City of Pittsfield selected for Working Cities Challenge design grant

The City of Pittsfield has been chosen by the Boston Federal Reserve’s independent selection committee to receive a Working Cities Challenge design grant.

The $15,000 award will support the development of Pittsfield’s initiative over the next six months. The goal of the Working Cities Challenge is to assist Massachusetts small cities in developing a strong civic infrastructure that includes a cross-sector leaders and institutions, to provide outcomes that benefit residents who are under-resourced. As an awardee, Pittsfield will be eligible to compete for a three-year implementation grant in the spring of 2016. 

The Pittsfield team, facilitated by Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity and the Berkshire Regional Planning Agency, is comprised of community members, representatives from non-profit organizations, and other stakeholders including Justine Dodds of the city’s Community Development department. The team is invited to join Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren and Governor Charlie Baker on Thursday, Nov. 5 at the State House for a formal announcement of the design grantees. Additionally, teams will have the opportunity to share their proposals’ vision.

“I think what’s important is that it’s a broad-based collaboration and I am impressed to see who is at the table,” said Dodds, the city’s Housing Specialist and Fair Housing Officer. Noting Pittsfield’s designation as a Gateway City – one of four in the Commonwealth – Dodds said this award will continue to build on that recognition. “We know that the work ahead will help to eliminate barriers to resources, and that’s a good thing for our community’s residents.”

Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Carolyn Valli said the grant will help to usher in a transformative movement for the city that will have a long-term impact.

“This grant is important because it brings all pieces of our community together, the private, public and government sectors,” Valli said.

The Pittsfield team’s grant was centered on the Bridges Out of Poverty approach to ending poverty, which has effectively brought individuals from all sectors and economic classes together in communities around the country.  The group reviewed the positives outcomes garnered through the Bridges model in Schenectady, N.Y., and recognized similar areas of opportunity in Pittsfield. “With the Bridges Out of Poverty model, it gives us a common language and brings us all at the table with a common respect,” Valli said.

Design grant funds will be used to facilitate discussions, hosted by Schenectady Bridges partners, for businesses, nonprofits and residents; local community sessions; and work toward the grant submission for 2016, which will focus on the implementation of the Bridge model.

Though the Pittsfield team includes core contributors, Valli said the emphasis of the team’s work is on its collective impact. “Although there are 12 core partners, there are about 27 partners in total and we expect that number to grow,” she said. “It’s really about moving our community forward together.”

Other winning cities included Brockton, Chicopee, Everett, Fall River, Haverhill, Lowell, Lynn, New Bedford, Revere, Salem, Somerville, Springfield, and Worcester.

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