Fellows in Public Affairs present fresh perspective on Northside future

On Friday, August 23, the Coro Fellows in Public Affairs presented their community study of Pittsburgh’s Northside at the Allegheny Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. They identified three current strategies that have potential for positive impact in the Northside’s 18 neighborhoods.

The Coro Fellows Program is a nine-month leadership training program in public affairs focused on the engagement of young people in their communities. As a part of their program experience, the 2013-2014 Coro Fellows were assigned their first Civic Strategy Week: examining community development challenges facing Pittsburgh’s Northside and identifying promising initiatives to solve them.

The Coro Fellows conducted interviews with community groups such as the Northside Coalition for Fair Housing, Allegheny General Hospital, and the Pittsburgh City Council among others. Because of the local leaders’ willingness to identify challenges and solutions in their neighborhoods, Fellows were able to identify issues across communities and initiatives that could solve them.

In their interviews, Coro Fellows recognized that many of the community-based programs are not well known to those who live on the Northside. Though stakeholders in neighborhoods across the Northside shared the idea that improving the quality of life is most important, each interviewee stressed the need for far more collaboration between neighborhoods when turning ideas into action.

The week culminated with a public presentation at the Northside Carnegie Library to a diverse public audience made up of community stakeholders from across the Northside, concerned citizens, and Coro staff members. The presentation highlighted three initiatives: micro financing, early-childhood education, and the revitalization of the Historic Carnegie Free Library of Allegheny.

The  Coro Fellows used their presentation to point out synergies and opportunities for collaboration between community groups.

They revealed that multiple organizations were performing micro financing on the Northside, a form of small-scale loans and grants used to formalize businesses. Both the Northside Coalition for Fair Housing and the Pittsburgh Partnership for Neighborhood Development utilize the tool to foster the creation of new businesses.

Additionally, early childhood education was addressed by Northside Coalition for Fair Housing  and the Buhl Foundation. During their interviews, both suggested that kindergarten is one of the most important years of a child’s education.

Finally, the Coro Fellows explored the benefits of having a renewed Historic Carnegie Free Library of Allegheny. As Chris Seifert, deputy director for the Children’s Museum, pointed out to them, a renewed library would create a space for community organization and collaboration between neighborhoods.

The Coro Staff in attendance considered the event a success. “As newcomers to Pittsburgh, the Coro Fellows in Public Affairs bring a fresh perspective to the question of how we address problems and opportunities facing our communities. In their presentation, the Coro Fellows were very effective at leveraging their own perspectives to broaden the policy dialogue about the future of the Northside,” said Greg Crowley, president and CEO for Coro Pittsburgh.

The Coro Fellows were also excited to succeed in a challenge set out to them by Diana Bucco, vice president for the Buhl Foundation. “Convene around issues. Create a space. Create a cohort,” she said.

The highlight of the presentation was the Coro Fellow’s message about collaboration, stating its importance in systems change. Bucco reinforced the lesson to the Fellows, adding that “when the quality of life in a neighborhood improves, all the boats rise with the tide.”

The Coro Fellows are committed to another Civic Strategy Week in mid-October that will focus on urban issues. For more information, visit www.coropittsburgh.org.