It’s looking a little different around here today. And it feels a little different, too.
Today marks the public culmination of our strategic planning and rebranding process. Over the past year, we’ve done some soul-searching. The peak of the foreclosure crisis has passed, but its impacts continue to hurt neighborhoods around the country. Other communities faced vacancy and abandonment long before the crisis hit, and continue to struggle. At the same time, cities are pioneering newer, more sophisticated strategies to transform blighted properties into community assets.
In the midst of all of this, what does it mean to be a national organization working to build a future in which entrenched, systemic blight does not exist? How can we best support the communities that are working so hard to reclaim boarded-up blocks? How can we nurture this fast-growing, interdisciplinary field, which is focused on reclaiming and activating problem properties?
Considering all of these questions and more, three key takeaways emerged in our planning process that will guide our work moving forward.
First, we’re working to create sustainable change across the country. Problem properties aren’t just liabilities but, rather, national assets that are going unused. We will work to advance that perspective, helping to change the way people think and talk about vacant, abandoned, and blighted properties. And we’ll continue to work to reform systems, policies, and programs to make sure communities have the tools they need to reclaim those properties and activate them, in support of local priorities.
Second, we’re focused on a full-cycle approach to property revitalization. Stabilizing neighborhoods requires a comprehensive strategy that: (1) prevents neighborhoods from tipping into blight, (2) enables communities to acquire and maintain properties that are vacant and abandoned, and (3) facilitates the return of those properties to responsible ownership and productive reuse. We’re focused on lifting up what works at every stage of this cycle. We’re also working to bring everyone to the table, building an interdisciplinary field of leaders who are all working on these solutions but, up to this point, have often been working on parallel tracks instead of in tandem.
Third, at root, it’s not about property. It’s about people. That’s why we come to work in the morning. Our raison d’être is to build strong communities with and for the people living in them. Policies developed in the absence of collaboration with the communities most affected by those policies are at best ineffective and at worst harmful. We’re committed to finding inclusive and equitable solutions for the challenges that neighborhoods face — solutions that are developed in partnership with community residents.
Our work spans technical assistance, leadership development, education, research, and policy development. These key takeaways, and the rest of our strategic plan, have already begun to shape that work. Our new Technical Assistance Scholarship Program, for example, is dedicated to bringing help within reach of communities that need it most, with an eye toward a full-cycle approach to revitalization and the development of solutions that can be replicated around the country.
We’ve also got a new logo and an overall new look. The logo transitions from gray to orange, representing the transition from vacancy to vibrancy. More than that, it reflects bold change. That’s what we need more of: a willingness to be bold and inventive in the face of tough challenges. The new logo might be the most visible change for our organization right now, but it’s a reflection of a deeper evolution, building on our strengths and successes – and work is already underway.