Brooklyn Community Foundation is the only foundation dedicated to charitable giving in Brooklyn, NY. BCF has established a reputation for seeking innovative ways to spark change in Brooklyn. So we knew it was a great fit when they approached us to design and implement one of their signature initiatives, Neighborhood Strengths Model (NSM).

 Neighborhood Strengths began as a grant-making program in Crown Heights. It was a chance for BCF to give back to the community it served through $100,000 in annual giving. But heading into the second year, of NSM, the foundation decided that a much more radical approach was needed to insure that their investment in the neighborhood led to long term sustainable impact.

What we really wanted to do as we further developed the model was to broaden the outreach of the program while focusing our impact around one key investment area. And this is something that we realized we would need outside help with and we really wanted to work with someone who had that strength and experience in community engagement and really around community visioning...
— -Liane Stegmaier, Vice President of Communications and Strategy at Brooklyn Community Foundation
NSM Visioning

Create Forward proposed a multi-tiered community engagement strategy for NSM.  They loved the creativity of our approach and hired us to lead the charge. First, we facilitated a series of neighborhood visioning sessions, where we literally asked, “What is your vision for Crown Heights?”

Through these sessions, grounded in design-thinking principles, we were able to identify the neighborhood’s top concerns and eventually generate the best solutions to the community’s problems. Following these sessions, the Foundation brought together 17 Crown Heights stakeholders to form an advisory council to develop the final recommendation. This recommendation, called One Big Idea, would be an investment that best addressed the thoughts, concerns, and ideas of Crown Heights residents.

“...they really ushered through a process that I feel like got to a much greater number of participant and then ultimately got us to a really compelling investment area around public space that we’ve since now done grant making.”
— -Liane Stegmaier, Vice President of Communications and Strategy at Brooklyn Community Foundation

The Council believed that the development and enhancement of public spaces would create more opportunities for residents to continue to address shared community challenges, while building intergenerational relationships across class, race, and ethnic groups. So with this decision BCF, invested $100,000 into 6 Crown Heights public spaces: Maple Street Community Garden, Prospect Place Lot, Haiti Cultural Exchange, Bethany Unity Church, New York Community for Change, and Repair the World.

Due to the success of this process, Brooklyn Community Foundation has decided to implement it every year. This will allow Crown Heights residents to contribute to a collective vision for how the Foundation can invest $100,000.

Click here to visit the Neighborhood Strength website.