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News from the Community: Updates from the Capital Region Collaborative

On Friday March 10th,  The Capital Region Collaborative (CRC) shared important updates to their regional work in a community-wide meeting.  A captive audience listened intently as CRC Organizers, elected officials, local nonprofit leaders and even the Mayor of Richmond, Levar Stoney, discussed the “shared vision for our region” and the ways that our community must work together, across sectors, to achieve this goal.

 

About the Capital Region Collaborative (CRC)

The CRC is an active collaborative effort between government, business, and the community to identify and implement regional priorities that will enhance the quality of life in the Richmond Region.

Through a series of focus groups, community conversations, and surveys, the CRC identified eight key priorities, which was produced in the original CRC – Building the Framework report in 2012. The public was invited to join work groups in each priority area.  The work groups were then asked to identify specific ways that the collaborative cross-sector efforts could make a difference in each area.  The 8 priority areas (and what they aspire to do) are:

  • Education – to ensure that every child graduates from high school college or career-ready
  • Job Creation –  the region enjoys a diverse economy that is competitive in the global marketplace and provides job opportunities for all
  • Workforce Preparation – to better align workforce skills to employer needs
  • Social Stability – the region embraces our social diversity as an asset and supports a community where all residents have the opportunity to succeed
  • Healthy Community – the region is known for an active and healthy lifestyle
  • Coordinated Transportation – the region remains one of the most uncongested transportation networks in the country while supporting all modes of transportation
  • James River – the region will make the James River a centerpiece for entertainment, recreation, and commerce
  • Quality Place – the region is a leading attractive, inclusive, and accessible community for arts, culture, recreation, and entertainment

In the past year, the CRC’s organizing council assembled Action Teams – made up of community leaders and subject matter experts to take the initial Work Group recommendations, community feedback, regional indicators (see below) and national best practice models to find cross-sector solutions to the region wide priorities.

Regional Indicators

Over the past year, a major focus of the CRC has been to find a standard way to measure progress on economic and social goals related the region’s priorities to assist community leaders, elected officials, and funders in making informed, strategic decisions to drive change. In 2016, they announced the launch of the Regional Indicators Project.

At the latest Community Meeting the CRC shared an up-to-date RVA Snapshot – which provides a benchmark framework for comparing the Richmond region to peer cities and measures progress in the eight priority areas. “There are a few excellent reports out there covering these key priorities individually, but our goal is to provide a comprehensive report and accountability tool that brings these regional priorities together in one information source,” said Ashley Hall, Manager of The Capital Region Collaborative.

Ashley shared an update on the Indicators, and in general, the region saw modest gains and losses between 2016 and 2017 across most areas the initiative measures.  In education, preschool enrollment decreased by 1.3 percent to 44 percent while the number of high school graduates increased by 2.7 percent to 91.1 percent. When it came to jobs, the unemployment rate decreased by 0.8 percent to 4.3 percent, but the average annual wage also decreased by $655 to $50,574.  The poverty rate dropped by 1 percent to 11.8 percent while the percentage of the region’s homeless held steady at .08 percent. The region fares poorly against others when it comes to public transportation — a report by the University of Minnesota Center for Transportation Studies ranked Richmond 41st out of 49 regions in transit accessibility to jobs.

However, since the Indicators only measures data from 2015 to 2016, we are cautioned to remember that it is too early to view the indicator changes as trends quite yet.

Regional Projects and Activities

During the Community Meeting, different leaders shared some highlights of regional projects, events and activities that the Action Teams have worked to tackle together over the past year.  Here are some highlights:

  • From the original Healthy Community work group arose The RVA Food Collaborative (RVAFC), which brings together individuals from organizations and businesses working to improve the region’s food system and close the enormous “hunger gap” that exists. Recently, the RVA Food Collaborative, in partnership with Shalom Farms, created “Grown to Go”, a mobile food market that brings fresh produce directly to the neighborhoods that need it the most.
  • KaBOOM, an organization dedicated to promoting play as a fundamental part of a healthy childhood recently designated Richmond as a “Playful City USA”.  This designation was a result of the partnership between the CRC Quality Place Action Team, the City’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities (PCRF) and Active RVA.
  • One of the recommendations made by the CRC Social Stability work group was to work with local housing groups to produce research on existing housing availability and impediments to quality housing. Thus, the Housing the Richmond Region: Needs, Impediments, and Strategies report was born. The report was commissioned by the Partnership for Housing Affordability, and involved collaboration with the CRC, Regional Housing Alliance, the Virginia Center for Housing Research at Virginia Tech, and the VCU Center for Urban and Regional Analysis.
  • In February 2017, The James River Action Team released the Regional Rivers Plan which offers recommendations and identifies strategies to leverage the James, Appomattox, Chickahominy, and Pamunkey Rivers to improve quality of life and catalyze economic activity. The plan expands and enhances public recreational access, encourages business development, and promotes tourism on the rivers of the region.
  • The Workforce Preparation Action Team created Mission Tomorrow, a regional interactive career exploration event for 8th grade students. The inaugural event was held in October 2016 and 12,000 students participated in activities and discussions with almost 100 employers.

 

New Year, New Look

This year the CRC launched a new brand, revealed a new tagline – “Our RVA.  Better Together.” and launched a new interactive website which provides users the ability to track progress on the economic and social goals related to our region’s priorities.   Each priority area has a dedicated to page that features the Action Team’s progress, regional and related news, information on data indicators, and interesting regional statistics and facts.  The CRC is also partnering with HandsOn Greater Richmond to direct people to volunteer opportunities within the priority areas – another feature on the new website.

 

Keeping Up with the CRC

The regional approach and activity of the CRC may seem super “high-level” and some might be wondering, “how does the work of my nonprofit fit in?” or “how can my organization get involved?”  Here are a few suggestions for staying up to date with the latest CRC news, joining conversations and aligning your work to the regional priorities:

  1. Follow the CRC. Likeand follow them on social media, subscribe to their monthly e- newsletter and check out their website capitalregioncollaborative.com. This is how they promote upcoming events and opportunities, along with sharing progress on the indicators and collaborative regional work.
  2. Evaluate Your Own Work. What data are you collecting, tracking and measuring in relation to your programs, services and impact? How does that contrast and compare to the Regional Indicators? If you don’t already, begin thinking about your work in a larger context and what Priority Area you are moving forward.
  3. Align. The true opportunity through the Collaborative is to better align the amazing work already happening in the region. Let the CRC know how you or your organization is moving the needle in a priority area.
  4. Join Community Conversations. Throughout the year, you can be a part of community-wide dialogue on important regional topics. The Valentine hosts these events along with the CRC, Richmond Family Magazine and TMI Consulting. The April topic is on “Family” – registration opens soon.
  5. Volunteering. If you have volunteer opportunities that align with a priority area consider working with HandsOn Greater Richmond – the local hub connecting volunteer opportunities to passionate people and official volunteer partner of the CRC.
  6. Share. Do you have a story about a successful collaboration? An event that helps educate around a priority area? A study or article worth sharing? An idea for an indicator? Share it with the CRC.

Interested in learning more about how you can create more collaborative work?  On 4/5 there’s a class for that! Join us for Fostering Collaborative Partnerships where you will examine the pitfalls and best practices of partnership, focus on practical tools for making partnership work, assess the strengths and weaknesses of various collaboration models and develop specific tools to support current or future collaborative activities.

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