Recovery and Resilience: Being in Community with Community Development Leaders

November 24, 2021

As our region’s communities emerge from the hardships of the pandemic, community development practitioners are ever focused on advancing economic inclusion, resilience, equity, and mobility. Many residents of low-income and predominantly minority neighborhoods were especially hard-hit when job losses, small business closures, and Covid-19-related hospitalizations and mortality surged beginning in the spring of 2020. These challenges reflect the social and economic fragility in low-income and predominantly minority neighborhoods stemming from concentrated and persistent poverty, low-wage employment, systemic racism, and gaps in the social safety net, in addition to other factors limiting economic opportunity. Looking ahead, many local policymakers and community development practitioners are concerned the economic shocks of the pandemic may further depress the long-term trajectories of the hardest hit neighborhoods and their residents.

Since joining the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago Community and Economic Development team (CED), I have been uplifted in my discovery of how creatively the deep bench of community development leaders working across our District are meeting this moment to advance collective recovery and resilience. In this blog post, I invite community leaders and organizers to share with the CED team their practical approaches to neighborhood improvement and to supporting the growth of a more inclusive economy that works for everyone. In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the CED team endeavors to highlight and share a diversity of perspectives and expertise on the best practices related to local problem-solving and scaling solutions. Importantly, by hearing from a diversity of experts, we gain a better understanding of our region’s communities, including the role of neighborhood networks, funders, intermediaries, and policymakers, as well as how these groups develop collective goals and solve longstanding challenges.

A new ProfitWise News and Views article by Joel Bookman and Andrew Mooney highlights one community-led approach to building resiliency in neighborhoods, drawing on their 2001–11 leadership in Chicago’s New Communities Program (NCP). Their article highlights seven lessons for powerful collaboration across community-based organizations, philanthropy, and local government as Chicago’s communities drive toward economic opportunity and resilience. The authors’ lessons specifically recognize that effective collaborations, coordination, and organizing efforts must dedicate their focus to improving neighborhoods’ long-term trajectories. Indeed, Bookman and Mooney describe how the “intangible outcomes” from the decade-long coordination and community organizing efforts in NCP endured through the Great Recession and Covid-19 pandemic, arguably leaving the residents of NCP neighborhoods better off than they otherwise would have been.

The CED team will continue to seek out and welcome additional perspectives on practical approaches to neighborhood improvement. Such insights help direct our attention toward innovative local solutions to the most pressing economic challenges in our region’s low-income and minority communities. As we learn more from local leaders, we are better able to identify and share the approaches that work best across the diversity of our region’s communities, and work alongside these leaders in fostering a more inclusive economy.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, the community development field has demonstrated its resilience while confronting immense challenges in our most vulnerable communities. In asking community leaders, organizers, and related stakeholders to share their insights with us, our intent is to continue identifying and disseminating their practical approaches to neighborhood improvement, particularly as the economic recovery from the pandemic takes hold. We are grateful to be in community with those undertaking this critical work.

The views expressed in this post are our own and do not reflect those of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago or the Federal Reserve System.

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