Growth Design Corporation has had the privilege to be involved with a variety of community development projects throughout its history as a firm. At the start of his career in the early 1970s, Growth Design founder Byron Tweeten established a faith-based foundation in the inner city of Milwaukee to provide children and young adults with after-school and other support programs.
The firm's client experience over the past five years has demonstrated two key trends. First, there has been a resurgence of social and economic development initiatives within neighborhoods and communities. Second, a recognition of the important role that faith-based organizations play in the development of innovative, grass-roots economic and social initiatives is emerging. These faith-based organizations connect key human and financial resources directly into neighborhoods and communities.
Recently, Growth Design has assisted a number of faith-based community development organizations and initiatives in building their resource and organizational capacities. Some of these major projects include:
Community Village - A development company established by an inner city church in Milwaukee to revitalize a 30-block area through stimulating neighborhood economic development and seeding small enterprise start-ups to build wealth within their local community.
Faith in the City - A major faith-based collaborative initiative established among several large Lutheran institutions in the Minneapolis-St. Paul region to leverage their extensive institutional resources (human, financial and applied knowledge) in support of workforce development in targeted urban neighborhoods. Their goals include investing in long-term, sustainable economic development projects such as micro credit/micro enterprise start-ups.
Community of Joy - A 200-acre campus development project in the Phoenix area started by a local mega-congregation to provide integrated programs and services (education, recreation, worship, health and long-term care) to the members of its congregation as well as others in the local community.
In addition, Growth Design has worked with smaller faith-based community organizations to build their capacity as organizations. A majority of these organizations are not large-scale hierarchical agencies, but rather churches and church-related ministries that have spun off or created non-profit development corporations as one aspect of their broader community development mission.
Growth Design has found that an increasing number of their client situations involve enterprise development through micro business startup as an alternative to welfare programs in economically marginalized neighborhoods. Again, these organizations are local and grass roots oriented, shying away from reliance on federal and other public funding sources in order to keep their focus on leveraging community-based and local resources. In an environment of social entrepreneurship, they are seeking private funding and partnerships - from philanthropic as well as corporate sources and interests - to accomplish their missions.
We, at Growth Design, believe the key to successful urban economic development lies in fostering the development of businesses, enterprises, and entrepreneurs within distressed communities. At the same time, these elements must attach to the human services such as health, education and training within the communities. Approaching the solution from this perspective changes the nature of funding structures to build incentives for this new kind of community development oriented organization, perhaps focusing more on tax credits and other incentive programs as opposed to direct grants to build low-income housing.