Community Development Investments Initiative

In 2015, six community development organizations, with little prior arts and culture experience, were selected by ArtPlace America to receive $3 million over the course of three years. Across urban, rural, and tribal areas, these organizations are grappling with local equity issues such as pressures of displacement; demographic, economic, and physical shifts; and questions around the preservation and development of identity. 

The participating organizations include:

A core focus of the Community Development Investments (CDI) program is learning from the participating organizations and sharing their journeys to help other organizations see themselves in this work, develop meaningful relationships and projects with the arts and culture sector, and ultimately better fulfill their own missions.

As a consulting partner to ArtPlace, PolicyLink is working collaboratively with ArtPlace staff, partners, and CDI grantees throughout the program’s duration to harvest the knowledge gained, lessons learned, and impacts observed when arts and cultural strategies are deployed in service of comprehensive community development and planning.

In addition to studying the unique value add of artistic strategies, the research framework that PolicyLink has developed places special emphasis on organizational change, highlighting the learning curve and shifts required for institutions who are taking on creative placemaking for the first time to sustainably and substantively incorporate new strategies into their work.

In service of this vision, the Research Framework features questions grouped into three themes:

  • Organizational Evolution: Organizational evolution is focused on how the CDI organizations may have changed – or identified a need to change – their values, priorities, community partnerships, staffing, or approaches to their work as a result of these ventures into creative placemaking. All the groups are responding to the CDI opportunity in ways that have begun to alter their practices and organizational structure, but from different starting points and in different contexts. They may, for example, be discovering or reinvigorating a set of values that had previously been difficult to bring into everyday practice; or reexamining their organization’s relationship to their community and its residents. They are all using the CDI opportunity to make significant changes in how they conduct their internal and external operations.
     
  • Collaborative Practice: Collaborative Practice is focused on the lessons to be learned from innovative working relationships and activities between artists, and arts and culture groups, and community revitalization practitioners. The CDI initiative began with commitments to the participating organizations rather than with their specific plans for projects, and the first year saw each of them engage in a distinct process for mapping cultural assets and identifying issues, sites, constituents, resources, and potential partners. As the initiative progresses, each organization is establishing active partnerships, collaborations, contracts and other relationships with arts and cultural practitioners and advisors on a range of projects and activities. These relationships may be qualitatively distinct from the other kinds of partnerships with which these community development groups are familiar.
     
  • Community Development Outcomes: In a range of different circumstances across the six CDI communities, arts and culture strategies are being used to create or preserve neighborhood or group identity, empower residents, and to build healthy communities of opportunity. Some of the communities are facing intense pressure from the real estate market that threaten the composition and cultural character of their neighborhoods, and others are struggling to attract reinvestment in a way that will equitably benefit existing residents. Some are seeking to integrate newcomers into the cultural, social and political community fabric, and others are seeking to preserve and enhance cultural traditions that are at the core of their identity. The domain of Community Development Outcomes is focused on whether and how arts and cultural strategies have become key elements in the organizations’ efforts to realize their community’s aspirations; and what role arts and cultural strategies play in responding to forces of demographic, economic, or social change.

Each of the six participating organizations also has its own “learning agenda” which include, for each theme, additional questions customized by and for each site, highlighting their unique context, issues, and interests.

PolicyLink has also chosen to bring an artist into the CDI Research & Documentation process to enhance their findings. Photographer and videographer Chris Johnson is conducting a complementary creative inquiry with participants in each CDI community to surface themes related to the personal meaning of this work.