high-profile merger will help community development efforts across city, leaders say

Three prominent community development groups in Cleveland have merged, and staffers say the resulting alliance will help strengthen community revitalization efforts across the city, foster more unified advocacy, and allow for greater efficiency in citywide efforts.

Neighborhood Progress Inc. (NPI), a community development intermediary that provides grants and technical assistance to community development corporations (CDCs), has merged with Cleveland Neighborhood Development Coalition (CNDC) and LiveCleveland. CNDC is a trade association of CDCs; LiveCleveland helps to market city neighborhoods.

That might sound like a mouthful of acronyms to the average city resident, but Joel Ratner, President of NPI, says the collaboration really is about improving Cleveland's neighborhoods.

"We'll have a greater ability to coordinate the marketing of neighborhoods along with advocacy, capacity building and all the other things we've traditionally done," he says. "This is really about uniting the strands of community development across the city in a way that's integrated and strategic rather than separate."

For example, says Ratner, CDCs will be able to have a stronger voice in education reform and other efforts that affect the entire city, residents will see an increased marketing presence, and CDC employees will benefit from shared services like healthcare. It adds up to more effective efforts to improve all of Cleveland.

"Our mission is to foster communities of choice and opportunity throughout Cleveland," says Ratner, who acknowledges that NPI will still only have resources to provide core operating support to a subset of city neighborhoods. "There are lots of ways we can play a role in lifting up all CDCs and neighborhoods."

CNDC Director Colleen Gilson says that while the merger idea was far from popular among CDCs at first -- they feared losing their independence -- individual leaders saw the value in fostering a citywide community development network that provides more effective services to all neighborhoods, not just a select few.

The merger will be publicly rolled out in September, with NPI moving into its new offices in the Saint Luke's project at Shaker Boulevard and E. 116th by January.


Source: Joel Ratner
Writer: Lee Chilcote