Israeli Community Development in CLE
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Cleveland Welcomes Israeli Community Development Initiative
CLEVELAND – The Jewish Federation of Cleveland announces a groundbreaking collaboration between its sister city of Beit Shean, Israel and five local Cleveland communities. This cross-cultural exchange will influence how community development corporations (CDCs) measure success through the use of a new tool called the GEAR.
The GEAR, which stands for Governance, Economy, Activism, and Relationships, is the first tool of its kind. It was created to help local community builders and stakeholders measure and evaluate complex change in community development over time. The tool was developed by an Israeli community revitalization organization in Beit Shean called Bridge to the Future, which is supported by the Federation.
“The GEAR is an evidence-based tool that combines fact and informed opinion to assess the effectiveness of community development initiatives,” said Oren Baratz, Senior Vice President of International Operations for the Federation. “We have recognized its usefulness in analyzing the impact of initiatives in our sister city of Beit Shean and we look forward to seeing how it will also support the important work of CDCs here in Cleveland. It is an exciting collaboration.”
The Federation has a long history of collaborating with fellow non-profits, social service agencies and educational organizations for the betterment of the Cleveland community as a whole.
Since 1999, the Federation’s Public Education Initiative (PEI) has worked in partnership with the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) and is now the largest literacy tutoring program in the district. Each year, PEI tutors help 300+ K-12 students in eight Cleveland schools learn to read.
When the tutors recognized that many of the students they worked with were facing food insecurity when school was closed for winter break, the Federation partnered with the Cleveland Food Bank to launch an initiative called the Winter Break Lunch Program. Each year, the program provides activities, entertainment and 700+ hot lunches to Cleveland students when schools are closed for winter break.
Then in 2013, the Federation was invited to partner with CMSD, The Rainey Institute and United Way of Greater Cleveland to launch the Wraparound Services Initiative at Case Elementary School in the St. Clair neighborhood. In addition to providing students with academic support, the initiative gives students and their families access to family engagement, enrichment programming, plus social services.
“We were already helping young children and their family members at Case Elementary,” Baratz said. “We wanted to see how we could help the surrounding St. Clair neighborhood, too.”
Michael Fleming, Executive Director of the St. Clair Superior Development Corporation, joined the Federation on a recent trip to Israel to learn about Bridge to the Future’s neighborhood revitalization efforts in Beit Shean.
“What I saw in Beit Shean is helping me put into focus what I see in St. Clair,” Fleming said. “Cleveland and Beit Shean are both very diverse neighborhoods, and its residents are community-driven people who want to make their city better.”
While in Israel, Fleming was introduced to the GEAR and saw how the tool visually expressed the community’s issues and opportunities. He was inspired to implement the GEAR in St. Clair and share the possibilities with neighborhoods across Cleveland.
Enter Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, a non-profit that works in partnership with CDCs, local foundations, the business community, and governments to create a strong and productive system to improve many of Cleveland’s neighborhoods.
“Our goal is to have a strong community development corporation in every Cleveland neighborhood so the city can develop in a positive way,” said Joel Ratner, President and CEO of Cleveland Neighborhood Progress. “We are looking for ways to objectively measure progress in Cleveland and the GEAR may be part of the answer.”
In December 2015, representatives from Bridge to the Future will join Cleveland Neighborhood Progress to implement a pilot project with five CDCs, including St. Clair Superior. Other neighborhoods include Circle North, Detroit Shoreway, Northeast Shores, and Union-Miles. Together, they will launch a cross-cultural collaboration with great potential.
“This partnership is a great chance to connect with the Federation and other organizations in Cleveland and in Israel,” Ratner said. “We are hopeful [the GEAR] is something we can integrate in years to come.”