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Community Leadership Forum Builds Momentum and Kicks off Grassroots Grantmaking Program

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At Neighborhood Allies, we believe great creativity, passion and ingenuity resides in our neighborhoods. The Grassroots Grantmaking Program (GGP), an initiative founded by Neighborhood Allies, invests in resident-led projects that aim to improve neighborhoods and engage fellow residents. Residents, who live in one of our target communities and are passionate about making a positive change in their neighborhood, can apply for small grants up to $1,000.  Through providing the necessary resources directly to residents, the GGP aims to unleash the untapped potential and passions in our neighborhoods and create visible and positive wins in the neighborhoods.

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Forum Leaders Mandy Wolovich (left) of Millvale and Donna Jackson of Larimer talk about specific data on their communities.

Where GGP differs from most grantmaking programs in Pittsburgh is in how funding decisions are made. The leaders of the Community Leadership Forum–the 19 leaders that represent our six target communities–will determine the criteria of the program and decide on which resident projects to fund.

On Tuesday, January 26th, Community Leadership Fellow, Shikha Jerath, commenced the Community Leadership Forum. She reviewed with the Forum leaders purpose and core beliefs (below) of the Grassroots Grantmaking Program:

  1. We believe there is untapped potential in our neighborhoods.
  2. We believe that by providing the resources to unlock that potential, residents can improve their community.
  3. We believe resident-led community improvement projects that engage other residents and create visible and positive wins in the neighborhood.
  4. We believe that residents who have demonstrated passion and effort to improve community are the most effective decision-makers of resident-led community improvement projects.
  5. We believe that these wins inspire hope and grow a cadre of changemakers throughout the community that contribute to neighborhood revitalization.
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Forum Leaders write their purpose statements for their participation on the Grassroots Grantmaking Committee.

Forum leaders reflected and shared their own motivation for being on the Grassroots Grantmaking Committee (GGC). Each leader’s motivation demonstrates their own unique purpose for joining and committing to the GGC.

  • Wahad Ansari, Founder and CEO of Three Generations Barbershop, Homewood Community, shared  he “wants to help my community in a way that will let people have access to small grants without all the politics involved.”
  • Autumn Butler, Executive Director of Wilkinsburg Christian Housing, shared “I am motivated to be part of the GGC because I want to have the opportunity to be engaged in the decision making process.”
  • Michelle King, Educator at the Environmental Charter School, Borough of Wilkinsburg, shared her motivation for being part of the committee is “to engage and connect with members of the community in their passions and wisdom.”

As they shared, leaders often tied their motivation to be on the GGC to areas of opportunity and challenges they have faced in their leadership in their communities, which demonstrates a strong connection between their knowledge and awareness of community and the decisions they will be making.

After leaders shared their motivations, they planned their day trip to Cleveland, where they would be visiting the largest small grants program in the nation, Neighborhood Connections. The Cleveland Foundation launched Neighborhood Connections in 2003 to empower people in Cleveland’s neighborhoods and encourage them to become more engaged with each other and the city around them. Since 2003, Neighborhood Connections has funded about 2,300 projects to the tune of more than $7.5 million. Planned for Saturday, February 6th, the trip to Cleveland includes meeting and learning from the organization’s Grantmaking Committee and staff and visiting previously funded resident-led projects around the City.

The next steps for the newly formed Grassroots Grantmaking Committee include creating the guidelines and vision for the program, a cultural competency training on race and difference, and interview training. The schedule of the technical assistance and grant application for the Grassroots Grant program will be available in the coming months, pending decisions of the GGC.

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