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Community Leadership Forum Travels to Cleveland to Learn from a Champion in Grassroots Grantmaking

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The Community Leadership Forum propels the Grassroots Grantmaking Program (GGP) forward with a field trip to Cleveland’s Neighborhood Connections, an organization with over 10 years of grassroots grantmaking experience. The day was filled with excitement, curiosity, deep learning, and possibility.

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Members of Neighborhood Connection’s committee and Neighborhood Allies GGC at a mural outside Neighborhood Connections.

The GGP, an initiative founded by Neighborhood Allies, invests in resident-led projects that aim to improve neighborhoods and engage residents. Residents, who are passionate about making a positive change in their neighborhood, can apply for small grants of up to $1,000. The uniqueness of the GGP lies in how decisions are made: members of the Community Leadership Forum serve on the Grassroots Grantmaking Committee (GGC) and together, they interview and select which resident-led projects to fund.

On their trip to Cleveland, the GGC engaged in a large learning circle with the grantmaking committee of Neighborhood Connections with their Grantmaking Committee and visited resident-led and GMC-funded projects in the communities of Cleveland.

During the large learning circle, Cleveland leaders shared the importance of leveraging their position on the committee to empower residents.

Members of Neighborhood Connections Grassroots Grantmaking Committee speak with Neighborhood Allies GGC in Cleveland, OH.

Members of Neighborhood Connections Grassroots Grantmaking Committee speak with Neighborhood Allies GGC in Cleveland, OH.

Gordon Martin, of the Cleveland committee, shared “I went into interviews [with residents] wanting to give them the money.” Instead of being highly selective about who to fund, the committee members, like Gordon, were dedicated to ensuring residents had the opportunity to share their passion and the resources to improve their own community.

During the afternoon, leaders visited various locations in west and east Cleveland: a mural completed by youth, a painted alleyway, school for farmers, winery, and an entrepreneurship youth program. Each project was led by residents and aimed to bring a greater sense of identity to the community. Tom O’Brien, Program Director of

Leaders LaShawna Russ and Tonisha Blackwell spotlight a committee-funded and resident-led mural.

Leaders LaShawna Russ and Tonisha Blackwell spotlight a committee-funded and resident-led mural.

Neighborhood Connections, shared that “the importance of this kind of work is to bring people closer together, have them connect and learn from each other, build bridges and ties across lines of difference and create a stronger, larger network of people that can rely on each other and move forward together.” The pockets of progress we observed in Cleveland led a wave of motivation and inspiration across the GGC.

Following the trip, visioning sessions will take place to capture the key takeaways and develop a contextually appropriate program for Pittsburgh.

For more information on our Community Leadership Forum, contact Shikha Jerath at shikha@neighborhoodallies.org

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