By Perry B. Newman
For many, the words “strategic plan” call to mind a process involving a great deal of time doing a great deal of thinking producing a great deal of paper that doesn’t result in a great deal of action or change.
But for Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corporation, a community development corporation based in Uphams Corner, the strategic planning process resulted in a road map setting forth a path to a more equitable and economically vibrant future. The organization’s strategic plan is anything but static. It is, quite literally, a call to action.
Back in 2017, Dorchester Bay completed a lengthy and robust process of interviews and focus groups involving hundreds of stakeholders, from residents to government leaders to community partners to financial supporters and our staff and board.
The process was tough and time consuming, but resulted in a strategic plan that reflects our best big picture thinking and is designed to provide the organization with a set of goals, action steps and outcomes to achieve over the next three years.
Now, having completed our first full year of plan implementation, we are proud of the work we have done and the direction we are going. More than anything, we are gratified by the difference we are making in the community.
The plan calls for us to:
1) Deploy a holistic approach to community development; 2) Increase resident leadership and civic engagement; 3) Enhance the prospects for social and economic mobility; 4) Ensure that Dorchester Bay is a strong, nimble and sustainable organization.
While we are builders of buildings, i.e. brick and mortar structures that house people and businesses, we also strive to be builders of community. We want to deploy our buildings to be gathering places for residents seeking to engage and learn. We want to attract and support businesses who will employ community members and help establish pathways to careers.
In short, we want to make full use of the assets we own and develop new opportunities to leverage those assets and resources to do more.
Next, we want our residents to feel empowered to advocate for themselves, their neighborhoods and their futures. That’s why we’re creating new opportunities for seniors to engage with each other across all of our properties, and why we’re developing a leadership curriculum for adults to build skills in meeting facilitation and issue advocacy. Our award-winning Youth Leadership Institute and Youth Force engage teens around important issues of the day while developing advocacy skills and a better understanding of themselves and others.
As we look at the changes impacting our neighborhoods, perhaps none are more threatening than gentrification and displacement. An American Community Survey back in 2016 noted that more than 20 percent of residents in our neighborhood would be displaced within four years by new residents earning more than $100,000 per year. If ever there was a call to action, this is it.
To preserve our communities and support residents in the face of rapid change, we are developing an Economic Mobility Agenda that will link our residents to living wage jobs; provide financial literacy training; deploy capital to startups and small businesses; place returning citizens in productive jobs and training programs; and, potentially, explore opportunities to accumulate wealth for home ownership and higher education.
It is only by strategically providing tools to our residents that we will be able to strengthen their economic prospects and help them navigate a path to stability and a better future.
Finally, we can only do this work if we ensure that Dorchester Bay continues to be strong, sustainably funded and organizationally nimble enough to capitalize on opportunities. We are responsible stewards of the funds we earn through our development activities and we reinvest those funds to the fullest extent possible to deliver the programs and resources we currently provide and we hope to deliver in the future.
We know we’ve made significant impact over the past year of plan implementation, and we’re pleased to share that information in our just released Annual Impact Report, available on our website at dbedc.org. Our work continues, however, and we are focused on the next two years of work to achieve the goals outlined in our strategic plan.
Perry B. Newman is the Chief Executive Officer of Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corporation.