The NeighborWorks strategic plan strengthens the capacity and sustainability of the network.
NeighborWorks America holds its network organizations accountable for impeccable operations and consistently strong performance — and we hold ourselves accountable for operational excellence as well. A critical foundation of that effort is the creation and socialization of our strategic plan, a multi-year roadmap for achieving positive change in communities across the U.S.
Our last strategic plan drew to a close in FY 2021, with two years of unanticipated challenge and change. As we began development of our next strategic plan, we knew it needed to be substantially different, while still supporting goals that form the bedrock of the NeighborWorks vision: affordable housing for all, empowered residents, and quality of community life.
The process began in 2021 with a dedicated, inclusive research effort that was informed by the voices of all our stakeholders. Immediately, what surfaced was the need for greater focus: rather than our usual 5-year plan, a 3-year plan that would truly elevate critical and immediate work, and one that placed greater emphasis on the outcomes NeighborWorks directly influences. Tina Trent, senior vice president for Corporate Strategy and Impact, noted that working on the plan was both a humbling and energizing experience. Says Trent, “Although our network and communities have faced new challenges on an unprecedented scale, they have answered the call with incredible resilience—a perfect lead-in to this planning effort.”
Key themes that emerged from our research included:
Equity — access and opportunity for historically under-resourced communities
Pandemic response/recovery — to deal with long-term impacts of COVID
Resilience — sustainability and preparedness for the unknown
In distilling the rounds of input and feedback from all key stakeholders, and considering our overarching vision of every community in America as a place of opportunity, four principal goals became clear:
Goal 1: Create, preserve and invest in affordable housing and wealth building
Goal 2: Foster stronger, more equitable communities
Goal 3: Strengthen the capacity and sustainability of the NeighborWorks network
Goal 4: Strengthen a culture of accountability and belonging at NeighborWorks America
LIFT Programs offer homebuyer education and down payment assistance to eligible homebuyers.
Included in these goals are initiatives that focus on access to and distribution of capital: not just funding (though that is certainly a crucial component), but also “knowledge capital” — the communication of the most effective and comprehensive community development work and replication and amplification of those efforts across our network. And also “relationship capital” — building partnerships both outside and within our organization, and between network organizations and residents, to further our work.
As FY 2021 concluded and our plan solidified, efforts coalesced around building cross-functional implementation teams for each goal, who then built a defined set of outcomes and measures to guide our 2022-2024 work. Reactions from staff are overwhelmingly positive and reflect a renewed excitement about that work as we move forward together. Trent notes, “Our new strategic plan builds on our system’s strength and resilience and provides the inspiration and focus needed to continue to meet this moment and leverage even greater impact.”