1 What is the Working Cities Challenge (WCC) and how has it made an impact in rural communities in the past?
The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, the State of Maine, national and local philanthropy, and private sector business launched the Working Communities Challenge in Maine on October 21, 2020. The Working Communities Challenge supports local, cross-sector teams working together to improve economic outcomes for all people in Maine’s towns, cities, and rural communities. This multi-year grant initiative draws on Maine’s commitment to build economic opportunity for communities and residents with low incomes. Inviting rural communities to develop teams is a new element of the Working Communities Challenge, which was previously the Working Cities Challenge in Southern New England and targeted mid-sized cities. However, the WCC was launched in Vermont about a year ago and a number of rural communities participated in the first phase of the challenge. A number of these teams expressed the value of the Challenge in inviting unusual or non-traditional collaboration across groups and places. We look forward to continuing to learn in Maine.
2. What is the general program approach and/or model of the WCC initiative?
The Working Communities Challenge, a two-part grant program, consists of a six-month Design Phase followed by a three-year Implementation Phase. Up to eight (8) cross-sector teams representing towns, cities, and rural communities will be awarded a six-month grant of $25,000 to participate in the Design Phase. This phase provides coaching, workshops, and time for teams to strengthen and diversify their teams, identify a shared “compelling cause,” brainstorm strategies to address their shared goal, and experiment with addressing the issue they have identified. At the end of the phase, teams should have familiarity and understanding with the Working Communities Challenge model. Up to five teams will receive $375,000 over three years, as well as technical assistance, coaching, access to small tactical grants and participation in the statewide learning community. The teams will be expected to use the grant awards and assistance to broaden and deepen existing work in their community, or to start new work.
3. Why is cross sector stakeholder involvement important and what is the criteria for communities looking to submit an application to the Boston Fed’s WCC?
Federal Reserve Bank of Boston research on so-called “resurgent cities” that are able to recover from economic shock or long-term economic decline indicates that places that are able to rebuild possess leadership and collaboration from an array of key institutions and individuals. These places have public, non-profit, and private sector leadership that collectively articulate a shared goal and engage low- and moderate-income residents authentically, at the leadership table, to articulate strategies and work toward change.
4. What benefits, resources, and/or opportunities are expected to be realized for communities that are successful with a WCC grant?
Community leadership teams who participate in the Working Communities Challenge will receive funding, coaching, technical assistance, and development to clarify their collective goal and work toward addressing it over the long-term. These teams will also join a community of teams tackling similar challenges from across the state and across New England.
5. In your network Tech Talk at Central Maine Tech Night this month, you will be speaking about initiative. What are your plans for growing the WCC within the next few years?
We are launching the initiative now and anticipate having community leadership teams forming now, identifying the big issue they want to focus on, and starting their applications. Eight teams will be selected to participate in the six-month Design Phase beginning in April, 2021 and at the end of next year, we will have identified 5 teams for the multi-year Implementation Phase.
For more information, see the website.