Conceptualizing the Project

 The four CBOs convened in late 2019 to discuss a potential collaboration centered on sending unconditional cash transfers to the communities they serve. The CBOs were interested in whether the unconditional transfers could prevent the displacement of people from Ward 8, whose residents are predominantly Black renters with low incomes and high housing cost burdens.

After the pandemic struck and Washington, DC, went into lockdown in March 2020, the CBOs moved quickly to build relationships, set a vision and goals, and raise money.

Build Relationships

The CBOs’ swiftness in forming and launching the project was because ofto the capacity of all four CBOs and the collaborative conversations they had begun before the pandemic. The robust response of DC’s local philanthropic community also enabled rapid action.

Preexisting relationships between CBOs and funders and between CBOs and participants were necessary to raise money and to get money to those who needed it. Building relationships in the community early was a crucial component of successful implementation. Wary of the financial scams that frequently target people who live in underresourced neighborhoods, community members had to know the person calling them to say, “I have $5,500 for you.”

Set a Vision and Goals

THRIVE’s partners set the partnership’s vision and goals early in the process. Its vision was to

  • alleviate crisis by providing up to 500 households in Ward 8 with five months of financial support, healthy food, and dry goods;
  • stabilize families by connecting them with the supportive resources for which they were eligible (e.g., health and safety net programs, unemployment insurance, and pandemic relief payments from the government); and
  • foster mobility and help families secure a more resilient future through coordinated wraparound services and connections to jobs. 

TIP: Set mutually agreed-upon goals that are ambitious but achievable based on core partner capacity.

Lead with Values

Early in the project, the partners recognized that their consensus-oriented decisionmaking model required a formal statement of shared values explicitly rooted in racial equity. All six partners adopted the following values in late April 2020:

  • We value the power of our residents to make their own decisions.
  • We treat our community with respect.
  • We always act with integrity.
  • We believe in a racially and economically equitable community.

TIP: Leading with your values will help keep partners focused and will give the project direction when it comes to forks in the road.