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Invest In Change

Editor’s Note:  Jake Williams is a long-serving community council member who is now the president of Invest in Neighborhoods.  As an architect working in OTR, Jake knows the value of an organic, community-serving structure–and he is working hard with the Invest board to re-invent this important community infrastructure.  Jake can be reached at

jake williams

There are challenges to keeping any non-profit organization relevant within their area of expertise.  Shifts in funding, altered paths of influence, and even a change in priorities can all result in methods tried-and-true falling far short of their mark or threaten the sustainability of even robust institutions.  Apply these burdens to the shifting civic winds of your average Community Council and maintaining effectiveness becomes a labor worthy of Hercules.

It was in the midst of navigating these waters as a Council President that I began to examine closely how our different neighborhoods struggle with similar issues, and that led me to Invest in Neighborhoods.

While quietly managing the Neighborhood Fund over 30+ years, as well as administrating the City’s Neighborhood Support Fund (NSP), Invest in Neighborhoods (a member organization made up of representatives from each of 48 Community Councils) had become the closest thing to a Civic Repository.  And with access to an archive of administrative processes, projects, and funding sources, it served as both an advocate and mentor for Community Leaders young and old.

But no organization that remains static can thrive, and with the return of NSP administration to the offices of the City, as well as changes in neighborhood development funding priorities away from Community Councils and toward Business Districts and Development Corporations, it became apparent that Invest itself would need to adapt – to find a way to both to address the issues facing Councils today and to help them better prepare for their continuing role in a much more crowded Civic Landscape.

And so we started, when at the 2015 Neighborhood Summit, Invest introduced “Collaboration Erases Boundaries” as the theme of the day and as a new approach for Community Council action.  Neighborhoods working together and with partner organizations to solve common problems, advocating with one voice, and combining their assets to make them stronger in unison than alone.

We continued, by having Peoples Liberty present new ways of funding – not for the Councils themselves, but by Councils empowering the ideas of their residents directly through individual grants and programs.

And we’ll continue again, through quarterly meetings, local advocacy, social media, and finally the 2016 Neighborhood Summit, where this year’s theme of “Making Your Place” will showcase successful development through placemaking throughout our City and show how Community Councils can, and must, be successful partners in those efforts.

If you believe in the power of compound multipliers, think of it this way.  Invest in Neighborhoods is, in essence, an assembly of assemblies.  Our meetings are a venue in which our Member Councils, already the voices of their residents, can not only share ideas and best practices but also vote to take united action or bring their voices together in appeal.  And it is our belief that it is the spirit and power of this collective impact, focused on problems that cross all of our boundaries, which will help us keep Community Councils as relevant voices in the Civic discussion well into the next generation.

Yes, the Civic Landscape is changing, and Invest is changing with it.

We look forward to changing it together.

Jake Williams, President, Board of Trustees

Invest in Neighborhoods

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