West Harlem Development Corporation announced that the organization is working toward bold goals for West Harlem and is restructuring its granting process at a meeting where 250 residents and nonprofit directors were in attendance on December 12.
WHDC Executive Director Kofi A. Boateng laid out the organization’s strategy to tackle the community’s greatest problems of educational gaps, high unemployment and lack of resources to help vulnerable populations. Boateng laid out bold goals for the community and shared his plan to do so, which includes partnering with the Earth Institute at Columbia University.
If we all come together, think together, dream together, measure together, and deliver together, the future is very exciting,” Boateng said. “I strongly believe that when we create a transformative urban model that excites the guardians of resources, we shall not want for what will be needed to scale up the successful programs that WHDC-funded local nonprofits run to reach the entire community, first of CD 9 West Harlem, and then to the whole of Harlem.”
The audience received the plan well, often praising WHDC in the question and answer session of the meeting. Others implored the community to band together to achieve the goals.
WHDC wants all West Harlem children to attend universal pre-k, to have most West Harlem teens graduate high school and go on to complete their college education, adults find good paying jobs, streets well-lit and free of crime, affordable housing, health and wellness resources and all of the aspects that make for a vibrant community.
After a retreat in November, the WHDC board decided to focus on education, workforce and economic development, community facilities (including health), and housing. As examples, arts and culture should have education and workforce and economic development objectives. The environment, Transportation, and Historic Preservation can likewise have education and economic development goals.
The organization has set its sights high with such goals because West Harlem is a manageable community with a population of 110,000, is located in one of the wealthiest cities in the world and is surrounded by formidable educational institutions. WHDC will forge new partnerships and welcome all who will assist in kind, direction, and with resources.
The strategy sets measurable goals for the next 10 years and rallies several partners from the nonprofit, government, institutional, and philanthropic sectors for a West Harlem Collective Impact.
In setting community development goals, we will establish base line data in all categories. This exercise may provide opportunities for nonprofit organizations, youth and seniors to conduct surveys and collect data.
WHDC has already secured its first major partner, the Earth Institute of Columbia University, which brings international experience in setting and managing the millennium development goals for the United Nations. In just a few weeks working with them, Professor Sachs and his colleagues have demonstrated palpable excitement to work with us to build an urban model. As an example, they will assemble a data management team to start mapping the community, creating an interactive online feature for people to find resources.
WHDC will defer new grant activity until the second quarter of 2014. During the first quarter, WHDC will finalize the metrics that will be attached to the goals for new grants and the collaborations that will be required. We will use a combination of RFP and our traditional grant-making process to achieve the goals.
The WHDC board has approved a budget of $2 million for the combined RFP and grant activities for 2014. The RFPs and grants invitations will then go out to solicit applications from nonprofits in the community.
WHDC will hold grant applicants to meet the goals they set forth to maintain progress in improving economic opportunities and quality of life to sustain a vibrant West Harlem community, holding fast the mission of the organization.
WHDC is pleased to have given out grants totaling nearly $3 million to 110 organizations from inside and outside West Harlem, however, we cannot continue the mode of “sprinkling dollars” because in ten years, the benefit fund from Columbia University would run out without any obvious substantive achievements. In WHDC’s research, we engaged with people and organizations that are doing cutting edge sustainable development work locally and internationally to learn from them and to develop our own strategy for West Harlem.
“The $150 million in cash and in kind services from Columbia of the CBA is a down payment,” said Donald C. Notice, WHDC board chair. “The return will be how well we use it.”
To put things in perspective, if WHDC converted everything into cash with no administrative cost, no vision, no partners, the organization could pay $1,363, or $85 a year for 16 years, to every one of the 110,000 residents of CD9 West Harlem. The act is unimaginative and without legacy.
Instead, WHDC is taking on the challenge of transforming a community where everyone who needs any service to move up the social ladder is assisted in a perpetual and regenerative stream. WHDC is following the original vision of the community when Community Board 9 assessed its needs for the 197A Plan.
Goals in Education:
- Promote the availability of pre-K for 100% of eligible children in the community.
- Increase parental role in education.
- Social/emotional/healthy eating support services for 100% of school-age children.
- Quality after-school and summer employment programs for all with goal of raising Levels 3 and 4 standardized testing for 3rd and 8th graders, and Regency passing rates for most of community’s school children.
- High school graduation rates greater than 90 percent within four years for all.
- GED/Vocational (training/high school diploma for all non-graduating high school students
- Most college students graduate within four years.
- Productive employment/skills/graduate school training for all eligible.
Goals in Workforce/Economic Development
- Maintain community unemployment rate no higher than national unemployment rate
- Develop skills for low-income residents to earn living wages.
- Train for jobs of the future.
- Assess and provide job-readiness services for 100% of community residents at risk.
- Financial and growth resources for small businesses.
Goals in Community Facilities (Including Health)
- Elimination/Reduction of environmental diseases.
- Comprehensive medical care and wellness services for all.
- Positive intervention outcomes for dislocated youth, formerly incarcerated, seniors and all other vulnerable populations.
- Availability of community facilities for multipurpose use.
Goals in Housing (To be funded by the affordable housing fund)
- Displacement/Harassment Prevention.
- Preservation and increase of affordable housing.
- Quality of life assistance for seniors.