Así Se Hace!
Getting It Right: A Framework For Hispanic Coalition Building In Cleveland
ASSESSMENT PROJECT REPORT
(Cleveland Hispanic/Latino community)
Dissatisfaction abounds in Cleveland, as reflected by many Hispanic/Latino community leaders and key observers throughout the city with whom Team Cleveland from Souder, Betances and Associates, Inc. engaged in discussion. There is much wisdom in their collective voices and views about their progress, the City, its many communities, Latino leadership, and the nonprofit sector. Their perspectives were further buttressed by our physical observation of city streets and neighborhoods, where many Hispanics/Latinos reside, such as Ward 14. Some areas resembled war torn zones. Boarded-up homes and abandoned businesses speak to hopes gone dry and a community that is desperately trying to keep itself from further decay and disarray.
These impressions were further corroborated by data that document considerable social and economic disparities, by nearly every category of demographic indicator available. Extremely low Latino high school graduation rates, for example, have consistently ranked worst among all large school districts in the nation. This is occurring in tandem with a continuing exodus of young, Latino professionals to more welcoming destinations both East and West. Nonetheless, Hispanics, who have been part of Cleveland’s story since right after World War II, refuse to believe that there is no hope for the City they call home. In the words of a long-time resident:
We need to do things differently in this town. We can’t go on like this. Our city is going down fast. We have the responsibility to do something about it. Our practice of the ‘the old style leadership’ must give way to the new. Arid, keep in mind that I am not talking strictly about Hispanics here. The whole city operates like this. Let’s not kid ourselves and think this is an Hispanic problem.
For the past 30 years, there has been little change on social indicators of progress relative to the quality of life for Hispanics/Latinos in Cleveland. If, during all these years, a smaller number of Latinos have not successfully connected to the social fabric and decision-making circles of the Greater Cleveland area and remain at its margins, how can this be reversed as the composition of the Latino community keeps growing? At the same time, greater numbers are arriving into the City with multiple social and educational challenges. Yet, it is recognized, albeit reluctantly, that Latinos together with African Americans are most central to the future viability of the City.
At the organizational and nonprofit level, there is tremendous disparity between the scope of services required to meet the needs of the community and the actual support for service delivery to poor, disenfranchised and underserved Hispanic/Latino populations. A key question is: What factors may be contributing to the great maximum promise, but minimum delivery divide? An even more important question is: How can community leadership address some of these inequities through collaborative efforts? A failed economy and deeply-rooted problems of social inequality, race, gender and ethnic discrimination are profound contributors to this malaise. Cleveland now holds the onerous distinction of ranking among the poorest and most segregated cities in the nation.
Where do Hispanic-managed nonprofits fare in this context? Aside from the legitimate concern over dismal soclo-economic indicators and the lack of resources, there are other impacting considerations for Hispanic-led and Latino-serVing nonprofits.
• Competition for service niche control within the Hispanic community;
• Lack of capacity-building support from both private and public funding sources;
• Impaired sense of scope of possibility which has been brought on by desperate circumstances and the omnipresent danger of being swallowed up or going under;
• Territorial Ieadershipthat thwarts new ideas and creative vision-building and
• Dependence on the “tried and true ways” of doing things that manifests as resistance to change, anti-regionalism, anti-technology and serves as an impediment to innovative programming and alternate styles of leadership.
It is precisely because of this inescapable reality that Cleveland and its financial and political institutions must invest and support its growing Latino community its emerging leaders, and its nonprofit organizations. The more integrated and’ effective they become, the greater the possibility that they will re-energize the greater Cleveland area and help to transform the effectiveness of its institutions and its reputation as a destiny of choice for national and international investors.
The Cleveland Foundation has exercised leadership in facilitating and providing financial support to the Hispanic Social Services Coalition as it embarks on a journey of reinventing itself. This Transformation Process is envisioned as a two-year, multi-phased endeavor. Phase I was designed to assess the context in which Hispanic coalition building efforts could take place and establish a common ground understanding of what exists as a platform upon which strategic planning and organizational transformation can build.
This Assessment Project Report entitled, Así Se Hace! Getting It Right: A Framework For Hispanic Coalition Building In Cleveland, highlights insights, issues, trends and concerns that we gathered from our research, interviews and focus group discussions during Phase I. It is not intended to be a comprehensive needs assessment of the Hispanic community in Cleveland. Rather, we sought to document the perspectives of key players among Hispanic-led and Hispanic-serving nonprofit organizations and their funding sources. While we were not able to interview or engage in discussions with all the individuals who were recommended by Coalition members and those interviewed, this report reflects the perspectives and perceptions of approximately 100 influential stakeholders who participated in this phase of the process.
While many comments and opinions voiced were somewhat negative, there was a consistent undercurrent of positive, enthusiastic support for the Transformation Process itself. Most expressed great hope that the dialogues and soul searching that participants engaged in would mark the beginning of transparent communication and analysis. Participants were, without exception, respectful, generous with their time, and spoke honestly about issues that were heartfelt. Attendance at both the celebrative reception heralding the Transformation Process and the Debriefing Session, which were hosted by The Cleveland Foundation at MetroHealth, have resoundingly demonstrated the excitement and interest in the Hispanic community for this endeavor. Team Cleveland was received with open arms. We are both honored and proud to have been selected as the consultants of choice and as partners in this journey.
In addition to this introductory statement, we have organized the information gathered into two content sections. Section II features the Socio-Historical Context in three parts. We begin with an overview of the numbers that cannot be ignored. This statistical portrayal is followed by a synopsis of the critical sociological factors and issues that must be understood in view of prevailing perceptions about the Hispanic community in Cleveland. A brief historical review of the development of non profits and the scope and current services being offered by Hispanic-managed nonprofits in Cleveland is presented as a way of setting the stage for making sense of our research findings and the information shared during interviews and group discussions. An extensive bibliography of resources used in our research and analysis complete this part of the report. Section III documents the Assessment Project process and approach, our findings, the challenges that are evident in the data gathered and brief recommendations that our team has formulated in conjunction with providing a framework for collaboration. Appendices containing relevant support information are provided in Section IV.
Team Cleveland/Souder, Betances and Associates, Inc. Assessment Project Report, 2007