Federal Reserve Bank of Boston President Eric Rosengren was joined by representatives from more than 20 communities in Massachusetts for the launch of the Working Cities Challenge, along with leaders from other agencies and organizations involved in the effort.
The program, titled “Working Cities Challenge: An Initiative for Massachusetts Smaller Cities,” aims to improve public-private cooperation and collaboration in smaller cities, and will support economic development projects to help improve the lives of low-income families.
The winning cities will get more than a million dollars in grant funding, although all of the participating cities will get a lot of help in many different ways.
All participants will benefit from peer-city advice, technical assistance and access to new sources for flexible debt and grant programs. They will have access to a large network of leaders from the public and private sectors, along with those working in the non-profit and philanthropy areas.
Communities whose manufacturing plants have moved away or shut down will be pushed to look at other sectors and come up with a “transformative project” to bring deep and everlasting change. Massachusetts is the first state to adopt this model at a regional level.
The Boston Fed developed the Working Cities Challenge as a regional model of Living Cities’ The Integration Initiative (TII). Living Cities is a New York-based collaboration of 22 of the world’s largest financial institutions and foundations.
Ben Hecht, president and CEO of Living Cities, said their primary aim with TII was to improve the lives of low-income families at scale. He said boosting prosperity at the population level needs systemic solutions, rather than programmatic ones.
Living Cities is chipping in with $600,000 committed by its members, half of which comes from Bank of America alone. Other entities working in partnership with the Boston Fed for this initiative include the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the Mass Competitive Partnership.
Working Cities will provide between six to eight awards. There will be three to five seed awards ranging from $50,000 to $80,000. There will be three main multi-year implementation awards. One will be in between $150,000 to $300,000, the second one between $300,000 to $500,000, and the third one between $500,000 to $700,000. Winners will be chosen by a panel of experts.
This initiative was launched as a result of research conducted on small cities by the Boston Fed, which found that eight out of 26 cities in a peer group had managed to recover their economic stability with the help of collaborative leadership, infrastructure investments and the assistance of anchor institutions.
The Boston Fed found that their study findings closely matched Living Cities’ TII, which has been tested on the inner-city populations of five larger cities.
They are now hoping the Working Cities Challenge will offer insights into what might work that can then be scaled up for larger cities, and the initiative may even be expanded outside Massachusetts to include other regions in New England.