Communities of Opportunity (COO) is building on cutting-edge work in Rainier Valley, SeaTac/Tukwila and White Center to ensure all people in King County can live in healthy, thriving neighborhoods. COO awarded $2.7 million of funding over the next two years to continue and expand investments to 25 community-based nonprofits in these geographic areas, including seven community coalitions.
These three communities were selected in 2015 as the initial place-based community partners to strengthen community connections, increase housing, health, and economic equity and reduce displacement of vulnerable communities.
Communities of Opportunity is an initiative of King County and Seattle Foundation to create safe and healthy communities throughout the region, by working with community leaders and organizations to design effective strategies. COO expects to achieve more equitable and lasting impacts in ways that benefit all residents of King County because communities are driving the initiative.
Community-driven change in the three communities
Rainier Valley: Since the launch of the initiative, Rainier Valley has made progress in planning for an urban village near light rail stops in the Valley. Community partners and coalitions are focusing on shared ownership models to prevent displacement of historic cultural communities and to increase economic security.
As Tony To, Executive Director of HomeSight explains,
“The Rainier Valley faces overwhelming market pressures that threaten to dislocate our historic cultural character and widen the disparity in both income, wealth, and access to upward mobility. COO resources have mobilized residents, businesses, and cultural anchors to work on solutions to offset these pressures.
More than ever, catalytic investments from COO/Best Starts for Kids are critical to leverage other public and philanthropic resources to give the Rainier Beach and Othello neighborhoods a chance for stability and shared prosperity. Projects like the Multicultural Coalition Community Center, the Southeast Seattle Economic Opportunity Center, and the Rainier Beach Beautiful Safe Place for Youth represent community-owned solutions with sustained impact.”
In White Center, a key priority driven by residents and grassroots organizations is anchoring multi-cultural businesses and partnerships in the community to prevent displacement.
Paramount to this work is increasing community leadership, with an emphasis on engaging young people. For example, local organization FEEST (Food Empowerment Education and Sustainability Team) empowers youth of color to advocate for healthy eating and social justice through cooking, discussion and community activism. FEEST will also create a White Center Healthy Roundtable that will bring together people from all generations to elevate diverse voices in health related policies and practices.
Also in the works is a partnership with the White Center Food Bank and Southwest Youth & Family Services to plan for a future “Community Hub” in White Center. The vision for this hub includes a place where people can connect, learn and live as a strong vibrant neighborhood; where people can get involved and connect to each other.
“This vision is possible when we are able to build relationships based on trust for the work of this community,” says Sili Savusa, resident and Executive Director of White Center Community Development Association. “We have partners like Capitol Hill Housing (project developers) that listen to what our community is saying and let that voice be the most critical part of their work here in White Center; otherwise it’s business as usual for typical project developers.”
Partners in SeaTac/Tukwila have taken a bold approach to expanding economic opportunities and promoting health. Through the Food Innovation Network (FIN), community members in SeaTac and Tukwila receive training and support to become “Community Food Advocates,” who lead activities such as community kitchen dinners and healthy activities for kids. Advocates are key to planning FIN strategies and developing activities that will support policy and systems change.
The funds awarded will help Global to Local and partners advance FIN priorities, including the planning of the Food Innovation Center, a community kitchen and food business incubation center at the Matt Griffin YMCA in SeaTac. Global to Local also received funding to expand its Health and Housing work, deploying Community Health Workers to affordable housing sites to address issues like diabetes prevention, nutrition, and access to health care for the low-income residents living there.
“This work is so impactful because it is investing in the things the community has identified as being important for health and economic stability,” said Adam Taylor, Executive Director of Global to Local. “The approach COO is taking is crucial because it empowers those who are impacted by disparities to envision a better future and work toward achieving it on their terms. It is a privilege to be part of such a cutting-edge initiative.”
New COO funding opportunities coming soon
In the fall of 2017, Communities of Opportunity will release Request for Proposals to expand this work. Organizations interested in addressing systems and policy inequities, and building community partnerships will be encouraged to apply. Funding opportunities will be available to support cultural communities as well as geographic communities most impacted by health disparities.
Sign up to receive the Best Starts for Kids Blog for more details and watch for the official RFP release in the weeks to come.
About Communities of Opportunity
Communities of Opportunity was launched by King County and Seattle Foundation in 2014 to create safe and healthy communities throughout the region. Since launching the initiative, COO has strengthened partnerships and aligned the work of more than 100 organizations.
COO focuses on community leadership in specific geographic areas experiencing inequities and changing policies and systems that can impact our entire region.