BRAND of St. Louis: Cultivate Community Initiative

Our mission is to accelerate the development of innovative, collaborative solutions in urban communities.

The purpose of this initiative is to explore the factors that impact collaborative relationships with St. Louis residents of African descent and determine how economic development stakeholders may foster or hinder these collaborative relationships. We believe there is an opportunity for private and public organizations to play a stronger role in reducing economic disparities by designing solutions that create win/win partnerships within communities of African descent. Using the funds from Food Spark, we aim to host facilitated sessions open to the public to understand the factors that support collaboration in communities of African descent to understand core values, establish shared language, identify opportunities that exist, and create models for sustainable, community-centered interventions. These sessions would benefit from this funding by allowing us to increase participation and engagement by increasing the programming budget for food, drinks and promotional materials for each session.

The initiative will expand upon preliminary research that we have conducted in collaboration with Washington University in St. Louis Brown School of Social Work both in May 2018 and April 2019. Over time, we will compile and build on these sessions and pilot solutions to present to economic and community development stakeholders throughout the St. Louis region. The goal would be to find willing collaborative partners with access to resources and funding to help underwrite, seed, and implement the most practical and effective pilot solutions in collaboration with the appropriate leaders of African descent to co-create the scalability and sustainability of the solutions in an equitable way while balancing power dynamics of the decision-making body. We plan to leverage the research findings to provide a racial equity framework for impact investing, entrepreneur support, capacity building, and community engagement practices in St. Louis. We plan to do this by:

1) Community Engagement

This research will serve as a spark for St. Louis residents of African descent to have transparent conversations about their attitudes toward collaboration and the values and structures that shape those attitudes. We plan to engage 6-10 economic development stakeholders, including private and public investors, entrepreneur support organizations, community development organizations, and real estate developers, over a 12 month period and outline what win/win partnerships might look like.

2) Strategic Recommendations

We plan to share strategies that positively impact collaboration with St. Louis residents of African descent with economic development stakeholders. For example, the data could inform what comprehensive, equitable community benefit agreements should look like or help business accelerators understand what services would be most effective for entrepreneurs of African descent.

3) Leadership

As an organization, we plan to integrate strategies that positively impact collaboration into the work that we do. We plan to shape the public perception about equitable partnerships by aligning our services with other organizations in the community to increase collective impact.

4 Leading Themes: Strengthening Collaboration

Theme 1: There are three main factors that must be present in a collaborative relationship: Trust, Growth Mindset, & Shared Goals and Interests.

Theme 2: Strong Leadership is imperative to establish the Shared Goals and Interests.

Theme 3: Networking increases opportunities to build Trust and identify Shared Goals and Interests.

Theme 4: In communities with Access to Resources and Strategically Aligned Services, an increase in

collaboration would positively impact Community Development activity.