The Fund supports a few regional initiatives that are addressing the four priority areas of Advance Northeast Ohio.
The Civic Commons
The Civic Commons seeks to educate, engage and empower citizens to be involved and active in strengthening the community using citizen journalism, public engagement and social media. As a civic engagement utility, Civic Commons uses online and offline tools to build conversations and connections that have the power to become informed, productive, and collective civic action.
Initially focused on Northeast Ohio, The Civic Commons has the potential to become a national model for connecting individuals to civic issues through engaged community conversations and other interactive engagement activities.
The Civic Commons is currently beta-testing its technology environment and is working on pilot projects with civic institutions and citizens. A more formal and extensive launch of the program is expected in mid-to-late 2011. The Civic Commons was formed in early 2010 and formally launched in July as a partnership between the Fund for Our Economic Future, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and Kent State University Foundation.
Agriculture-Bioscience Industry Cluster (Ag-Bio Cluster)
Northeast Ohio is home to a network of key players in the region’s agricultural-bioscience industry – the largest single industry in Ohio. The Agriculture-Bioscience Industry Cluster (Ag-Bio Cluster) is a collaboration among the Wayne County Economic Development Council, Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC), Ashtabula Growth Partnership and more than 100 other regional partners. The collaboration is working to build local and regional economies in Northeast Ohio by developing clusters of locally owned businesses that substitute locally produced food, energy and manufactured goods for costly imports that contribute little to regional wealth and quality of life. Ag-Bio aims to guide the development of these clusters into integrated business ecosystem. Building closer connections among farmers, advanced energy companies, restaurants and others will foster opportunities for new business growth for new sustainable products. Surplus agricultural products and bio-wastes can be used to create new, sustainable products for other sectors. That business growth will result in job and income growth, preserve and enhance the value of our region’s working lands, contribute to the overall quality of life in the region and discourage no-growth sprawl.
Northeast Ohio Sustainable Communities Consortium
The Northeast Ohio Sustainable Communities Consortium is an initiative designed to support regional approaches to land use, housing, environmental and economic development issues. The Northeast Ohio Sustainable Communities Consortium is leading the development of a collaborative regional sustainability plan for Northeast Ohio. The plan will link economic development to equitable housing, land use, transportation, community development and infrastructure. Funding for the Sustainable Communities plan comes from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), along with the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Transportation, which awarded Northeast Ohio $4.25 million as part of the new federal Sustainable Communities Initiative. Led by The Fund for Our Economic Future and several of its member foundations, more than 20 public and private sector organizations submitted the grant application in an unprecedented effort of regional cooperation.
Education Works is a regional collaboration committed to developing a community that prizes life-long learning, even for those who have already left the “education” system, and emphasizing personalized learning for all learners, such that the region may meet the diverse needs of its community more effectively. Grounded in 21st century learning principles that emphasize critical thinking, problem solving, communication, global awareness and other “soft” but imperative skills, the group began to envision a region where every individual appreciates the relevance of learning in his or her own life, and where each can aspire to be well-educated person and, with conviction, say, “That can be me.”
Regional Prosperity Initiative
The Northeast Ohio Mayors & City Managers Association (NOMCMA) is leading the Regional Prosperity Initiative to develop a framework to implement regional infrastructure planning that will accelerate economic growth and ensure that the benefits of that growth would be shared among participating communities, thereby reducing inefficient intra-regional competition and limit no-growth sprawl. More information about this effort is available at www.neo-rpi.org.
In March 2009 the Fund launched EfficientGovNow, a competitive grant program designed to encourage the region’s local governments to collaborate to deliver services and to increase public support for government collaboration. The collaborations that receive the grants are determined by a vote of the public. The program is, in part, an extension of research co-sponsored by the Fund in 2008 that highlighted the duplicative nature of local government in Northeast Ohio and the high cost of delivering those services. In the first round of EfficientGovNow, more than 13,000 residents voted for the three best government collaborations. The three winning projects involved 21 governmental entities and their collaborations will provide a combined estimated savings of $1.8 million.