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While the federal government is stuck somewhere between complete turmoil and gridlock, many individual communities are embarking on transformational change. Local leaders are facing down climate change, population growth, demographic shifts, and huge infrastructure upgrades.
But as we saw during the urban renewal of the 20th century, for example, sweeping infrastructure change can have negative consequences and serve to worsen inequity.
So how can communities reshape themselves for the challenges ahead while avoiding mistakes of the past, and instead improving opportunity for the most vulnerable?
A collaborative of funders, investors and NGOs called the Strong, Prosperous And Resilient Communities Challenge (SPARCC) is taking on that challenge, and the group is nothing if not ambitious. The initiative is operating in six communities, starting with $1 million in program support each, and will ultimately invite local players to access $70 million in investment capital and another $14 million in grants. It’s initially a three-year program, but is intended to create examples that other cities can emulate.
Some interesting things about SPARCC include the fact that the emphasis really seems to be on local partnerships to guide the vision for the cities' futures. In other words, rather than any one large foundation driving a big development push, SPARCC’s stated goal is to give locals more power to call the shots and define where investments head.