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Innovation Program builds partnerships

Initiative program coordinator LaVett Saddler (left) and Barbara Blackston of Wilson Community Improvement Association present the Innovation Program during a panel discussion at the Southeastern Association of Community Action Agencies Conference in Memphis in October.


OCT. 22, 2010 – One of the Initiative’s goals has always been to find innovative approaches to community economic development and then build the capacity of its grantee organizations to expand that innovation into their local communities. For its newest grant program, the aptly named Innovation Program, the Initiative is focusing on building new, efficient partnerships.

With the help of a grant from the N.C. Rural Economic Development Center, the Innovation Program seeks to find ways for community development corporations (CDCs) to partner with community action agencies that traditionally serve the same community.

Initiative program coordinator LaVett Saddler said that the program was inspired in part by the federal weatherization program. Much of the weatherization money is channeled through community action agencies, and the Initiative saw an opportunity to link partners for a greater community impact.

There are two projects under way that are focused on building an energy-efficient, green economy in North Carolina.

Wilson Community Improvement Association (WCIA), an Initiative-funded CDC, and Martin Community Action Agency are working together to increase their capacity to weatherize homes in Wilson County. Since Martin operates a weatherization program in its other counties, it will provide weatherization training to WCIA staff and then subcontract with WCIA for local weatherization projects. In return, WCIA will assist Martin by serving as the intake coordinator for Wilson residents needing weatherization services.

In Cumberland County, Kingdom CDC and Cumberland Community Action Agency will be working together to provide seminars and workshops around green technology and energy efficiency. These seminars will educate homeowners, train workers for new green industry jobs, and bring companies and organizations in the industry together to form new collaborations.

Saddler said the primary goal of the program is to produce “a national model” for collaborations between CDCs and community action agencies.