Like many suburban cities throughout the nation, the city of Cranston is becoming more diverse. The proposed OneCranston initiative seeks to embrace this change and increase social cohesion among and between residents in the City, with a focus on Cranston's growing low-income and minority populations. Through this process, OneCranston will increase social and civic engagement among residents, bringing public, private, and non-profit organizations together with community members to deliberate, collaborate, and connect with one another as they improve their neighborhoods, address important "opportunity gaps" for youth, increase access to employment and post-secondary opportunities, and ultimately, address system related issues that contribute to persistent socioeconomic disparities in the City. Through these efforts OneCranston will work to improve the wellbeing of all Cranston residents and make the City more economically competitive and resilient. With the current divisive national discourse concerning immigration, race, inclusion, and equity, it is an important and challenging time to bring people together to solve challenges and create new opportunities in the City.
Comprehensive Community Action Program (CCAP) will be the backbone organization for the initiative and will perform traditional backbone functions, including serving as the initiative's fiscal agent and home for the Initiative Director. OneCranston will be guided by a Steering Committee comprised of community members that reflect the diversity of the City. The current planning team includes representatives from the Center for Southeast Asians, the City of Cranston, the Cranston Public Library, the Cranston Police Department, the Cranston School Department, CCAP, the Economic Progress Institute, the Elizabeth Buffum Chace Center, Roger Williams University, Texas Roadhouse, the YMCAand several residents with relevant affiliations. The Steering Committee will help coordinate the work of four "Results Teams", each focusing on one of the high level "drivers" identified during the planning process. Results Teams include: Community Building, Youth Opportunity, Employment and Post- Secondary, and "Faces and Places". All partners will commit to consensus-based decision-making to ensure all voices are heard, and the Results Teams will update and prepare annual work plans for submittal to the Steering Committee. The Steering Committee will approve annual plans to ensure coordination and make decisions that impact the larger initiative, while the Results Teams will be primarily responsible for making decisions relating to their strategy areas.
Cranston is becoming increasingly economically and racially diverse. Between 2000 and 2015, the percentage of minority residents increased in every Cranston neighborhood and the percentage of residents living below the federal poverty level increased or remained level in 82% of the City's seventeen census tracts. While the City grew at a rate of 1.9%, the number of people of color living in the city increased by 100% and the City's Hispanic and Asian populations grew by 187% and 65% respectively. As the City changes, economic and racial disparities in income and education persist. These disparities, and the factors contributing to them, impact all residents as they block access toopportunity, slow economic growth and neighborhood renewal, and disincentivize civic engagement,particularly among the City's growing number of low-income and minority families.
OneCranston will build off existing community assets to increase social cohesion among residents in the City by at least 30% over the next decade, strengthening communities, creating new opportunities, and decreasing economic and educational disparities among the City's growing number of minority and low-income residents over the coming decade.
Strategies & Actions:
OneCranston will initially pursue a set of six strategies designed to increase social cohesion and improve outcomes associated with economic and educational disparities. Strategy areas include:
1) Identifying and engaging community leaders to build social and civic capital and solve problems,
2) Improving partners' abilities to effectively communicate with their changing constituencies,
3) Increasing out of school time activities for youth,
4) Addressing gaps in 3rd grade reading scores,
5) Better preparing and connecting low-income, minority residents to jobs and post-secondary opportunities, and
6) Bringing diverse communities together across the City to increase understanding amon1g different cultural and ethnic groups and build capacity to address challenging issues that underlie socioeconomic disparities.
First year actions will primarily revolve around implementation of the first two strategies to increase social and civic engagement and build the partnership's communications capacity. The initial and ongoing implementation of these strategies entail significant community engagement and leadership development and will comprise the foundation from which additional strategies will be built over time. First-year actions are designed to identify and support community leaders, many of whom partners hope to engage as leaders in the ongoing OneCranston effort. Examples of initial activities include implementing a comprehensive evidence based leadership development training for parents with school-age kids, establishing a community matching fund to make small grants to neighborhood-based volunteer groups, and supporting community gatherings and trainings that bring people together and increase understanding of the diverse cultures in the City. During the first year, the partnership will lay the groundwork for implementation of additional strategies in year 2, including scanning local employers to determine hiring needs and challenges and conducting an inventory of available after-school activities to connect city youth to services and to identify gaps.