Theory of Change

"If each City Council District is served by capable and sustainable community development organizations (CDOs), the neighborhoods in each District, over time, will begin to improve. That will require a community development system."

— Maggie DeSantis, BECDD Initiative Manager

Seven Elements of a Community Development System for Detroit

Community Development: The Right Thing for Detroit’s Neighborhoods

Element 1: System Governance

A structured and functioning public-private governance system with all community development stakeholder/leaders as equal partners; collaboratively shepherding the entire system, designing new initiatives, and advocating for community development as the key to strengthening all Detroit neighborhoods.  

element 2: Capacity Building and Certification

Systematic access to training, technical assistance, coaching and peer learning to support CDO's/other organizations to play the consensus community development roles in every neighborhood:

  • Convening/facilitation
  • Economic development
  • Resident engagement and empowerment
  • Resident support -Planning and advocacy.

Support to grassroots organizations to facilitate their important role. CDO performance standards and incentives to maintain high performance.

Clarity and support to intermediaries to assure effective capacity building service delivery

element 3: System Capitalization

A strategy to assure public-private systemic resources for community development work including operating support for CDO's, capacity building for CDO's and grass roots organizations, access to shared organizational services and data and evaluation services; low-cost debt capital and grants for community development projects.

element 4: Neighborhood Voice and Advocacy

A system to build cross-sector relationships and trust within every neighborhood, then leveraging those relationships to create an influential citywide neighborhood voice for Detroit.

element 5: Data and Evaluation

Accessible neighborhood level data and an evaluation system; all geared toward the achievement of consensus neighborhood success measures.

element 6: City Engagement

City government support for community development through the recognition of CDO's for all city council districts, the provision of CDBG support, and ongoing partnerships with CDO's to help create and fulfill the city’s master plan.  

element 7: Education and Career Pipeline

A number of easily-accessible academic tracks and “placements,” starting in middle/high school, for aspiring and current practitioners; to generate a robust pipeline of community development leaders, especially those of color from Detroit.


Three Phases, 2016 – 2022:

•    Phase  One – 2016:  Partner Development Phase:  the collaborative design of an ideal system
•    Phase Two – 2017-2018-2019:  Pre-Development Phase:  the collaborative development of each system element, based on the ideal system and informed by robust national and local research; and the design of a sustainability strategy
•    Phase Three – 2020 and beyond: Implementation Phase:  the launch/implementation of each system element

Goals of Phase One – Partner Development
•    Collaborative design of an “ideal” community development system for Detroit working with multiple stakeholders
•    Development of a Scope of work and Budget to develop the system over the next several years
•    Identification of additional core partners, with role descriptions
•    Development of a broad and deep constituency for the creation of a Community Development system for Detroit


Phase One:  Partner Development Process
This robust process has engaged over 100 organizations and nearly 110 people to develop system recommendations:

Kitchen Cabinets – From June to September, 8 Kitchen Cabinets organized as “affinity groups” met from 1 to 5 times each and identified barriers to community development, looked at a definition of the work, analyzed existing capacity building and academic programs.  The Kitchen Cabinets were:  Funders, Practitioners, Capacity Builders, Grass Roots Organizations, City Government, Civic Institutions, Academia and Social Entrepreneurs.  This resulted a set of general themes, and next steps.

Design Subcommittees -  During September and October nearly 80 of those stakeholder organizations engaged in  Design Subcommittees, where stakeholders were mixed – at least one rep from each Kitchen Cabinet – and together tackled the design of key elements of the system, using Kitchen Cabinet feedback and their own experience.  This resulted in a set of recommendations for an ideal system.

Big Questions – throughout the process, a set of “value and direction” questions were generated, intended to provoke discussion on what values, philosophy and overall direction we want for Detroit neighborhoods.

All-Stakeholder Convening – A facilitated gathering of all the stakeholders to a) respond to the Big Questions, b) receive and discuss all the Design Subcommittee recommendations and c) develop consensus on key system elements, and values for neighborhood development.