August was one of the most exciting (and exhaustive) months yet. IES was presented with an incredible opportunity – which would allow for the creation of over 50 green jobs and result in a coordinated and intimately detailed plan and pathway for Central Massachusetts to achieve sustainability. IES led a multi-agency consortium and applied for the Department of Housing and Urban Development Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant. Sustainable Communities, a new program offered through HUD is a unique and breakthrough coalescence of housing, transportation, jobs and sustainability.
The mission of the Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities is “to create strong, sustainable communities by connecting housing to jobs, fostering local innovation, and helping to build a clean energy economy.” IES’ application builds on the incredibly innovative local models of collaboration and outstanding vision of sustainability and responds directly to HUD’s mission. The vision established in our application was forged through numerous and complicated strategizing, planning and consensus building meetings, discussions and conference calls. Our IES led consortium included Clark University; WPI; City of Worcester; Worcester Regional Transit Authority; Community HealthLink; Central MA Regional Employment Board; and the Central MA Regional Planning Commission, all of whom entered into an MOU with IES to form a consortium that would spearhead a local planning effort that would reach across 40 cities and towns in central MA.
Our approach is pioneering in many respects; it will provide an unprecedented degree of community engagement through visioning and planning; will provide financial assistance to small scale pilot and demonstration projects to test sustainability in practice and adaptively inform the planning process; provide a showcase and runway for Commonwealth of Massachusetts policies and programs on sustainability, address the needs and expressed concerns of disadvantaged and unrepresented populations; and provide a forum, communication platform and decision support system for businesses, NGO’s, homeowners, residents, and town governments seeking sustainability solutions
As the proposal narrative reads, ”a professional cadre of Community Sustainability Planners, assisted by youth apprentices, will facilitate the process of translating this critical mass of input into a coordinated and informed regional sustainability plan. To help participants grapple with the complexities of sustainable development and translate sustainable-development into policies, preferred pathways and actionable plans at local and regional levels the consortium will assist by providing data-management and Information, Communication, and Education Technology (ICET) tools that are tailored for the task. These web-accessible tools will include a Geographic Information Systems (GIS)-based Atlas and a Decision Support System. Using these tools in facilitated settings, participants will be able to quickly understand the future implications of continuing an existing trend or choosing an alternative pathway. Those implications will be expressed through an array of quantitative and qualitative indicators, many of which can be displayed graphically.
In sum, we proposed to create an actionable, regional plan that integrates land use, economic & workforce development, transportation, and infrastructure investments. The plan will empower and enable the diverse communities of Central Massachusetts to address interdependent challenges including: economic competitiveness and revitalization; social equity, inclusion, and access to opportunity; energy use and climate change; and public health and environmental impacts” (Thompson, 2010).
Currently, our proposal is under review by HUD and partnering Federal agencies; EPA and DOT. We having been working very diligently to continue the relationships strengthened by the consortium building process and have hosted several follow up meetings and phone calls to prepare our agencies in anticipation of funding. It should be noted that this grant was extremely competitive, with some estimates of over 2,000 applications throughout the Nation. We must trust in the time and care that IES and partners put into the application and hope that we can soon engage in the important work proposed.
Aside from the massive time requirement responding to the HUD grant, August had plenty of other thrills for IES. You may have noticed one of our more noteworthy accomplishments this month, the redesign of our website. Thanks to local web designer, Tracy Axelson, who worked with our staff to make sure that the new website was a resource for our community and an opportunity to showcase the great work of IES. Currently the website features bio sketches of our staff, our founding and corporate partners, our board, and features a news and events section. As you surf around make sure to check out our flickr page, featuring some captive images from our corporate conference and other IES events. Additionally, a link to our Executive Director’s LinkedIn page and our founding partner, Mass Clean Energy Center’s engaging Twitter page. Stay tuned and check back in for an expanded Green Jobs Zone section and updated posts on some projects that we are working on, hopefully posted before the new year.
As always, working hard to bring green development and opportunities to the region and sharing stories of our non-profits journey riding the green wave, be sure to check back in for September’s update.