The Impact tab is a section on the Giving Common added in October 2013; as such the majority of nonprofits have not yet had the chance to complete this voluntary section. The purpose of the Impact section is to ask five deceptively simple questions that require reflection and promote communication about what really matters – results. The goal is to encourage strategic thinking about how a nonprofit will achieve its goals. The following Impact questions are being completed by nonprofits slowly, thoughtfully and at the right time for their respective organizations to ensure the most accurate information possible.
1. What is your organization aiming to accomplish?
Madison Park Community Development Corporation's ultimate goal is the creation of a vibrant, healthy Roxbury that serves as the economic and cultural center of African American and Latina/o Boston and is also the home of more recent immigrants from Africa, the Caribbean, and Central America. Our target population is the population of Roxbury and adjacent communities of color, whose historic business district and community focus is Dudley Square. In spite of the revitalization of Dudley Square; an MBTA busline providing access to downtown; the presence of significant amounts of affordable housing; and the efforts of many public and private nonprofit organizations to improve the lives of Roxbury's residents, the community's overwhelming problem is poverty. Over one third of Roxbury's residents live below the poverty line, and the median income in Roxbury is nearly half of that of Boston as a whole. Roxbury residents are more likely than other Bostonians to be unemployed (8.5% versus 4.3% as a whole), especially if they are young adults. Research points to a number of disparities that are likely connected to poverty, including higher rates of mental illness, poor health outcomes, higher rates of incarceration, and lower educational levels. Gaining power for our community starts with civic engagement, especially voting. Roxbury's political clout has been on the rise over the past decade, and we intend to keep it that way with strong voter turnouts in every election. Communities with significant participation in elections and a strong commitment to engaging their elected and appointed officials receive more services, resources, funding, and priority from those in office. MPDC leads on this issue with the employment of a full-time Civic Engagement Coordinator and also as a founding member of the RoxVote Coalition, a group of local non-profit organizations that work jointly to actively involve residents in civic affairs.
In September 2015, in preparation for our 50th anniversary, MPDC began working on a strategic plan covering the years 2017 to 2021, led by a planning committee of board and staff and facilitated by a nonprofit consulting and research firm. We sought answers to two overriding questions about the organization's future direction: "Should MPDC remain focused on Roxbury?" and "Should MPDC remain focused on affordable housing?" The answers to both questions were in the affirmative, based on focused research and analyses. Since MPDC was created and led for many years by low-income community residents, resident leadership has been one of our hallmarks. Our desired change in the area of resident leadership is an increase in the number of MPDC housing residents who are engaged with community development and participate in community activism. Because we value the multicultural nature of our community, our desired change is preservation of the multicultural fabric of Roxbury in the face of economic and demographic change. Because healthy communities support the wellbeing of their residents in the physical, economic, cultural, and social dimensions, our desired change is articulated in the Healthy Neighborhoods Framework. Because we believe that it is critical to understand the long-term trends that impact Roxbury, our desired change is the creation of investments that will impact the future, especially for youth and for the physical assets of the community, our desired change is the creation of investments that will impact the future, especially for youth and for the physical assets of the community. And because we believe that structural racism impacts the lives of many Roxbury residents, our desired change is the mobilization of Roxbury residents to advocate for the policy, systemic, and environmental changes necessary to eradicate structural racism.
2. What are your strategies for making this happen?
MPDC has four program departments: Asset Management (AM), Community Action (CA), Hibernian Hall Arts and Culture (HH), and Real Estate Development (RE). We have identified strategies that each department will use during the next five years to achieve the desired changes described in the response to Question 1.
MPDC's Asset Management Department serves 3,000 residents and 17 commercial tenants. Because well managed housing and commercial buildings are crucial to the wellbeing of the community, AM's five year strategy involves creating a management structure for the new DeWitt Community Center; assessing and setting policies for resident service vendors; streamlining systems and practices; building and managing a larger commercial portfolio; development and implementing a green asset management plan; and instituting a smoke-free policy in all properties.
MPDC's Community Action Department has the organization's largest number and range of programs and activities, including resident services and leadership, youth programming; health and wellness; public safety; and civic engagement. CA's strategy involves 1. improving services and engagement with MPDC housing residents, and supporting resident leadership; 2. serving the needs of at-risk youth in the community through our youth development programs; 3. addressing health disparities; 4. increasing engagement with community residents around issues of public safety; 5. increasing Roxbury's voting participation so that voter turnout equals or exceeds the citywide average.
During the next five years, the Hibernian Hall Arts & Culture Department plans to continue its ongoing performance series; increase the number of people who attend performances and the income generated by performances; increase the range of arts programming through partnerships with arts organizations; play a leading role in the effort to designate Dudley Square as the "Roxbury Cultural District"; and build Roxbury's reputation as a unique center for cultural activity.
MPDC's Real Estate Department will continue to focus on Roxbury for its work in developing and preserving real estate in the next five years, but will also consider projects outside the neighborhood. Our committed pipeline runs to 2021 and is comprised of 10 projects that involve new construction, renovation, and refinancing. RE will also strive to incorporate moderate income rental units, to develop home ownership units, and to support MPDC housing residents who wish to transition to home ownership.
3. What are your organization’s capabilities for doing this?
MPDC's core capabilities are the organization's 50 years of institutional experience in creating and maintaining low-income housing and commercial space; a stellar reputation as a housing developer among residents and public and private organizations in the Roxbury community; long term stability; an ability to partner successfully with other organizations around issues of concern to the community; a long term commitment to tenant leadership and empowerment; a capacity to see opportunities not apparent to others and respond to them successfully; and respect for the Roxbury community's history and many cultures (past and present). Among the internal resources that are key to our success are the collective experience of a management team that has had only three CEOs in 50 years, and the supervision of a community-based Board of Directors. Four of our current ten Board members (including the Chair) came to the Board after volunteering as resident leaders and still live in MPDC housing. Current Board members hold leadership positions in organizations whose work is relevant to MPDC's programming, including resident management services, IT services, community health education, nonprofit housing development, and computer education for low-income youth. Many MPDC staff members were recruited from within the Roxbury community, and both managerial and support staff reflect the multicultural nature of the community. MPDC's long term responsible fiscal management strategy is also a vital internal asset. Over time, MPDC has built a $12M fund that the Board has designated for reserves and invested. The fund is earmarked for use in the following areas: operating reserves; a working capital line of credit to deefray transaction costs associated with third-party loans; risk based capital reserves to pilot new activities; reserve contingencies reserves to fulfill obligations in partnership agreements; and scholarship funds to expand a scholarship program for community youth. These funds will be replenished over time from MPDC's operating surpluses and investment returns. MPDC's prudent fiscal management has enabled it to take advantage of opportunities in new areas.The principal example is the creation of a community arts and culture program anchored by the renovated Hibernian Hall - a visionary project that few nonprofits could have accomplished.
MPDC's greatest external strength is its ability to partner with public and private organizations. Our partnerships not only expand our reach, but also create a synergy that generates new ideas and methodologies in areas where efforts overlap. As a partner in Choice Neighborhoods Initiative, MPDC collaborates with Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH), American City Coalition, and the Boston Housing Authority (BHA). Youth development partners are Ellis Memorial Afterschool; X-Cel Education, and Timothy Smith Internet Center. Health and wellness partners are Dana Farber Cancer Institute; Boston Public Health Commission; Center for Community Health Research and Service, and Boston Alliance for Community Health. Public safety partners are Boston Public Health Commission, National Night Out, Orchard Gardens Resident Association, Boys & Girls Clubs, Area B-2 Police, YouthBuild, and Mothers for Justice and Equality. Civic engagement partners are the RoxVOTE Coalition, including Nuestra CDC, Mass Alliance of HUD Tenants, and Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative. Arts and culture partners are Haley House, Celebrity Series of Boston, and Theater Offensive. MPDC is a member of Neighboworks America, RoxVOTE Coalition, Roxbury Cultural District Planning Group, Mass. Association of Community Development Corporations (MACDC), Citizens Housing and Planning Association (CHAPA), Community Preservation Coalition, LISC Boston, Mel King Institute, the American City Coalition (TACC), Home Matters America, Youth Jobs Coalition, and Friends of Melnea Cass Boulevard.
4. How will your organization know if you are making progress?
In order to reach the goals of MPDC's strategic plan, the Asset Management Department (AM) will finalize a management structure for the DeWitt Center prior to the estimated project's completion in 2017. Assessing and setting policies for MPDC resident service vendors will be completed by the end of 2017. AM will streamline systems and practices throughout the plan period. AM will prioritize implementation of a Green Asset Management Plan as part of MPDC's Green Initiative.
In the next five years, Community Action (CA) will advance on five key activities in the following areas: (1) social services and MPDC housing resident relations, and leadership. CA will hire an in-house social worker to facilitate referrals as well as collect more needs and outcomes data from residents to track impact and assess needs. CA will ensure that MPDC housing residents have a voice in resident services and will develop resident leaders who are empowered to lead community advocacy efforts. By 2021, all MPDC properties will have active resident associations with elected leadership that address resident needs and advocate for community goals. (2) Every year, the Youth Leadership Program will continue to serve at least 60 at-risk youth in summer and throughout the school year, If these, at least 15 Boston Public School students will receive academic and work readiness support, and at least 10 court-involved youth will intensive support designed to avoid re-offense. (3) Health and Community Wellness. CA will engage and inform residents in healthy lifestyle programs, and support peer health leaders and resident health advocates to support community gardening, farmers markets, and other activities supporting healthy food choices. (4) Public Safety. CA will increase public safety by engaging community residents in activities such as National Night Out and Critical Breakdown, and through youth participation in SummerRox basketball leagues. (5) Through its Civic Engagement program, CA will support voter registration, GOTV activities, lobbying efforts, and candidate forums. MPDC is an active member of the RoxVOTE Coalition.
During the next five years, the Hibernian Hall Arts and Culture Department (HH) plans to advance on four key activities. (1) HH will continue its ongoing performance series, presenting works by visiting playwrights of color; one youth performance every summer, and three concerts every year. HH will increase audience attendance to 200 per performance, and increase income by ensuring that 40 - 50% of audience members have paid for tickets. (2) Through the Arts Ventures program, HH will continue to partner with arts organizations and artists to present 30 performances a year. The hall will continue to be used for civic and community events as well as MPDC activities. (3) HH staff will plan and implement art classes in the DeWitt Center. (4) MPDC will continue to lead the effort to designate Dudley Square as the Roxbury Cultural District. To support this effort, HH will plan and implement community-wide festivals, beginning in summer 2018, in the context of a new citywide Cultural Plan for the advancement of cultural equity and the celebration of arts and culture in urban settings.
During the next five years, MPDC's Real Estate Department (RE) will produce a total of 977 renovated or refinanced affordable housing units: 338 new affordable units, 128 market or moderate income units; and 74 home-ownership units. RE will continue to seek out new affordable housing projects in Roxbury and appropriate opportunities in nearby communities. Acquiring at-risk affordable housing will be a priority. RE will also build the DeWitt Community Center; renovate the Tropical Foods building into both retail and housing space, and construct a retail/commercial "Gateway" building in Dudley Square.
5. What have and haven’t you accomplished so far?
Madison Park Community Development Corporation was born out of crisis. It was founded by community activists after a successful struggle to stop the demolition of Lower Roxbury as part of the city's mid-sixties "urban renewal" program. They were working on two fronts: fighting back against a highway that would have replaced Lower Roxbury's houses, backyards, parks, schools, and churches with eight lanes of Interstate, and against local, state and federal housing policies that were laying waste to communities of color across America -- giving rise to the adage that "urban renewal is Negro removal." When local activists succeeded in halting highway construction, much of Lower Roxbury had been bulldozed, and much of the neighborhood was plagued by arson and abandonment. Residents who remained asked what the future Lower Roxbury should look like, and who would live there. In response, MPDC began building human scale affordable housing (no giant brick towers) on the vacant land, while helping community members organize and advocate for themselves. MPDC's early years were spent rebuilding the infrastructure of a devastated community and working with other nonprofits, government agencies, and coalitions to create housing that fostered community spirit and connected residents with services to improve their lives. MPDC was one of the first resident-led CDC's in the nation.
During the past 20 years, MPDC has experienced tremendous growth, and has developed a strong business model. MPDC's entrepreneurial culture has fostered new ventures and responsiveness to community needs. This growth has resulted in preservation and construction of over 1,300 affordable housing units; the preservation of Hibernian Hall as a cultural anchor in Dudley Square; the opening of the first neighborhood supermarket in 35 years; and other programs supporting the quality of life of Roxbury residents.
Yet much remains to be done. Although there is still a need for housing development and rehabilitation, especially low-income housing, a recent survey of Roxbury residents undertaken as part of MPDC's strategic planning process highlighted income and economic issues as the key areas for development in Roxbury -- not housing and commercial development. Although Roxbury's infrastructure has changed dramatically since the early days of urban renewal, residents are still overwhelmingly people of color, predominantly African American and Hispanic (80%) as opposed to the city as a whole (40%) and the state (20%). And, as is often the case in communities of color, poverty is still a harsh reality. Over one-third of Roxbury residents live at or below the poverty line, and the median income in Roxbury is less than half that of Boston as a whole. Residents who were interviewed expressed concern that the needs and preferences of Roxbury residents are sometimes overlooked in efforts to develop the neighborhood into a regional economic hub, and hoped that decision makers would not prioritize services to tomorrow's visitors and newcomers over services to today's residents. These surveys confirmed what MPDC has known from the beginning: a community is far more than buildings and institutions. Self-determination through resident participation in community meetings, activities, events, organizations, and the political process is as important now as marches, press conferences, and picketing were a half century ago.
Going forward into the next half century, MPDC has committed to: engaging more of our housing residents in community development; cultivating community-based leadership and activism; embracing and preserving the fabric of Roxbury in the face of economic and demographic change; supporting the well-being and quality of life of its residents; and making investments today for impact in the future -- particularly for youth and the physical assets of the community; and, like our founders, mobilizing collective power to advocate for the policy, systemic, and environmental changes necessary to create and maintain a thriving multicultural community on par with other Boston neighborhoods.