This post is part of the #CF100 Series of blog posts. The Council on Foundations is marking the 100th anniversary of the nation’s first community foundation, The Cleveland Foundation, by highlighting the roles of community foundations with this series.
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Fall Conference for Community Foundations in Cleveland this October!
The Richmond Community Foundation began, in 2002, what was to become its largest community initiative: The Nystrom United Revitalization Effort (NURVE). The Foundation began to convene Richmond, California community residents and stakeholders through focus groups, surveys and planning charrettes to develop a vision for the Nystrom community, considered at the time one of the most violent communities in the United States. The community’s founding vision for NURVE was to create “a safe, diverse and thriving place, where kids walk to quality schools, people of all ages use the parks and community facilities, and a variety of housing options meet the needs of local residents.”
To reach this vision, RCF and community residents, in partnership with the East Bay Community Foundation, reached out to Bay Area Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) and the City of Richmond to engage in planning for NURVE. The result was the NURVE Neighborhood Plan which provided a roadmap for achieving the short and long term goals of the collaborative. The plan laid out the five following opportunity sites: Nystrom Elementary School; Nystrom Village Public Housing; Maritime Child Development Center; MLK Community Center; MLK Park.
These sites sat on approximately 40 contiguous acres, and each provided benefit to the community and to the NURVE partners. Yet no partner had the resources to build any of the five projects on its own. To overcome this challenge, a strategy was developed to leverage the assets of each partner to complete the projects. This strategy required a partnership structure led and staffed by the Richmond Community Foundation to provide oversight for the projects. The NURVE Committee is comprised of the Mayor, City Manager, County Supervisor, Superintendent of Schools and the Executive Directors and or CEOs of all nonprofit partners, as well as the presidents of the two neighborhood councils. This committee handles all coordination between organizations and jurisdictions. In addition to establishing the new structure, the partners developed a comprehensive Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), outlining the role of each partner. This MOU has been updated several times as new partners have been added or roles have changed. With support from the Center for Cities and Schools at UC Berkeley, NURVE has also been able to develop drafts of joint use agreements between the City and the school district for use of the sites. These agreements not only provide for joint programming, but also joint design of the facilities by the respective architects.
Early on, NURVE received a California Cultural and Historical Endowment (CCHE) grant for $2 million to renovate the Maritime Child Development Center on the condition that $2 million of matching funds was raised. The City and School District passed resolutions, cosigned by members of the NURVE Executive Committee that committed the City ($500,000) and School District ($1.5 M) to match funds for the grant. In addition, the passing of City of Richmond Resolution 68-06, and WCCUSD Resolution 02-0607 publically committed the NURVE partners to the community’s vision and the goals of the collaborative. Additionally, the Resolutions provided the political will to see the NURVE initiative through to completion as all five opportunity sites were owned by a different public entity (City, County and School District). The most critical element to the success of the collaborative; however, has been the commitment by all NURVE partners to the original community vision which has driven the collaborative for twelve years. It has also led to more than $52 million to complete the projects. For a community foundation with less than $3 million in assets, to leverage this much investment takes a lot of NURVE!
NURVE holds the promise for community transformation on a national scale. RCF has documented each stage of NURVE, from its early beginnings to its most current structure and MOU, and has the ability to share this information in meaningful ways. NURVE has developed a number of tools and models that can be shared including joint use agreements, neighborhood plans, effective governance structures, and evaluation tools that have allowed a unique group of partners to work together for almost a decade.
Outcomes for NURVE have been significant. MLK Park, once an empty field, has been turned into a sports complex hosting more than 150,000 user visits per year. In addition, violent crime in the neighborhood has dropped by more than 75% since NURVE started. In a final step, the Richmond Community Foundation moved its offices into the Maritime Child Development Center, which is now part of the Rosie the Riveter National Park.
This is just one example of the collective impact work that Richmond Community Foundation is doing in our community. NURVE clearly demonstrates how organizations can come together with a common vision for change, and share resources to face large-scale challenges and create powerful and lasting social change.
Jim Beckler is President and CEO of the Richmond Community Foundation.