by Ian-Wendell Lipford
(Philadelphia, Pennsylvania US)
Visitor Question: Is it possible to have 2 CDC's? If one just patronizes senior citizens and home owners. And the new one wants to patronize the whole community from Toddlers to Senior Citzens! Just take pride in being well rounded and accessible!
Editors Reply: We want to answer the question about two community development corporations in the same territory, because that is an interesting situation.
We are not sure what the question means when he says that the CDCs are patronizing to parts of the community, or what the examples of that behavior might be, so we will leave that without comment.
But it is important to say that no, the community should not be happy if there are two organizations calling themselves community development corporations operating in the same geographic area.
In that case, the community itself, meaning the ordinary folks, should appeal to their leaders and local officials to help them try to find a solution.
Some who are reading this may wonder why having two CDCs is a problem. The quick answer is that funding is simply not available for a duplication of effort. The federal government provides only extremely limited help to most CDCs, and if locally determined federal funds such as Community Development Block Grants are used to fund both community development corporations, again, there is not enough money for each to do a credible job of addressing community needs.
Likewise the philanthropic community is likely to take a very dim view of what they too may see as duplication of effort. They are going to want to fund only the one that they see as having the best metrics showing accomplishment.
Also the community members themselves deserve better than this. If a CDC is doing a good job, it consults regularly with ordinary citizens about what they would like to see in the community. But residents are likely to show participation fatigue if they have to come out to meetings and events for two different corporations.
So, you might ask, what should be done? Try the direct approach, where you ask each CDC about their strengths, projects, and goals. Then you may be able to see where it would make sense to combine the two organizations into one, which we would think should be your ultimate goal.
For example, perhaps they like to construct or rehab different types of housing for different markets. In that case they are not competitive at all in terms of their product, but as we argue above, they are competing for funds and for the community's interest, to the detriment of both probably.
Secondly, take your case to your elected officials, the banking community, and whoever else might hold some influence over these two CDC's. Determine who serves on each board through consulting public records available from the state. This will give you a clue as to who might be able to persuade the two community development corporations to start working together with a view toward merger.
In the course of your conversations, you might find out that there are some personality conflicts that have led to the formation of the second corporation. There may be strong differences in approach. One may be secretly or not so secretly trying to drive the other out of business.
None of these circumstances really justify the continuation of this situation. It is one that we hope you and your neighbors will work on. There should be one strong community development corporation in each part of the city.
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