repair/rehab; commercial corridor development; business and/or entrepreneur development; vacant land reclamation and open space development; blight remediation and clean-up; recreational space development or other physical revitalization.
- Resident Support: Nurturing Strong, Self-Sufficient, Successful Residents and Local Entrepreneurs
Helping to develop the capabilities of individual residents and entrepreneurs, especially young people, to help them realize their full potential.
Framework for Equitable Community Development in Detroit
Vision Statement for Detroit Neighborhoods
All people in every neighborhood in the city of Detroit live, work, and engage in healthy, thriving, sustainable and inclusive communities.
Equitable Development in Detroit: Definition and Practices
Equitable development in Detroit is an intentional, facilitated approach that results in the creation of healthy, thriving, sustainable, safe and blight-free communities of opportunity for all people in every neighborhood. It is driven by a bottom-up analysis and meaningful connection among the policies, practices and investments that reduce disparities among people, regardless of race or income in every neighborhood. Equitable development seeks to:
- Engage low-income residents, people of color and locally owned businesses in a facilitated, meaningful process of full participation that results in an empowered community that guides and benefits from decisions that shape its neighborhoods and region.
- Advance strategies that first, create economic opportunity while simultaneously preventing displacement; and second, that preserve affordability of food, water and shelter based on local economics.
Values that Guide Equitable Community Development in Detroit
Neighborhood Voice and Community Connectedness
Every resident, local business and institution, and other community changemakers, fully participate in, guide and benefit from decisions that shape their neighborhoods and region.
Clean, Safe and Environmentally Sustainable Communities
Sustainable and green environments that promote healthy living and outdoor activities are the norm for all neighborhoods. Built environments (schools, businesses, food outlets, parks, streets and open spaces) are safe, clean and accessible.
High-achieving public schools and other educational services exist in every neighborhood
Family wealth is created and grows through job opportunities that pay living wages. Policies and practices that protect family investments and opportunities for all families to become financially literate, exist in all neighborhoods.
Quality Affordable Housing and Property
Affordability and anti-displacement policies and practices govern all Detroit neighborhoods in order to preserve and expand an adequate supply of permanent affordable housing, commercial property and open green space and parks.