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Volume 2 • Issue 1

IN THIS ISSUE: 3

Moving Beyond Your Four Walls: Working Collectively toward Systems Change

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Book Review: "The Metropolitan Revolution: How Cities and Metros are Fixing Our Broken Politics and Fragile Economy "

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Cross Sector Partnerships: A Nashville Urban Community Experience


Volume 2 | Issue 1

Welcome to this issue of NNR PUBLISHER Susan King

Center for Nonprofit Management

ADVISORY TEAM

Lewis Lavine

Center for Nonprofit Management

Brad Gray

Center for Nonprofit Management

Keel Hunt

Collective impact and community partnerships have been hot topics in the nonprofit sector recently. At CNM, our conference in May was centered on the concept and we have held events with nonprofit and community leaders to talk about ways that the idea could help us solve issues here in our own city. In this issue of Nashville Nonprofit Review, we read about examples of working success here in Nashville both in an historically underserved community and a suburb that has struggled with finding its identity and meeting the neighborhood’s needs.

Rich Rhoda

This issue’s book review shifts from how communities are working to address their needs and looks at how some of the nation’s problems are being helped by its metropolitan areas.

Linda Schacht

Thank you to all of our contributors for putting in the time and effort to share your expertise.

The Strategy Group Tennessee Higher Education Commission Nelson and Sue Andrews Institue on Civic Leadership at Lipscomb University

CONTRIBUTORS Colleen Ebinger Impact Strategies Group

Sarah Morris

Impact Strategies Group

Josh Inman

Graduate student, Lipscomb University

Linda Schacht

Lipscomb University

Garrett Harper

Greater Nashville Chamber of Commerce

37 Peabody St. Nashville, TN 37210 (615) 259-0100 cnm.org For content suggestions, contact Susan King at susan@cnm.org or (615) 259-0100 ext. 304

About the Center for Nonprofit Management

Our mission: To create and sustain nonprofit excellence Our vision: Better communities through extraordinary nonprofit services For 27 years, the Center for Nonprofit Management has been a home to Middle Tennessee’s nonprofit leaders. Located in the historic Trolley Barns near downtown, we offer a place to relax, share triumphs and find solutions to problems. At CNM, nonprofit board members, executives and staff have the opportunity to learn how to enhance their services through our comprehensive calendar of skillbuilding workshops, our consulting services and our annual Bridge to Excellence conference. We also celebrate and recognize the enormous positive impact made by our nonprofit members through our annual Salute to Excellence awards dinner. 2


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So what is collective impact? And why so much excitement?

In recent years, civic and nonprofit leaders have grown increasingly aware of the collective impact approach to social change – an approach that moves us beyond traditional collaboration and coordination to shift our systems in more fundamental ways.

The Impact Strategies Group team has been working on collective impact efforts for several years. Most recently, we are supporting Generation Next, a collective impact effort in Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Minnesota that is modeled on the StriveTogether framework. We have also worked with collaborative efforts at all levels of government and in states and cities around the country.

hen Marsha Edwards, CEO of the Martha O’Bryan Center, reflects on the Nashville Promise Neighborhood experience so far, she is quick to point out that collective impact is not your average collaborative or partnership. “In Nashville, we often gather together around some affinity, and that’s not enough to pull you together to make lasting community change… This is not just about going to another meeting.”

Collective impact efforts are gaining steam around the country, with conferences, articles and webinars dedicated to the topic. The Center for Nonprofit Management’s Bridge to Excellence 2014, hosted at Belmont University on May 15, is but one example. Even the federal government’s Social Innovation Fund (SIF) request for proposals specifies that collective impact efforts will receive priority consideration.

As Edwards puts it, “Collective impact is about organizations unified around an outcome. There are many ways to get there, based on your organization’s priorities and approach, but we have a unified outcome.”

In this article, we’ll provide historical context on the evolution toward collective impact, outline some commonly accepted best practices, and offer suggestions for groups that are considering embarking upon this journey. Throughout, we will share local context and insights from the How’s Nashville campaign to end homelessness and the Nashville 3


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Promise Neighborhood’s work to support the community in the Stratford cluster in East Nashville. While collective impact is just now coming to the attention of many organizations and leaders, it is by no means untested in Nashville. In addition to the two initiatives highlighted in this article, many others exist and are garnering national attention. Alignment Nashville is a homegrown model launched in 2004 that has begun to scale to other communities around the U.S. The Nashville After Zone Alliance is also achieving national repute, being cited often in the Twin Cities as a shining example of a citywide afterschool time collective impact effort similar to St. Paul’s Sprockets. Historical trends Over recent decades, many people have grown increasingly frustrated with the slow pace of progress on a slew of social issues. From housing to education to civil rights, we are dissatisfied with the results being delivered, despite the oftenenormous sums of money invested. A number of efforts in the past decade have attempted greater collaboration across sectors and institutions in the hopes that such action would lead to faster and greater progress. Over the years, these collective and collaborative initiatives have taken on a variety of forms, increasingly becoming cross-sector in nature. Our once strictly-defined, distinct tors – public, for-profit, nonprofit –

have undergone a blurring and proportions, spends more dollars blending of the lines over the past addressing social problems than any 20 years. Corporations now place other sector. Yet nonprofit greater emphasis on corporate social organizations are often the entities responsibility and cause-related best able to innovate and develop marketing, in addition to running efficient, effective, and impactful their own corporate foundations. alternatives to traditional Nonprofits are increasingly running government service models. their own profit-generating social enterprises, looking, in some cases The question, then, became, How do more like businesses than traditional “charities.” And government has developed sophisticated collaborative efforts with both foundations and corporations, Moving Day: How’s Nashville is a community-wide, setting agendas and driving collaborative, and inclusive effort to end chronic homelessness in Nashville within this decade. It was launched by the investments Metropolitan Homelessness Commission in 2013. that gain private sector matches of up to 4:1. We hear terms we bring together the nimbleness of like the “convergence” of the sectors nonprofits, the flexible financial and even the “emergence of a fourth capital of foundations, and the scale sector.” of government to achieve dramatically better results for For many years, there was much talk people? of “scaling” solutions: often understood to mean expanding a The answer to this question has nonprofit’s operations within the gone through several iterations and same community or to new continues to evolve today. In the geographies. It soon became clear, early 2000s, Stephen Goldsmith and however, that this would be a William D. Eggers coined the term massive undertaking. Even the “governing by network” in their biggest organizations are simply a book of the same name. The concept drop in the bucket when compared describes the shift away from to the entire landscape of the social government managing workers and need. Government, by epic providing direct service, to 4


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government orchestrating networks of public, private and nonprofit organizations to deliver the services on its behalf.

budgets, we needed to target specific groups more and prioritize who we were helping—even though that prioritizing is difficult.”

Later that decade, city and state governments around the country experimented further, establishing offices charged with spurring greater cross-sector collaboration. With names like Office of Strategic Partnerships, Office of Social Entrepreneurship, Office of the Philanthropic Liaison, and Office of Public Private Partnership, these offices were an attempt to leverage the wisdom and experience of nimble service providers in the nonprofit sector with the scale of government. The goal was sometimes to increase the reach of these nonprofit organizations and sometimes to bring the innovative practices directly into government. (For more on these offices, see here and here.)

Some in the federal government had come to the same conclusion a few years earlier. Shortly after President George W. Bush took office in 2001, he created the White House Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives, along with Centers for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives in 11 federal agencies.

The Role of the Federal Government in Seeding Partnerships In 2012 Will Connelly came to the Metro Homelessness Commission (founded in 2005) and observed that, after several years of existence, the effort “was struggling to get any traction in reducing homelessness. We had done some cool things, but we hadn’t gotten real traction.” He started looking around the country to see what was working elsewhere and came across the 100,000 Homes Campaign. This campaign focused on targeting resources to the most vulnerable and chronically homeless in a community. “I realized that with limited resources and shrinking

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Working agreements communicate not only to ourselves but to the larger community to build the public will. His goal was to create greater partnership between the federal government and the many faithbased and community organizations providing social services around the country. With President Obama’s election in 2008, his transition team began

crafting the architecture for a number of similarly-styled partnerships between government and the social sector. The White House Office of Social Innovation was established almost immediately after he took office. His administration then began to craft the architecture for what would emerge as the Social Innovation Fund (SIF), a unique partnership between the federal government, some of the nation’s largest foundations, and individual nonprofit organizations. Through a competitive RFP process, SIF grants federal funds to foundation intermediaries who provide a 1:1 match. These intermediaries then regrant those funds to nonprofits (who themselves provide another match) in order to identify, validate, and grow promising approaches to the challenges facing their local communities. In the end, the federal government gains $3 in matching funds for every $1 it invests. The president’s new My Brother’s Keeper initiative, which aims to create opportunities for boys and young men of color, is structured similarly to the Social Innovation

The James A. Cayce public housing community is the oldest in Nashville and served by the Martha O'Bryan Center.

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mechanisms, including Pay for Success contracts and social impact bonds. In 2010, the Department of Education funded 21 Promise Neighborhoods around the nation, using the successful Harlem Children’s Zone as a model. Congress appropriated continued funding for both planning and implementation in 2011 and 2012. Here in Nashville, the Martha O’Bryan Center received a Promise Neighborhood planning grant in 2011. “When A map ofthe Stratford Cluster and area of you get a planning Nashville Promise Neighborhood. grant,” says Edwards, “you are part of a group Fund. of nonprofits around the country. They understand that Obama has sought other collective impact is really about opportunities to restructure some of unified outcomes.” the internal operations of the federal government in order to encourage What we see from these efforts is the “what works.” The White House attempt to leverage the strengths of Council for Community Solutions each player: the breadth and scale of was formed in 2010 and charged government, the grantmaking with “identifying key attributes of knowledge and more flexible capital successful community solutions; of foundations, and the practical highlighting best practices, tools, expertise and community knowledge and models of cross-sector of nonprofits. collaboration and civic participation; and making recommendations on Back to the ground: how to engage all stakeholders in Sustaining the work community solutions that have a significant impact on solving the This historical evolution points to a nation’s most serious problems.” heightened focus on the impact of The Administration is also our array of systems and experimenting with new financing interventions on the problems we are

trying to solve. What is working? How can nonprofits know what works? How can you continue to improve? In 2011, John Kania and Mark Kramer published “Collective Impact” in the Stanford Social Innovation Review. The authors distinguished between isolated impact and collective impact, pointing out that big problems require the involvement of multiple institutions from all sectors. Profiling several community efforts, most prominently the Strive partnership in greater Cincinnati and northern Kentucky, Kania and Kramer identified what they call “the five conditions of collective success:” • Common agenda • Shared measurement systems • Mutually reinforcing activities • Continuous communication • Backbone support function Common agenda.

It is essential to have a shared vision for change, one that includes a common understanding of the problem and a joint approach to solving it through agreed upon actions. In the Nashville Promise Neighborhood, the district, school faculty, and nonprofits work closely in partnership. They have “collaboration groups focused on particular outcomes that work to raise money together, do work together, train each other, and hold each other accountable on the collaborative results.” In the Alignment Nashville model, these 6


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small, focused groups are called committees and their work is guided by a collaboration plan. Shared measurement systems.

Collecting data and measuring results consistently on a short list of indicators at the community level and across all participating organizations is at the heart of collective impact. How’s Nashville’s first project was the implementation of a “registry week” to count of the homeless population in Nashville. After gathering those baseline numbers in the summer of 2013, Connelly and the How’s Nashville partners “decided we were not going to sit on data. We were going to use it.” Now, the group’s time-limited goal is focused on improving their groupwide data collection methods and storage system. Mutually reinforcing activities.

Collective impact requires that a diverse group of stakeholders undertake the specific set of activities at which it excels in a way that supports and is coordinated with the actions of others. As Connelly puts it, “We have a number of nonprofits that have the same funding streams but take varying approaches, so we made a very simple goal of housing more people. We were really trying to align our work, while realizing that we all have different responsibilities” in that work. Continuous communication.

Developing trust among nonprofits, corporations, and government

agencies can be challenging, but is an essential ingredient, helping to ensure that each is treated fairly, and that decisions are made on the basis of objective evidence and the best possible solution. Connelly notes that “we have to remind ourselves about what we agreed upon. Working agreements communicate not only to ourselves but to the larger community to build the public will. Even if it's really clear in your head, it’s probably not to the folks you’re trying to reach.” The covenant document that guides How’s Nashville’s work even

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We were really trying to align our work, while realizing that we all have different responsibilities

table, it requires organizations to be generous. In the case of How’s Nashville, the Metro Homelessness Commission stepped up to use its resources in support of the collective impact partnership. Connelly notes that “the Metro Homelessness Commission isn’t doing direct service, and we have time to be the backbone.” So that is their role. So, you want to do this? Not scared away yet? Are you interested in building or strengthening a collaborative effort?

outlines values the group shares, including respect, confidentiality, and collaborativeness. He added, “biweekly meetings are so important, especially with a time limited goal.”

Plenty has been written already about collective impact and we will not attempt to summarize it all. Two good resources to consult are the Collective Impact Forum, hosted by the Aspen Institute and FSG, and the Stanford Social Innovation Review’s Collective Impact archives. Below, we draw from our own experience to offer what we believe to be the most important considerations.

Backbone support function.

Remember: people power the work.

Dedicated staff that is separate from the participating organizations is important for the initiative to function smoothly. The backbone team can then take responsibility for planning, managing, and supporting the initiative through ongoing facilitation, technology and communications support, data collection and reporting, and management of the myriad logistical and administrative details. As Marsha Edwards points out, when there is no new money on the

Sustainability has been a common struggle of many collaboratives we have supported over the years – some of which were led by government entities and some by nonprofits. The sustainability challenges have often been less about money and more about leadership. Collaborative efforts based primarily on a political leader’s priorities or with one person or entity really driving the work are susceptible to fast decline when that leader moves on. Collective impact efforts, meanwhile, are at their best 7


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when grounded in and influenced by the community. Rather than using one entity to serve as the conduit or liaison for community members to influence policy and systems, it is best when the collective group as a whole drives a great deal of the agenda and the work. How’s Nashville relied on a small, passionate group to get the effort up and running. The Metro Homelessness Commission “wanted it to be bigger than us, bigger than our budget. We needed a steering committee to help refine the vision, make sure we were on the right track, help determine what we were going to implement, and set goals.” Today, around 30 organizations are involved and approximately 15 core organizations guide the work. Getting buy-in requires helping everyone see their own role in the effort. As Edwards summed it up: “People have to be generous where they don’t the ability to be generous. They have to step out and have faith. Everybody is busy! We don’t have a lot of time to sit around and say, ‘what if…?’” People who don’t do direct service also need to see their place in the work if it is truly to be a community-wide collective impact effort. At the How’s Nashville launch, Connelly and his team asked people in attendance to consider making a $1,000 donation – which is the amount it costs to get one homeless person into housing. “We

raised $35,000 that day in a matter of minutes. People were raising their hands, getting excited. Things just caught on. The $1,000 ask was easy for people to understand.” Connelly didn’t doubt the community would come together around a specific goal. “We live in an abundant community. I knew that people could be interested in contributing resources if we gave

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Homelessness is a life or death issue. Our urgency needed to match.

them a solution to plug into.” Be bold… but be realistic.

in the city. For How’s Nashville, it was housing 200 people in 100 days, increasing the monthly housing placement rate when the status quo was to house around 19 people per month. Edwards reflects back, “In the Promise Neighborhood, we decided we would marry ourselves to improving graduation rates in the worst high school in the city. Many people didn’t see that as a wise choice, but with nonprofit partners like Family and Children’s Services and the Oasis Center working together with us in partnership with the Stratford school administration, we saw a massive turn-around in a short time.”

A common StriveTogether adage is to remember that your circle of influence is much smaller than your circle of concern. We all want Nashville to be a better place, and there are many opportunities to improve life in the city using the collective impact model. Though we are concerned with many issues, we must be extremely clear about the actions that we – not “other people” – can take to make that change happen.

In the case of the How’s Nashville campaign, Connelly notes, “we pushed ourselves in coming up with a goal that seemed a little out of reach. Homelessness is a life or death issue. Our urgency needed to match that. We ended up housing 189 people in 100 days. No one really saw it as a failure; we surprised ourselves at what we could do.”

This is not to say that you should not be bold. You must be bold if you are to achieve systemic change. Push yourself and your partners to take on a challenging goal that none of you could accomplish alone.

StriveTogether talks often about “using data as a flashlight not a hammer.”

For the Promise Neighborhood, the ambitious goal was to improve graduation rates at Stratford High School, which had the lowest rate

Be clear upfront about how you plan to use data.

For a collective impact effort to be transformative for a community, organizational program data and government data must be used together. Data can help us better understand practices that work and those that 8


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don’t, offering clues about the most effective interventions and strategies. Data should not be used to punish less-than-optimal program performance. It is important to build a culture of continuous improvement and trust from the beginning. State clearly your expectation that partners use data to make decisions. Discuss the need for all to bring their own programmatic data to the table. Be mindful of the language you use when talking about it and never use the data to criticize or embarrass members. Remember, it’s a learning tool. So ask, What is this data telling us? What additional data do we need to round out the picture? How else might we interpret this data to make sense of what’s happening in Nashville? Collective impact is not a quick solution. It requires commitment, trust, and a level of cooperation and alignment many nonprofits have never attempted. But if we want to achieve better results – if we feel real urgency about the problems we are trying to address – then it will be worth the effort. Impact Strategies Group is based in Minneapolis, Minn. and partners with people and organizations working across sectors to address public problems.

Book Review

The Metropolitan Revolution: How Cities and Metros Are Fixing Our Broken Politics and Fragile Economy Review by Dr. Garret Harper The Research Center, Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce

The revolution of cities and metropolitan areas has begun “trying to build something positive that has lasting value for places and people.” In The Metropolitan Revolution: How Cities and Metros Are Fixing Our Broken Politics and Fragile Economy, Brookings Institution scholars Bruce Katz and Jennifer Bradley explore the economic engine of U.S. metropolitan areas. After more than two centuries during which the U.S. has balanced the constitutionally formulated power between nation and states, the issues and power role are shifting instead to the formerly less prominent cities and their respective suburban realms. The reasons for the change are a mix of demographics, politics and economics. In short, a reality of change lies behind the imperative for empowered urban areas in the nation. With large, increasing populations and economic vitality concentrated in metropolitan areas, the

realignment of power seems not only inevitable, but also smart. The authors note that in “a nation paralyzed by hyper partisanship, the metropolitan model offers a sensible counterpoint.” Pragmatism is a response to challenge and a diversity of peoples and opinions that metropolitan areas have often learned yields benefits for all those involved. As metropolitan areas themselves are amalgamations of activity, the ways these regions have flourished illustrates a variety of approaches. The book takes up a number of metro area case studies that, for different circumstances, have followed different paths. Through these case studies the authors examine factors that showcase how and why metropolitan areas matter so intensely. Innovation leads economic growth and urban areas are breeding grounds for innovation. —Continued on p. 13

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Cross-Sector Partnerships: A Nashville Urban Community Experience by Susan King Center for Nonprofit Management

Donelson has always felt like a small town in a big city. Situated just a few miles from downtown Nashville with a population around 75,000 —when you include neighboring Hermitage—it’s suffered from a lack of identity and organization. But now, that is all changing. Local businesses—like Piedmont Natural Gas, Cummins International, Emdeon, Deloitte and Bridgestone—have been partnering with nonprofits, community leaders, the Donelson-Hermitage Chamber of Commerce and Metro Nashville Public Schools for the last few years to bring lasting improvement to a failing school, relief from high energy bills and better access to fresh produce for SNAP recipients. McGavock In 2009, McGavock Comprehensive High School was failing and the state was knocking on its door threatening to take it over. With a revolving door of executive principals and a lack of strong leadership, the high school was producing exceptionally low test scores and high drop-out rates.

To address the need for immediate improvement, the McGavock Cluster Coalition was formed as a partnership among Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools, Donelson-Hermitage Chamber of Commerce and a handful of local businesses and community leaders. Their main goal: A better education

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They were trying to fix the issues...but nothing was changing and nothing was improving for their community’s kids.

“Nobody’s going to love our kids like we do,” said Steve Glover,

district 12 councilman and a core founder of the McGavock Cluster Coalition.

Shortly after the coalition was formed, Robbin Wall was hired as McGavock’s executive principal and introduced the academies concept, which he was familiar with after using the academy model in Texas.

Academies are schools within the school that enable students to participate in specific careerrelated activities using local business resources.

Leah Jack, executive director of the Donelson-Hermitage Chamber of Commerce said they quickly saw its

place as a way to connect businesses with community needs that fit with its own mission and values. It served as a conduit between local business partners and the school’s academies. McGavock now boasts an impressive list of academy partners, including: CMT, Nashville Airport Authority, Gaylord, US Community Credit Union and Middle Tennessee State University. “We want the public schools to be an integral part of preparing students for the workforce,” said Lucia Folk, Corporate Responsibility Leader for Country Music Television, said of its partnership with the school. McGavock also hosted a visit from President Obama earlier this year who applauded the school’s successes in improving its attendance rates, test scores and suspension rates without exception for the past five years. The academy system has made a major difference in moving the school forward. Today, graduation rates have increased by 22 percent, test scores 10


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are up and 68 students from 2009’s freshman class were awarded $35,000 in scholarships last month.The scholarships stemmed from a 2009 promise to

McGavock Comprehensive High School has made great improvements since 2009.

incoming freshman that if they scored a 21 on their ACT, maintained a 3.0 GPA and contributed 50 volunteer hours, they would be awarded a $500 scholarship. The funding for this program comes from a long list of local business partners and individuals who are looking to invest in the community. Jack said the program will continue for the foreseeable future. Hip Donelson As the high school has continued to improve, the rest of the community has started to come together and recognize the great potential and need in the neighborhood. Hip Donelson, or Hip D as the locals call it started as a

Facebook page in 2011 in an effort to bring neighbors together and help local service organizations. It has grown to more than 8,000 followers and it offers micro-grants to local organizations with money that it raises from products sold online. Hip Donelson is also establishing itself as a community resource by bringing together the people that live in the area and creating that sense of community. The group is also responsible for what is now Nashville’s largest weekly farmers market, which launched in 2012. That growth of attendance at the farmers market has been incredible and resulted in a

record number of people coming out to the season’s opening last month.

Nearly 3,400 people were at the market and they sold $1 9,400 worth of fresh produce. Part of that growth is due to the SNAP program, the federal food program formerly called “food stamps”. Donelson’s SNAP recipients now have even greater access to the fresh produce offered at the market. The

equipment to enable the purchases to occur —which costs nearly $2,000—was costprohibitive for each vendor. Instead, Hip Donelson purchased the

equipment in 2012 and issues “credits” to SNAP recipients as they enter the market. Vendors are then reimbursed for the credits at the end of the day. In 201 3, Frank Trew , Hip Donelson president, was approached by Piedmont Natural Gas who offered a $5,000 grant to the Hip Donelson to increase the benefits SNAP recipients receive when they want to buy fresh produce. With the funds, shoppers were given an extra $20 in SNAP credit to use only on fresh fruits and vegetable s.

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Attendance quickly started to double and the grant ran out in

As the high school has continued to improve, the rest of the community has started...to recognize the great potential and need in the neighborhood. July. Piedmont renewed the grant this year with additional funding from Cummins International. Home Energy Savings Energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions are 20 percent higher in Nashville than the national average. A number of organizations are working to help reduce this, including Hands On Nashville (HON) and its Home Energy Savings initiative. 11


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from being led by one corporation and instead became a collaborative effort with the Donelson/ Hermitage Chamber of Commerce and Cummins. Donelson’s Future As community needs change, partnerships continue to be sought and develop overtime. How are business partners paired up with a cause? Jack said it’s a combination of reaching out to businesses and businesses reaching out the Chamber.

Hip Donelson is working to revitalize the Donelson community with microgrants to organizations and the city's largest Farmers Market.

The initiative began in North and East Nashville but the Donelson area had a great need to reduce energy usage as well. In 2013, Cummins Nashville received a $145,000 grant to replicate HON’s program in Donelson and it partnered with the volunteer management nonprofit and the Donelson-Hermitage Chamber of Commerce to determine specifically where the need was. The program encourages lowincome homeowners to have a team of volunteers install energyefficient upgrades to their home. Typical incomes are $18,000$35,000 for retired homeowners. A team of eight to 10 volunteers spend five hours installing and

upgrading energy-efficient equipment. A blower door test at the start and conclusion of the project quantifies the improvement made over the course of the project. Recipients also agree to have their energy bills monitored to track longer-term savings. This year, project expectations in Donelson are: • 44 houses will be completed in 2014 • Metrics will be collected as to the impact, and • An Environmental Challenge project report will be completed.

Recently a potential restaurant partner wanted to learn ways to become involved in the community. Jack quickly connected them with McGavock Elementary School, where 85 percent of its students receive free and reduced lunches. The school, Chamber and business are currently discussing ways to create an effective partnership. “We have a great story to tell so we have to find ways to get that message out to the Nashville community at large,” she said. Special thanks for research and contribution for this article goes to Linda Peek Schacht, director ofthe Nelson and Sue Andrews Institute for Civic Leadership at Lipscomb University and Josh Inman, Nashville Corporate Social Responsibility Lead, Cummins International.

To meet these expectations and to truly have an impact in the community, the project transitioned 12


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According to Ed Glaeser, professor of economics at Harvard University, “ideas cross corridors and streets more easily than continents and seas.” Urban areas frequently are also more efficient with more modest environmental impact, another way they help point society forward. Efforts to foster region-wide cohesion and positive economic gains can and do take time, as each of the case examples reveals. A comment on New York City’s applied sciences initiatives plainly notes that success may not be apparent for decades. Nevertheless, focus on those industries in that city reflects not only to the present but relies on the heritage. Thomas Edison excelled amid a dense network of ideas and commerce that was present in an earlier New York. Each metropolitan area inevitably must forge a leadership path that is true to its needs and its dynamics. Another case details how Denver took a different path. Nearly forty years of effort resulted in a series of new plateaus of achievement as a region, sometimes offset by missteps and sometimes filled with powerful collective learning. These efforts, notably aided by multi-county agreements to jointly fund and support key infrastructure, resulted in a region that has both invigorated a core and catapulted a region to top tier competitiveness. By the early 2000s, populist support for greater Denver is deemed a

“psychological, even emotional” attribute where regional civic infrastructure “represents people’s commitment to the region as a whole rather than to their small portion of it.” Through strong leadership and perseverance, Denver has achieved tangible evidence that, not only do cities and suburbs share an economy and social ties, they can benefit from collaborating on both. Research cited shows that cities and suburbs tend to rise and fall together; relations between the two are not destined to be a zero-sum game. Cities nationwide, including Nashville, have studied the Denver experience, and the Nashville area’s mayors’ caucus has become one of the emulations of Denver successes. Other metropolitan examples include Cleveland with an imperative to build and nurture a network of business and institutions across a region once given up for decline. So also Houston where America’s demographics are in “fast forward”, witnesses communities coalescing to advance people and place from within. The revolution has begun in earnest is the message. Innovation districts in unlikely parts of unlikely cities are the new hubs ofAmerican vitality. Urban settings “have the physical bones” - walkable street blocks, sidewalks, historic buildings and waterfronts - the very features that appeal to desires of residential, commercial,

entrepreneurial, retail and cultural functions. Imagining these potential transformations aligns with metropolitan areas stepping out of themselves, as the places they have been into what they can become and are becoming. For many this can mean understanding their role as cities of the world. The historical past is replete with examples of great eras, many pre-nation-state, where cities lead economic vitality - from the Hanseatic League to Venice and Florence. With U.S. metropolitan areas so prominent as economic drivers, those areas now increasingly plot their own destiny. The authors note “cities and metropolitan areas have either been places acted on or the backdrop and locations where state and federal interventions have been made, whether for ill or good. They have been treated like one more constituency group to be ignored (or occasionally placated) rather than an integral part of economy shaping in their own right.” A speculative question is posed regarding whether federal and state leaders will recognize the inevitable and align themselves with the affirmative side of history. The examples of the book gave a few, albeit prominent, examples of metropolitan areas that increasingly grasp their unique heritage, their present potential and their future crafted boldly and creatively. 13

Summer 2014  

In this issue, read about how collective impact and cross-sector collaboration can work to improve our communities.