The West Virginia Community Development Hub resulted from several years of research on, and discussion about, community development efforts in the state by a group of stakeholders informally tagged as the Community Development Gathering. The discussion was driven by the realization that, despite significant financial investment in communities and a wide variety of excellent development programs, training workshops, technical assistance providers and strategic planning initiatives, West Virginia's communities were not achieving the measurable improvements to their quality of life that are desired.
The Community Development Gathering came to the conclusion that the lack of measurable improvement was due to a lack of consistency, alignment, continuity and integration of service provision, and a lack of capacity at the community level to take advantage of those services.
In response, the Gathering developed a process for community improvement -- an integrated and aligned community development system. That process or system is illustrated by the Community Development Model. The process had a small trial run with the Federal Home Loan Bank- Pittsburgh's Blueprint Communities Program in 2007. The Blueprint Communities program followed, in a limited way and in a condensed timeframe, the Model's process with 10 West Virginia communities.
The Blueprint experience illustrated the need for an entity to promote, implement and monitor the Model's process as communities engaged in it. As a result, two statewide non-profit organizations, Community Collaborative, Inc., which focused on a community leadership training program called the Sustainable Communities Training Program (SCTP), and the Community Development Partnership of West Virginia (whose flagship program was the Standards For Excellence (SFX), a nonprofit capacity building program), came to the conclusion that by merging, they could effectively be that entity.
The merger was completed in September 2008, and staff has been in place since the beginning of November 2008.
The West Virginia Community Development Hub envisions a system of community development that is locally-directed, continuous, intentional, respectful of local culture and values, and aligned across all three sectors of society (public, private and civil). The Hub seeks to support communities and stakeholders in West Virginia's system of community development as a catalyst, liaison, capacity builder, and resource intermediary.
The Hub continuously collects information about the broad and diverse network of community development resources available in West Virginia, and about the opportunities and challenges facing communities as they work to improve. The Hub is also beginning the process of convening and aligning resource providers in a number of key fields, such as local foods, civic engagement, community sustainability, organizational development, etc. Such alignment aims to reduce the redundancy of services, identify and fill resource gaps, and assure access to resources and services by communities and organizations throughout the state.
The Hub is not a direct service provider, but rather a convener, connector, and networker. Our role is to connect service providers to one another, to connect service providers to communities and communities to service providers, and to connect communities to one another. We see ourselves as a guide for communities as they work through the process illustrated by the Model. One of the Hub's most important tools in guiding communities and building their capacities is the community coach. Community coaches are trained and experienced professionals used by the Hub to work directly with communities to build capacity in a given area of need. The coach helps the community achieve its locally-driven goals, address locally-identified challenges, and take advantage of locally-desired opportunities. The Hub helps communities identify the appropriate coaches to assist them and monitors progress and outcomes from the coaching.
The Hub takes a systemic, rather than programmatic, approach to community development, although it sometimes uses programs as a means of engaging communities and organizations in the system represented by the Model.
The Hub is currently working with approximately 25 focus communities from around the state. We believe that this focused approach will help communities maintain momentum, sustain civic engagement and successfully implement plans. Of those 25, 9 are engaged with the Hub in locally-determined and locally-driven community development projects through the "Communities of Achievement Program" (HubCAP) which is providing project management training, community coaching and project-specific technical assistance to community leadership teams as they pursue their projects.
The Hub also is participating in several initiatives that have resulted from community needs and opportunities. These initiatives always involve partner organizations and include WV Sustainable Communities, WV Food & Farm Coalition, the creation of the WV Non-Profit Association, the OurMountainState.org project, the Campus-Community LINK program and more. The Hub is a lean and responsive organization, and has a flexibility and dexterity that state government and larger non-profits do not have. This allows the Hub to respond quickly to opportunities or challenges. Its initiatives, however, are seen as temporary, with the Hub acting as an incubator or a partner, with the constant goal of having the initiative eventually housed with an appropriate organization or standing on its own.