State, local self-help programs to get aid from Ford Foundation

Proving that terms like innovation, self-reliance, and community compassion are more than the stuff of political slogans, local and state governments and private groups across the United States are coming up with new ways of meeting economic, educational, and social problems. Now, the Ford Foundation, in cooperation with the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, is sponsoring a program that will award cash to innovative local and state programs.

The Foundation's ``Innovations in State and Local Government'' program is relying on the Kennedy School to oversee its competition for $2.25 million in awards over the next three years and then spread the word on how the winners did it.

According to Terri Cader, assistant director of the Ford awards program, special attention will be given to initiatives in areas such as job creation and economic development, support for the homeless and hungry, neighborhood revitalization, education, health care, and other social services.

William G. Andersen Jr., assistant director of the nonprofit Citizens Forum on Self-Government/National Municipal League Inc., says he has noted not only generally increased problem-solving activity at the local level but also ``more creativity and increased sophistication,'' with or without federal and state aid.

His group has sponsored the All-America Cities contest since 1950, and now has a computer data-base service (Civitex) that provides information on thousands of local projects.

Brochures announcing the Ford program and soliciting applications were sent out late in October and no replies have been processed. But information from Civitex and other sources provides a sampling of the sorts of initiatives that might be considered:

Redwood City, Calif. Faced with growing neighborhood conflicts, including street-gang activities, a community organization called the Target Education and Welfare Council Inc. was established. In turn, it developed a Neighborhood Boards Program, financed by county funds and corporate grants. Three such boards have been set up since 1982. By resolving conflicts locally, the boards have been able to keep them out of the courts, saving tempers, time, and money.

Cleveland. Responding to a lack of quality, low-cost housing in the Hough neighborhood, community volunteers in 1970 organized the Famicos Foundation, which developed a housing rehabilitation program called the Famicos Model. Later, Famicos began training other neighborhood groups. Now there are eight groups, which have formed the Cleveland Housing Network Inc. Investment of $6.7 million from private, federal, and other sources has provided housing for more than 400 families.

Birmingham, Ala. Residents of Pratt City, a fast-growing residential community in northwest Birmingham, became concerned about the run-down condition of their own business district. Their housing-development consortium, the Pratt Community Development Corporation, turned its attention to the problem. Now it is planning development of a 43,000-square-foot neighborhood shopping center. Members of six neighborhood associations volunteer their time and skills for PCDC projects.

Quincy, Ill. One of eight US communities selected as 1985 All America Cities, Quincy relies on volunteers to counter the effects of decreasing population and loss of industry. In fact, the city of 42,500 has 492 volunteer organizations. They are manned by people like the teen-agers who conducted a door-to-door campaign to raise money to buy a fire department rescue truck, and local residents who each chipped in the cost of one seat to help renovate the junior high school auditorium.

Ms. Cader explains that 10 awards of at least $25,000 but not more than $100,000 will be made each year for three years (1986-88). After a group of some 25 finalists is chosen by staff at the Kennedy School, a committee headed by former Gov. William G. Milliken of Michigan will select the winners.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.