The St. Louis Fed hosted its 2010 Exploring Innovation in Community Development Week April 19-23 to draw national attention to innovation in the field of community development and its important role in the American life. The theme this year was "New Voices, Fresh Ideas: The Future of Community Development."
Events kicked off April 20 with the week's main meeting—a public policy dialogue in St. Louis that was broadcast via videoconference to Evansville, Little Rock, Kansas City and Memphis. "Restructuring and Retooling for the Future," featured three national expert panelists, who offered their views on the issues and future of community development. (View complete footage of the videoconference.)
Gary Logan, president of Synago Consulting, began the discussion by stressing the importance of community development professionals truly knowing their respective communities—their hopes, dreams, fears, customs and rituals—stating that such factors bond members of a community and uniquely define them. To effect real change, he says, we as community development professionals must learn such distinguishing characteristics, respect these value systems and earn a community's trust thus creating a culture that goes beyond engineering entitlement programs and fostering not self-reliance but dependency. When this happens, it leads not only to successes in business and innovation, but a stronger culture better equipped to articulate and generate the resources to meet its own needs as well.
The second panelist was Ruth McCambridge, editor-in-chief of The Nonprofit Quarterly, who noted that the community development sector has changed significantly in recent years, particularly in the models of philanthropy and nonprofits. Stating that there are indeed great models of philanthropic support of large community development and other nonprofits at the national level, another critical model that should not be overlooked is the local networking model, which calls upon local community organizations to become linked to share ideas, learn from each other and work together to influence policy that affects their organizational viability and that of the communities they serve.
Ray Boshara, vice president and senior research fellow at New America Foundation, was the third presenter, and underscored the urgency of pursuing change and innovation within the community development field, explaining that we are in the "next progressive era," a historical period marked by income inequality and zero job creation, among other economic indicators. He advocated a turn away from consumption and toward production, an environment that favors entrepreneurism and small business over consolidation, and a move toward building assets and capital, rather than simply income, especially among low-income individuals. These approaches, he asserted, would help rewrite the social contract we have today.
After the public policy dialogue, attendees participated in regional-specific breakout sessions that varied at each location.
Exploring Innovation Week continued April 21 when audiences at each of the Bank's four zones viewed the documentary, The New Neighbors. This film is the story of how one citizen movement in the town of Pennsauken, N.J.—midway between Camden, New Jersey, and Philadelphia, Penn.—took root, and through engagement of a community, became a model of intentional integration and a thriving community in an inner-city suburb.
A full text of the April 20 public policy dialogue is now available.You can also read and download a printable PDF version of the executive summaries from the April 20 event, post-videoconference meetings and a summary of the documentary screening by zone: Memphis, Little Rock, Louisville, St. Louis.
Events continued in the Louisville zone with the Greater Louisville Nonprofit Technology Summit on April 22 and in St. Louis with the Greater St. Louis Housing Conference, "Creating Whole Communities." (View agenda and presentations from "Creating Whole Communities.")
The St. Louis Fed also kicked off its 10,000-Hour Challenge during Exploring Innovation Week 2010—a challenge to community development professionals across the country to collectively dedicate themselves to the practice of innovation. The Fed wants to know: what could we accomplish if, together, as a profession, we collectively devoted 10,000 hours to innovation in community development?
To participate in the Challenge, community development professionals nationwide are invited to post and share their latest insights and innovative solutions to a community development opportunity through a designated section on the St. Louis Fed's web site, located at www.stlouisfed.org/10kChallenge. There, you can browse innovative ideas and also learn more about a chosen Featured Innovator. The Fed's 10,000-Hour Challenge was inspired by Malcolm Gladwell's 2008 book, Outliers. In the book, Gladwell posits that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert at a skill, task or activity.