IDEA: A network of local Offices of Direct Venture Development, established to optimize the impact of President Obama’s economic stimulus and anti-poverty programs on at risk communities, by empowering the individuals, non-profit groups and faith-based charities in those communities to design and fund the plans that will harness those programs, to their best effect, in the communities’ own economic and cultural regeneration and growth.
DETAIL: People in historically disadvantaged communities do not want a hand-out. They may not even need a job. They may already have three jobs.
What they want is the opportunity to stabilize and move forward with dignity, through self-empowerment and social entrepreneurship.
Offices of Direct Venture Development would be financed by a combination of public and private money.
Initially, mobilized by Washington, they would become self-sustaining and community-driven.
I would see them assisting self-empowered regeneration and growth in the following ways:
1) Providing advice and support to individuals in need, much like Citizens’ Advice Bureaus in the UK.
2) Acting as a focal point for advice and the dissemination of financial aid (private and public) for non-profits and faith-based charities, who do the bulk of the supportive work at the grassroots level.
Economic regeneration and growth will not be one-size-fits-all. Policy and aid distribution will need to be tailored to the area in question, and designed by the people in receipt and the organizations supporting them, based on efforts already in progress.
It is important to avoid situations in which an Office such as DVD is seen as dictating solutions to communities and their non-profit and faith-based organizations. Instead, many communities are already well-served by intricate networks of effective support groups, who are already aware of the range of need.
What communities and their support groups want is resources, whether that be in the form of financial support or services such as coalition-building and helping to fill any gaps that may exist.
3) Providing a pro-active networking seed base for individuals and groups in need.
There is a disparity that should be addressed.
For example, when a middle-class family experiences hard times, generally they have the time, the skills and the contacts to find a way to cope.
People in more marginalized situations do not always have those blessings. Offices of DVD would provide a starting point.
4) Acting as the link between grassroots activity and regional and national organizations of support.
There is sometimes a disconnect between what people and groups actually need on the ground, and what Washington and others believe they need.
I would see Offices of DVD, and their personnel, acting as the essential link between at-risk communities and policy-makers.
Initially, translating upwards grassroots accomplishments: it is vital that Washington hears the unvarnished, unfiltered and therefore genuine voice of the least considered, their supporters and their accomplishments.
Additionally, Offices could then disseminate downwards policy and funds (both private and public) in a manner that is respectful, targeted and effective, and which does not unnecessarily intrude on cultural sensibilities and the good work already being done at the grassroots.
CONCLUSION: President Obama has been an effective community organizer. He understands the value of community. He says he wants a grassroots administration.
I believe that a network of Offices of Direct Venture Development would create a new environment of support for community activity.
I believe that the Obama Administration will best be able to achieve his stated goals of renewing the American economy and spirit by harnessing the full power of community ingenuity and empowering communities to heal themselves.