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The Urban Initiative’s first monthly e-newsletter hit inboxes this morning. Did you miss it? Click here to read, and be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss next month’s issue!



Free technical assistance available for local nonprofits

UPDATE: This RFP is now closed. Based on the great response the Urban Initiative has received, we hope to do this again in future semesters. Meanwhile, if you’d like to discuss opportunities to work with our staff to address the evaluation needs of your program, please contact Colleen Dawicki (cdawicki@umassd.edu).

In an era of increased competition for grant funding, it has become critical for organizations to shift their focus from outputs (e.g. number of people served) to outcomes when designing, monitoring, and reporting on programs. Yet many organizations do not have the capacity to coordinate these efforts.  We want to help!

The Urban Initiative is seeking proposals from local nonprofits who would benefit from technical assistance in designing a logic model and an evaluation plan for a particular program. Organizations will be selected to work one-on-one with a Public Policy graduate student enrolled in Dr. Weiwei Lin’s Program Evaluation course during the spring semester. Interested in learning more? Email hcolestock@umassd.edu.

Hey New Bedford: we’re #7!

If this rank referred to, say, educational attainment in Massachusetts’ 11 Gateway Cities, it would be fair to be unimpressed. But to land on a top-ten list that includes San Francisco, New York City, and LA? That’s truly a notable feat. Particularly when vying for the title of “Most Artistic City” in an era where the words ‘creative’ and ‘economy’ seem to go everywhere together.

Skeptics take note: this rank wasn’t issued by some no-name blogger on Huffington Post. It was assigned through a mathematical formula developed by Richard Florida, a University of Toronto professor who made a buzzword out of “creative class” with popular books that highlight the importance of creative people in driving economic development. And this article was published by Florida in The Atlantic, the inveterate not-quite-monthly. (Read the full story here).

So what does it mean to rank seventh on the list? Basically, Florida created something called a “location quotient” that compares the proportion of a community’s residents who are artists to the proportion of artists nationwide. A score of 1 means that a place has the same proportion of artists as the nation. New Bedford’s location quotient is 2.393, just edging out Boulder, CO.

And what does this mean for New Bedford residents? Instead of having to reference Moby-Dick when telling people where we live, maybe we can instead tell people that it’s the seventh most artistic city in the country!

From the local headlines:

Source: Jack Foley, Herald News (at http://www.heraldnews.com/topstories/x2086542615/Fall-River-Housing-Authority-approves-plan-to-revamp-Watuppa-Heights)

October unemployment figures

The good news? Unemployment is down in New Bedford and Fall River. The bad news?  These cities still have the second and third highest unemployment rates in the state, with New Bedford’s at 12.2% and Fall River’s at 12%. Lawrence continues to hold the bottom spot with a 15% unemployment rate. Here’s how the Gateway Cities look based on the October 2011 numbers:

Source: MA Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development.

Federal budget watch

Unsurprisingly, this will be a lean year for federal grant programs, if they continue to exist as well. The Obama administration’s neighborhood revitalization initiatives are of particular interest to the Urban Initiative, since these programs have given major boosts to some of the country’s toughest urban communities while contributing to the knowledge base of what works. Choice Neighborhoods has squeaked through with $120 million, almost double the $65m allocated last year. Promise Neighborhoods has a still uncertain future–the program based on the Harlem Children’s Zone was allotted $60m by the Senate Appropriations Committee, while their counterparts in the House recommended zero funding. Stay tuned to the United Neighborhood Centers of America”s great Building Neighborhoods blog, which provides great updates on the status of these programs.

Meanwhile, HUD’s Sustainable Communities program has been axed, despite its ability to promote regional conversations about transportation, livability, growth, and civic engagement. Another transit loss is funding for high speed rail. However, the TIGER program made it through: $500m was approved to fund transit projects that support economic recovery. New Bedford benefited from this project in 2010, using TIGER funds to replace railroad bridges throughout the city to advance the prospect of South Coast Rail. Read more about the status of transit funds at Transportation for America’s website.