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Evaluation finds Kresge Innovative Projects: Detroit fosters quality of life, community cohesion

Detroit

Since its launch in 2014, Kresge Innovative Projects: Detroit (KIP:D) has made six rounds of grants, 127 grants in all, across the city to plan and implement transformative neighborhood projects that reflect residents’ priorities. The initiative has distributed $11.1 million to organizations, complemented by $1.5 million in technical assistance in partnership with Michigan Community Resources.

Construction of a new park honoring Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks
The first round of KIP:D grants supported Heritage Works to convert vacant lots at the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks boulevards into a park honoring both heroes.

An evaluation of the first three rounds of projects – which include the creation of community spaces and green spaces, the clearing of vacant lots, park renovations and a variety of other improvements – has found the projects improved residents’ quality of life, helped foster community cohesion and brought about a sense of ownership of the projects and of the community more broadly. At the same time, the experience of working on projects strengthened organizations’ capacity, stability and “ability to advocate for system change.”

Conducted by the University of Michigan School of Social Work’s Program Evaluation Group (PEG) and being released today, the evaluation was commissioned by Kresge’s Department of Strategic Learning, Research and Evaluation and Kresge’s Detroit Program, which designed and administers KIP:D.

The evaluation was based on interviews and group conversations with 45 individuals from organizational partners receiving awards from KIP:D Rounds 1-3 and residents impacted by KIP:D projects in their respective communities. Those rounds distributed $5 million to 40 unique organizations.

“The Kresge Detroit team has been inspired time and time again by the scores of neighborhood organizations across Detroit that are making positive changes and creating positive ripple effects through KIP:D,” said Kresge Detroit Program Managing Director Wendy Lewis Jackson. “This evaluation is a testament to their vision, hard work and dedication. This will guide us in shaping the next rounds of KIP:D to be announced later this year.”

Youth at the Downtown Detroit Boxing Gym. KIP:D support helped the gym expand its space and reach more youth with its education-focused after school program.

In addition to the benefits, evaluators also found challenges. They reported that grantees found the city bureaucracy could be difficult to navigate in such matters as zoning and building permits. Some grantees found that the complexity of their projects could be daunting given the size and capabilities of their organizations. There were notes of concern with the long-term sustainability and maintenance of projects beyond the initial 24-month completion period.

Based on the challenges expressed, PEG proposed a number of recommendations to support the initiative’s evolution, including increased technical assistance to support organizations in navigating community development and city processes for acquiring and transforming land.

Those suggestions parallel feedback the Kresge Detroit team heard and took into account from grantees previously. Particularly at the outset of Rounds 4-6, Kresge initiated an ongoing partnership with Michigan Community Resources (MCR) to provide technical assistance to organizations and bring them into a cooperative learning community.

Gardening as part of a 2015 KIP:D project
A 2015 KIP:D grant to the Arab American and Chaldean Council supported the Growtown Penrose Market Garden and Nutrition Program in Chaldean Town.

For instance, MCR has helped with or held workshops on navigating city processes, fund development, and branding and messaging. MCR has curated discussions among KIP:D grantees on a number of topics identified by the awarded organizations.

Other changes, parallel to the PEG recommendations, have focused on the accessibility of the initiative. From the outset, KIP:D has provided grants for both the planning and implementation of projects. In the most recent round, Kresge introduced Capacity Building for Neighborhood Projects, which provides resources for organizations to receive tailored technical assistance from MCR for pre-planning activities, guiding organizations to work with neighborhood residents to determine priorities and projects to pursue.

The full evaluation can be found here along with an executive summary and briefs addressing the concerns of organizational partners, the community development sector and philanthropy.

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