Through a collaborative community grant submission, the City of Newport was recently selected by the Working Cities Challenge Initiative to receive $15,000 in support of a much larger grant proposal to be submitted later this year.  Those cities selected to receive the planning grants were announced this past Friday by Boston Fed President and CEO Eric S. Rosengren.  The Boston Fed launched its Working Cities Challenge in Massachusetts in 2013 and announced its expansion into Rhode Island last year.

Left to Right: Keith Tavares, Chairman of the Newport Partnership for Families, Teresa Paiva Weed, President of the Senate, Jeanne Marie Napolitano, Mayor of Newport, Rhonda Mitchell, Executive Director of Newport Housing Authority, Robyn Greene, CCRI Newport Campus Administrator, Colleen Burns Jermain, Superintendent of Newport Public Schools, Tom Kowalczyk, Industry Partners, Joe Pratt, Executive Director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Newport County & Governor Gina Raimondo

The Newport proposal was planned through a community team effort led by the Newport Partnership for Families and the Boys & Girls Club of Newport County.  Other key participants include the City of Newport, Newport Public Schools, East Bay Community Action Program, Newport Housing Authority, Community College of RI, Newport Area Career and Technical Center, Industry Partners, and residents of Newport.

Newport was one of seven Rhode Island cities selected to work closely with economists and researchers from the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston to find ways to tackle economic challenges in each community.  In addition to Newport, other cities winning the $15,000 grant included Providence, East Providence, Pawtucket, Westerly, Central Falls, and Cranston.  All seven communities will now vie for three larger grants totaling close to $1.5 million.  The Newport proposal will address workforce development and the unique needs of the City’s low income population as well as the needs of local employers and industries.  The proposal will engage important stakeholders, including diverse community residents, to reach consensus on important local issues in order to create a robust workforce development system that effectively prepares individuals for employment at key industries in the City while increasing their income level.  This initiative is intended to lift people in Newport out of poverty by preparing them for high-demand, higher-paying industries while benefitting local companies that struggle to fill vacancies.  The comprehensive grant proposal, which is in competition for the larger sum, will be designed over the next four months by the Newport team.  Although the Boston Fed leads the grant process, community foundations and businesses review proposals and choose and fund winners.  Funders include, among others, Rhode Island Housing, Rhode Island Commerce Corp, Delta Dental of RI, AT&T New England, Bank of America, Kresge Foundation, Verizon, and Washington Trust Co.

About Working Cities Challenge Rhode Island:

The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and our partners are excited to announce the eligibility criteria for the Rhode Island Working Cities Challenge, a grant competition that is designed to support cross-sector, collaborative leadership and ambitious work to improve the lives of low-income people in small and mid-size cities in Rhode Island.[1]

Collaborative leaders from the nonprofit, private, and public sectors, and community leaders, in eligible Rhode Island cities are invited to compete in the Challenge. The first step will be applying for a design grant. The application will be released in early spring and will be due in late spring/early summer. Design grants will afford select cities’ teams the opportunity to build their capacity and strengthen collaborative leadership as they develop their initiatives. Design grantees may apply for implementation grants in spring 2017; winning teams will receive a three-year prize with which to implement cross-sector, collaborative initiatives to change systems for the benefit of low-income residents. Three prizes of equal amounts (TBD, but in the $300,000-500,000 range) per team will be awarded in the spring of 2017.

In our first rounds in Massachusetts, we learned that developing competitive and viable initiatives requires capacity to integrate the core elements of the Challenge: collaborative leadership, community engagement, evidence-based decision-making, and systems change.[2]

The Rhode Island Round will thus involve a two-step process:

First, only one team from each eligible city may apply and compete for design grants (estimated $10,000 to $20,000) to support a six-month design phase. Teams from two cities may decide to partner on a single initiative, as well. An independent selection committee will evaluate teams based on a written application and an interview (either in person or by video) to be submitted in spring/summer 2016; grants will be awarded in summer 2016.

Upon completion of the design phase, grantees will be invited to submit applications for multi-year implementation prizes in late winter 2017. Teams must win design grants in order to compete for implementation grants. An independent expert jury will evaluate applications and announce Challenge winners in Spring 2017.

Ryan Belmore is the Owner and Publisher of What's Up Newp. He was born and raised in Rhode Island and graduated from Coventry High School. He serves as Vice President of Fort Adams Trust and serves on the Board of Directors for Potter League for Animals. Ryan also is currently the Senior Editor - North America for Mountain News, publisher of OnTheSnow. Ryan is a member of Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers and North American Snowsports Journalists Association (NASJA).