Through Community Collectives, FARE is continuing to transition leadership and resources to local residents. The decision to apply the FARE model at the neighborhood level aligns with and was driven by the values stated in the Equity Checklist by creating more community infrastructure for sharing resources and ideas, helping build local capacity, compensating people for their expertise, and connecting local grassroots leaders to funding opportunities in order to shift power structures.
In fall 2019, FARE started to identify an intentionally diverse group of residents to form Community Collectives in Cleveland’s Kinsman-Central and Clark-Fulton neighborhoods. Collectives were given funding, resources, training, autonomy and stipends for their time. As they play out, Collectives are indeed shifting power and providing opportunities for residents to lead, be heard and respected, while the institutions, foundations and nonprofits who serve them listen and learn. For example, the Kinsman-Central Collective hosted a community luncheon, where Collective members provided topics for discussion, and residents shared their experiences and the issues they wanted to see addressed in the neighborhood. Community stakeholders (foundations, nonprofits, institutions) were invited to attend just for dessert, to hear directly from residents about the needs and ideas that came up and share their contact information. In Clark-Fulton, members of the SEEDS program shared their stories in a video for stakeholders to watch and better understand the key issues in their communities.
The Collectives are deeply connected in their communities and nimble enough to be incredibly effective first responders during times of crisis. In Kinsman-Central, with support from our partner Environmental Health Watch, Collective members have joined forces during COVID-19 to distribute hot meals and hygiene kits to over 200 community residents each week. The Collective is also delivering food for local networks including one of the largest food pantries in Cleveland, Garden Valley Neighborhood House. Members created an intake and tracking system to count numbers of people served, and they have recruited additional resident leaders to deliver food to seniors and people living in affordable housing developments who cannot leave their homes. The Collective is thinking long-term about how to support these networks and strengthen relationships that link residents with the critical resources they need. These individuals were not working together collectively prior to forming a Community Collective through FARE.
Collectives are structured to meet monthly for activities such as training in advocacy, trauma-informed care, grant writing, and meeting facilitation to support their ability to implement projects addressing their priorities. In addition to hosting neighborhood events, Collectives will leverage the infrastructure provided by FARE to allow these independent neighborhood initiatives to come together, share, and unify their voices, moving from individual to collective action in order to maximize transformation on a larger scale.
Collectives will drive planning for county-wide convenings, where they can showcase their work and serve as a bridge between Cleveland’s divided East and West sides and Black and Brown communities. As neighborhood leaders bring their networks, they can experience power in numbers and demand that systems change to become more participatory and equity-based. FARE facilitates the opportunity for grassroots efforts to organize and shine, and we follow their lead.
As transformational planners, we understand that this is a creative social process that is culturally specific to the needs of each community’s central nervous system. We know and appreciate that no two Collectives or neighborhoods look the same.