Did the Comprehensive Community Initiatives of the 1990s, early 2000s Bring About Change?

Kubisch is now president of The Ford Family Foundation, a grant-making organization in Oregon unrelated to the New York-based Ford Foundation that funded the NFI. In a recent interview with Shelterforce, she said she believes the theory underlying CCIs is still valid. Addressing complex problems in vulnerable communities requires integration and layering of interventions, along with a community-building approach to engage residents and make programs sustainable. It’s just that “the implementation was really hard,” she says, and funders did not stick with neighborhoods long enough to make deep changes.

“The problem was, they were structured in the form of an ‘initiative’ because of the way foundations thought about things. If you have a theory of philanthropy that says, ‘We want to pilot something, show how it works, and then move on,’ you automatically by definition have this time-limited sense. You announce, ‘We’re going to provide some fixed amount of money on an annual basis, and we’re going to do it for 10 years and we expect that we’re going to change the world in these 10 years.’ That just didn’t make any sense. It just doesn’t match the reality,” she says.

The amount of financial investment by most CCIs has also been inadequate, says Brett Theodos, director of the Community Economic Development Hub at the Urban Institute, whose research focuses on philanthropic and government neighborhood-change efforts.

“Many that call themselves place-based initiatives are, in my view, far too small to have made any material difference in the neighborhood. Putting $10 million into a 24-square-mile area and calling it a place-based initiative—it’s just not going to happen,” he says. “The national foundations, all of them have tried this—MacArthur, Ford, Rockefeller—but their attentions wander and so they haven’t seen any of them through. These take, in my view, more than 20 years to see through, possibly more than 30. A five-year effort with $10 million is not going to get it done.”

Did the Comprehensive Community Initiatives of the 1990s, early 2000s Bring About Change?, Meir Rinde, Shelterforce, Mar. 15, 2021, available here

  • Open Communities Alliance
  • 75 Charter Oak Avenue
  • Suite 1-200
  • Hartford, CT 06106
  • Phone: 860-610-6040