Offices of Direct Venture Development: Networking for the Marginalized

539w1IDEA: A network of local Offices of Direct Venture Development, established to optimize the impact of President Obama’s economic stimulus and anti-poverty programs on at risk communities, by empowering the individuals, non-profit groups and faith-based charities in those communities to design and fund the plans that will harness those programs, to their best effect, in the communities’ own economic and cultural regeneration and growth.

DETAIL: People in historically disadvantaged communities do not want a hand-out. They may not even need a job. They may already have three jobs.

What they want is the opportunity to stabilize and move forward with dignity, through self-empowerment and social entrepreneurship.

Offices of Direct Venture Development would be financed by a combination of public and private money.

Initially, mobilized by Washington, they would become self-sustaining and community-driven.

I would see them assisting self-empowered regeneration and growth in the following ways:

1) Providing advice and support to individuals in need, much like Citizens’ Advice Bureaus in the UK.

2) Acting as a focal point for advice and the dissemination of financial aid (private and public) for non-profits and faith-based charities, who do the bulk of the supportive work at the grassroots level.

Economic regeneration and growth will not be one-size-fits-all. Policy and aid distribution will need to be tailored to the area in question, and designed by the people in receipt and the organizations supporting them, based on efforts already in progress.

It is important to avoid situations in which an Office such as DVD is seen as dictating solutions to communities and their non-profit and faith-based organizations. Instead, many communities are already well-served by intricate networks of effective support groups, who are already aware of the range of need.

What communities and their support groups want is resources, whether that be in the form of financial support or services such as coalition-building and helping to fill any gaps that may exist.

3) Providing a pro-active networking seed base for individuals and groups in need.

There is a disparity that should be addressed.

For example, when a middle-class family experiences hard times, generally they have the time, the skills and the contacts to find a way to cope.

People in more marginalized situations do not always have those blessings. Offices of DVD would provide a starting point.

4) Acting as the link between grassroots activity and regional and national organizations of support.

There is sometimes a disconnect between what people and groups actually need on the ground, and what Washington and others believe they need.

I would see Offices of DVD, and their personnel, acting as the essential link between at-risk communities and policy-makers.

Initially, translating upwards grassroots accomplishments: it is vital that Washington hears the unvarnished, unfiltered and therefore genuine voice of the least considered, their supporters and their accomplishments.

Additionally, Offices could then disseminate downwards policy and funds (both private and public) in a manner that is respectful, targeted and effective, and which does not unnecessarily intrude on cultural sensibilities and the good work already being done at the grassroots.

CONCLUSION: President Obama has been an effective community organizer. He understands the value of community. He says he wants a grassroots administration.

I believe that a network of Offices of Direct Venture Development would create a new environment of support for community activity.

I believe that the Obama Administration will best be able to achieve his stated goals of renewing the American economy and spirit by harnessing the full power of community ingenuity and empowering communities to heal themselves.

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Published in: on January 15, 2009 at 8:40 am  Leave a Comment  
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Community Building and Obama

What follows is a post I uploaded to the Obama Transition site, http://change.gov, making some suggestions about how his administration might focus its proposed public works program on historically disadvantaged communities:

The proposed public works program will the largest of its kind since FDR. There is no modern template. Policy will be made on the hoof. I have spent several years working and living in historically disadvantaged Appalachian communities. Some thoughts:

1) Don’t let policy-makers assume they know what is needed and wanted at the grassroots. Ask. Put people on the ground to find out.

2) Don’t just focus on the causes of economic disadvantage and poverty. Address the immediate symptoms also.

3) We are a proud people. It’s dignity that matters as much to us as money. Don’t just throw money. Take the time and make the effort to set up structures and processes that empower our communities to help their own.

4) We’re not going to be able to give everyone a job. We are not going to be able to cushion all the effects of this recession. So, along with creating jobs (and by the way, some of us have three already…!), focus on efforts also to allow us to build and maintain community.

For example, what about a program to support small communities in their efforts to build multipurpose community centers?

5) Make it easier and more dignified for welfare recipients to apply for and receive that helping hand. One-stop, omnibus applications for Food Stamps, Food Bank, housing benefits, and the like. That can be completed at home. Where coupons are received at home. Possibly to be completed at the same time as IRS forms?

6) Enroll community-builders who know how to mobilize at grassroots level, and are also comfortable and experienced with translating grassroots experience upwards into regional and national policy. To be honest, I have applied with Change.gov to be just such a community-builder/policy-maker. Don’t put the whole program into the hands of professional academics and bureaucrats, who may never have wielded a hammer.

For more, go to: http://my.barackobama.com/page/community/blog/FOCUS08, or http://focusonpoverty.blogspot.com.

Good luck to us all!

Published in: on December 30, 2008 at 5:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
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