IDEAS 2016: A round up of partnership innovations
BRINGING NEIGHBORS TO MARKET, AND VICE-VERSA
As part of their efforts to better engage the communities their markets serve, Community Farmers Markets (CFM) developed a robust partnership with the Decatur Housing Authority that expands residents’ access to the local market and gives them new ways to incorporate farm-fresh produce into their diets.
Shared goals like increasing health outcomes, along with the high number of residents qualifying for SNAP benefits (doubled at CFM-run markets through the statewide Wholesome Wave program), made the Decatur Housing Authority “a natural partner,” said CFM ED Katie Cash Hayes. With funding from the City of Decatur, the Blank Family Foundation, and others, CFM holds workshops and community events like cooking classes for seniors, weekly tastings for elementary schools students, and an annual Community Wellness Day celebration. They also provide round-trip market tours, complete with five dollars in market money for each participant.
Building the program took several committed partners, said Hayes: Housing Authority staff takes care of marketing, the Wylde Center covers gardening education, and a team of “educational chefs” handles cooking classes. Feedback from participants and supporters has been entirely enthusiastic: “Decatur Housing staff always make time to stop by our classes and taste what we’ve been preparing,” said Hayes. “Class participants are always so proud—and sometimes in disbelief—over what they’ve made, and excited to share it.”
THE EXPERIENCE OF NEW AMERICANS
Partnering with New American Pathways to locate stories and artifacts from the refugee community and other nonprofits serving them, the David J. Sencer CDC Museum mounted Resettling in America: Georgia’s Refugee Communities, an exhibit of photography, personal testimonies, and artwork exploring the challenges of resettlement and the resiliency of refugees.
Focusing on Clarkston, a small Atlanta suburb boasting the area’s highest refugee resettlement rates, the six-month exhibit highlighted the work of ethnic community-based organizations and local refugee service organizations like New American Pathways and Clarkston Community Center, who help facilitate effective integration. The goal of the exhibit was to communicate why and how refugees come to Georgia, the challenges they face upon arrival, and the Center for Disease Control’s commitment to protecting their health through front-line work and the philanthropic efforts of the CDC Foundation.
“While making an honest presentation of some difficult dimensions of the refugee journey, this exhibition was not at all about hardship,” said Museum Curator Louise E. Shaw. “Instead, our goal was to celebrate the achievements and contributions of refugee families as they make new lives for themselves in America.”
KICK-STARTING A MICROBUSINESS MOVEMENT
Because small businesses make a big difference in communities—providing jobs, economic stability, and needed services—East Lake Foundation has made supporting entrepreneurs a vital part of its “holistic model of revitalization” for Atlanta’s East Lake and Kirkwood neighborhoods. “Small businesses don’t just attract people and dollars, they provide a generational legacy for residents and their families,” said Director of Communications Catherine H. Woodling.
According to Emory University research, 20 percent of all private sector jobs in the U.S. are created by enterprises with fewer than five employees, but those “microbusinesses” are seriously underrepresented in high-poverty neighborhoods. To close the gap, said Woodling, East Lake Foundation partnered with Emory’s Goizeuta Business School to launch the Start Micro-Entrepreneur Accelerator Program in East Lake (Start:ME), helping individuals with the vision to start their own businesses gain the know-how, networks, and funds they need.
In its second year, the 14-week Start:ME program is equipping 17 entrepreneurs with training (through the Social Enterprise @ Goizueta program), mentorship (provided by local business-owners), and early-stage financing (through sources like PNC Bank, the Fuqua Foundation, and individual donors). Graduates from year one include Nicole Boney, who was able to turn her home kitchen into a full-time commercial bakery, and new art gallery owner.
A SECOND ACT FOR GEORGIA’S FIRST EARLY EDUCATION RESOURCE MAP
The groundbreaking Blueprint project from the Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students (GEEARS) has already helped policy-makers, funders, journalists, and parents get a clear look at Georgia’s early education landscape, said Director of Research Hanah Goldberg, by bringing together data sets from sources like the U.S. Census, Emory University, and a number of state agencies. Mapping “dozens of indicators” related to education readiness, including poverty rates and premature births, quality-rated childcare providers, and more, Blueprint was the first statewide initiative for Neighborhood Nexus, providing a proof-of-concept for the mapping project of Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta that’s lead to further data-sharing agreements.
Now, the second version of Blueprint is set to boost the tool’s access and usability by bringing a streamlined version of the map to mobile devices. Going live in the fall, Blueprint 2.0 will include an app for phones and tablets featuring a select range of data points, including county-wide snapshots and legislative overlays that advocates can use to make a case anywhere they happen to be. In addition, said Goldberg, GEEARS is planning training sessions with community partners across Georgia “to get our data tools in the hands of stakeholders.”
TESTING OUT A MOBILITY REVOLUTION
For decades, the mobility options for people who have lost the ability to walk—due to spinal cord injury, stroke, or other conditions—have been limited to wheelchairs. With the completion of a landmark study at the Shepherd Center, that paradigm might be up-ended by a device called the Indego: a robotic “exoskeleton” that gives patients the ability to stand and walk on their own two legs. Overseeing more than 1,300 individual sessions with the Indego in its uptown Atlanta facilities, Shepherd proved that the motorized braces were effective and safe for patients with paralyzing spinal cord injuries, leading the FDA to clear it for rehabilitation and personal use in March.
Shepherd’s involvement in the project started in 2010, when Indego was still under development at Vanderbilt University, said Casey Kandilakis, the project’s research coordinator. They were chosen not just because of their service population— patients with spinal cord injuries and brain injuries—but because of their experience testing treatments of all kinds: “We worked closely with them over the next two years to facilitate their engineering advances, provide clinician guidance into design and functionality, and trial it with individuals.” Shepherd became the lead clinical partner in 2012, when Parker Hannifin licensed the technology from Vanderbilt and contracted Shepherd for testing, training other test centers, and monitoring ongoing trials.
The success of those trials means that patients across the country can begin using Indego, including in Shepherd’s own outpatient and Beyond Therapy programs. It also means that Shepherd will continue to lead trials aimed at expanding approval of Indego for a range of conditions.
GIVING VOICE TO ATLANTA’S TREES
This spring, The Nature Conservancy in Georgia and Trees Atlanta worked together to bring the national program If Trees Could Sing to the Atlanta BeltLine Arboretum, an interactive program aiming to better connect people (and their smartphones) with nature. Tree-mounted signs equipped with scannable QR codes and text-to-view technology link participants to videos of musicians like Amy Grant, Kristian Bush, 8Ball, and Atlanta’s own Doria Roberts talking about their favorite trees and the benefits of each.
The concept began with The Nature Conservancy in Tennessee, and was initiated locally when Trees Atlanta contacted the Georgia chapter to see if it could be brought to Atlanta. The two organizations are currently busy recording more videos for the series with a new slate of artists, and finding more opportunities to grow their partnership.
ONE WELL-CONNECTED SERIES
As a nonprofit serving other nonprofits, Atlanta Community ToolBank is positioned to make innovative sector connections. One case in point is Tables for Vets, a program advancing the goals of four different nonprofits. It began with a request from CHRIS Kids, a frequent tool borrower, who were seeking opportunities to train their kids in basic home repair and landscaping. “We were starting a new Tool Trainings program, and told them to bring the kids to us,” said ToolBank ED Patty Russart.
To engage their young trainees, said Russart, program designers knew training needed to result in something participants could see and touch: “It made perfect sense to make an end-product they could use at the Furniture Bank of Metro Atlanta. They’ve long borrowed tools to build tables for their clients—it’s one item they never have enough to give out.”
The final puzzle pieces came from long-time ToolBank supporter The Home Depot Foundation, who supplied trainers in the form of Team Depot volunteers. “They already wanted to get involved in the Tool Trainings program, and loved the idea of working with kids,” said Russart. The Foundation also added another level of beneficiaries: Because their top priority is serving veterans, the Furniture Bank made sure vets received the tables built and donated by trainees.
The first Tables for Vets project was modest in terms of numbers—four Team Depot volunteers worked with six CHRIS Kids teenagers to produce four tables—but outsized in terms of its effect on participants. “It was actually quite emotional for the volunteers, and exciting for the kids, some of whom had never even held a tool before,” said Russart. “Both the Foundation and Chris KIDS are looking forward to another round.”