A two-year, $1.9 million grant secured by Open Buffalo, a collaborative effort of four local nonprofits, should make a difference in the lives of people stuck at the lower end of the socioeconomic scale. And, in doing so, make this a better community.
Along with deserved excitement about the work being accomplished by the Buffalo Billion, there should be recognition of how these Buffalo nonprofits won the grant in the face of stiff competition.
The money comes from the Open Society Foundations, a grant-making organization founded by liberal billionaire George Soros. Open Society announced that proposals from Buffalo, Puerto Rico and San Diego were chosen from among 16 entrants.
Open Society’s concept is that a lot of the progress that needs to be made involving equality, justice and good government can be made at the local level. That agenda defines the four groups here that collaborated on the proposal: the Partnership for the Public Good, PUSH Buffalo, the Coalition for Economic Justice and VOICE-Buffalo. They have worked on promoting a living wage, utility reform and green sustainability.
The Open Buffalo proposal is eligible to receive about $1 million annually for up to 10 years. It received input and support from city, county and state government officials, along with other local organizations, foundations and average citizens. These groups, individually and collectively, continue to be real champions for those without deep pockets or connections.
Open Society reached out to the four groups here in Buffalo to apply for the planning grant with a two-part strategy. The organizations first chose some issues that they could make progress on in the next couple of years, and then they will conduct a longer-term examination of how to continue that work.
Not unexpectedly, Open Buffalo offered an intensive, broad-based and community-involved proposal. The effect will build civic capacity through a number of initiatives and start with three projects: restorative justice; worker equity and high-road economic development.
The plan will involve 13 local organizations and create a leadership program, prepare information on citizen advocacy and voter registration and stress artistic participation. One project will look at how the economic opportunity offered by the growing Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus could improve lives in a poor city.
These nonprofits, along with many others, have been hard at work for years making a difference. Open Buffalo builds on that work, and the grant is a major national investment in local issues.