NACEDA's Creative Placemaking Immersion Program

In 2015, NACEDA set out an ambitious goal, to make creative placemaking a frontline strategy for community developers to improve the places they serve for the people who live there. We launched that goal with a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, NACEDA’s first direct federal investment. Along the way, we offered our own resources, as did our members. Americans for the Arts put forward partnership and expertise. Woodforest National Bank also invested.

The result was NACEDA’s Creative Placemaking Immersion Program that offered our members from Ohio, Massachusetts, and Philadelphia resources to build knowledge about creative placemaking among CDCs. They performed robustly, providing 26 creative experiences to 275 people and organizations over 18 months. Artists engaged neighborhoods in development plans. CDCs became arts advocates. Banks became arts investors. NACEDA Networks throughout the country, from New Jersey to Illinois to St. Louis to Texas began thinking how artists and cultural strategies could enhance the impact of traditional community development.

And NACEDA evolved.

We built new relationships. We were welcomed into the small, but mighty, world of creative placemaking. Americans for the Arts lent their expertise, relationships, passion, and credibility as our core partner. Policylink, bcWorkshop, Artplace, the National Endowment for the Arts, gave their time, advice, and support. NACEDA’s members from coast-to-coast started institutional relationships with artists, advocates, and creative organizations locally.

Though this phase of our program is ending in 2018, these relationships remain a long-term asset for NACEDA and its members.

Crafted a framework for how networks learn. This program helped us discover how community development networks learn. In fact, our final report outlines the eight connected strategies each of our members use to help community-based development organizations evolve.

Discovered our identity. We discovered some of the assets our network offers to those looking to deploy models, strategies, and resources through the community development field, assets that existed all along. ACCESS: Our network has credible access to low and moderate-income (LMI) communities and the organizations that serve them. Our members know the organizations and communities ripe for emerging strategies (like creative placemaking). STATE/MUNICIPAL POLICY AND ADVOCACY: Our network links state and local policy and advocacy strategies across cities and states. MAKE NATIONAL IDEAS LOCALLY RELEVANT: Through the provision of local training and technical assistance, NACEDA’s network takes broad, innovative ideas for how to improve LMI communities and makes them practical for many local organizations that implement and change lives.

Adopted new language. Knowing our identity gave us confidence in ourselves and how we presented our value to others. NACEDA is a collection of thriving networks, regional system builders that help determine the financial resources, public policies, training, research, and environment available to community-based development organizations to improve lives daily.

Leveraged our experience to benefit people and places. Along the way, we began to take what we had gathered over three years and utilize those resources to make tangible changes to how community development improves lives. Many of our members now partner with arts agencies to advocate at the state and local level. NACEDA has played a leadership role in putting creative placemaking forward as a critical strategy to be considered in reforming the Community Reinvestment Act. And locally, 275 people received experiences that exposed them to new creative resources in their communities.

In short, in 2015 NACEDA embarked on a risky activity that introduced the network to new people and experiences. Those people and experiences helped us learn innovative and adaptive skills; discover parts of ourselves we didn’t know existed; change the way we present ourselves to the world; improve our self-confidence; and leave behind knowledge building resources (see appendices 2-5), for those who follow us, to make an even bigger and better impact on the people and places we serve.

That sounds like an incredible creative journey, one that I am proud to be part of.

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