The Springfield Institute is still quite new. How new? We started meeting in October informally at a bar across the street–not coincidentally at the height of the Obama campaign when everyone was getting excited about the potential to combine community organizing with big ideas and social change. And we only moved into our new downtown offices a couple months ago (still moving in).
But we’ve already managed to do a lot: an active multi-author blog (about 100 visitors every day), and high quality public discussions on regional equity, social entrepreneurship, early literacy, MassINC Springfield 2030 research, municipal performance indicators (July 21), and urban agriculture/food systems (August), alternative media and democracy (September). These discussions have been at our downtown offices, and at accessible neighborhood locations around the city that don’t typically offer this kind of event. We’ve also got a few small capacity-building projects going that allow us to deliver more tangible support to great community groups and residents around the region (see “Third…” below for more detail on these).
Our early efforts have been met with enthusiasm and gratitude all over the city and region, and it feels great! It has also led many people to ask where the money’s coming from. Especially given our explicit commitment to accountability and inclusion, we are pleased to be able make this information–not just public–but easily accessible.
The first answer to that “where’s the money coming from?” question is “Nowhere!” Many members of the organizing committee and advisory board have been doing enormous amounts of work for free. We do it because we are passionate about this stuff, and we’re excited about being a part of Springfield, Holyoke, and the region’s rebirth. We also use technology and interns to do a lot with a little. We are actively pursuing major core support so that we can build solid infrastructure that will support lots of targeted initiatives like the ones described below.
Second, Herbie Flores, of Partners for Community, really understood the importance of: a) helping community stakeholders to think big, and b) providing a conduit for the region’s impressive higher education community to have a more meaningful and more mutually beneficial relationship with the community. (My theory is that The Springfield Institute combines Herbie’s interest in human services, academic life, and public policy). Partners for Community made a generous in-kind contribution of our lovely downtown office space. Having a continuous physical presence right downtown means a lot.
Third, we have several very modest grants and contracts that allow us to do some capacity-building work with community groups and residents around the region. Currently, these include: a strategic planning process with the North End Campus Coalition, public policy capacity-building with the Holyoke Food and Fitness Policy Council, a deliberative democracy grant from the Bonner Foundation (in partnership with the Amherst College Center for Community Engagement), and a reproductive health and immigrant community infrastructure project called Breaking the Silence funded by the Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts (informally collaborating with the New England Learning Center for Women In Transition).
Fourth, we’ve got several proposals out there, and more planned. Stay tuned!
Thanks for asking. You deserve these answers. Funding tips welcome!
Filed under: Nonprofit/social sector, philanthropy |