Each December, we choose a word to guide the coming year—2018 was our Year of Depth. For the last five years, we have been casting a wide net and trying to uncover as many grassroots leaders as possible, inspiring and equipping them to create change in their own communities through our Co.Starters for Causes classes, the Causeway Challenge, and countless one-on-one coaching sessions. As the number of Causeway alumni grows (it’s now at 688!) we felt a growing need to dig deeper with the people who come to us for guidance. Take a look at how we did that in 2018.
We hosted our first neighborhood-based Challenge.
This year we hosted our first-ever neighborhood-based Challenge in the 37404 zip code. So often, neighborhood decisions are made from the top down. The Causeway Challenge allows individual community members to create the change that they want to see in their own communities.
With support from five local foundations, Causeway served as a bridge connecting individual leaders to established foundations and nonprofits in Chattanooga. We believe this is a win-win: grassroots leaders are gaining access to resources from local foundations, and foundations are getting the on-the-ground perspective of local leaders.
This summer a panel of community judges with deep ties to the neighborhood selected 10 winners who answered the question, “How can we use common spaces to strengthen the neighborhoods in 37404?” The winners are all implementing their projects now. In keeping with our year of depth, the project leaders will have the opportunity to showcase their work and develop relationships with the funders, and several will receive additional funding to scale their project this Spring.
One of the most exciting things about this Challenge for us has been the cross-neighborhood relationships that we have seen develop. Iunike Stevens lives in Highland Park. Ric Morris lives across McCallie Avenue in Glenwood. They did not know each other before the Causeway Challenge, but now one of Iunike’s food pantries has a home in Ric’s front yard. Nearly every project leader has found a way to collaborate with other people in the cohort.
37404 Challenge Winner Demographics
We launched the Social Innovation Studio.
Just because you’ve made it doesn’t mean that things get easy. This year, we piloted a new program that we are calling the Social Innovation Studio. The Studio grew out of a need we felt to further support causes who have excelled in one of our previous programs and are ready for the next phase of growth. To pilot the program, we chose two of our alumni who had so much opportunity in front of them that they needed some guidance deciding which things to step into, and which ones to let go.
We met Kaysie Strickland of Homes & Havens through our CO.STARTERS for Causes class, and Theresa Nix of Downside Up through the Play Challenge. Both of them had recently made the shift to working on their causes full-time, and they were both considering bold moves like opening physical spaces, hiring a staff, or starting a social enterprise to support their cause. We’ve spent the year working closely with them and their boards to help them get organized and set bold goals for the next three to five years.
We will continue to work with them throughout the next year, and we plan to add two more causes to The Studio in 2019.
We rebranded One Table to Gratefull and went national.
In 2014 we hosted our very first One Table. We thought it would be a fun and meaningful opportunity to break down barriers and bring people together who don’t normally interact. We had no idea that it would grow into the city tradition that it has become, much less that other cities would want to replicate it. One Table has shown us that people want to connect with other people who are not like them. If you thoughtfully set the stage, they will take the opportunity to do just that. We thought that was an opportunity worth sharing.
Because we ran into some competing brands nationally, we made the tough decision to rebrand One Table to Gratefull Chattanooga. We were so pleased to see that Chattanooga embraced the change, making this year our best one yet with over 1600 people in attendance. The name change allowed other cities to host their own version of the event. We created a free replication guide for community leaders in other cities, and so far we have been contacted by potential hosts in 15 cities. The event has already been replicated in Huntsville, Alabama, Nashville, and Milan, Tennessee. We know this is only the beginning for Gratefull.
We are bringing Bingo’s Market back.
In 2015, when the Edney Building opened across the street from Patten Towers, Causeway and several other organizations in the Innovation District started playing a bi-weekly game of bingo with the residents of Patten Towers in an effort to get to know our neighbors. Through relationships built there, we learned that the residents were struggling with a lack of access to healthy, affordable food. Innovation is all about solving problems. We could not ignore the tough challenges facing our neighbors right across the street.
In the fall of 2017, with support from Benwood and Lyndhurst Foundations, Causeway, The Enterprise Center, and The YMCA originally opened Bingo’s Market in the ground floor of Patten Towers as a pilot initiative to see if we could offer a solution to this problem. The community rallied around the idea, raising over $11,000 for the project through our crowdfunding campaign. We received national attention through Next City and the Creative Placemaking Leadership Summit. While Bingo’s showed early success, it has been closed for the past several months as the building changed hands. Throughout the transition, we held on to the hope that it would reopen with a new landlord. We are so thrilled to see that hope become a reality as our partner The YMCA has entered into a 3-year rent-free agreement with Elmington Property Management. We are so thankful for their support.
Support grassroots leaders in Chattanooga
Our work is made possible by donations from people just like you. We believe that anyone, in any neighborhood who has an idea for social change should have access to the resources they need to act on that opportunity. That is why we invest in the grassroots leaders who are rolling up their sleeves, creating the change they want to see in their own communities. Your donation allows us to continue to give people a voice for change.