Partners (Number 3, 2008)

Spotlight on the District

North Florida
New Networking Coalitions Help Assets Grow

It's no surprise that current conditions are negatively impacting low- and moderate-income communities in a number of ways. In an effort to build and preserve financial assets in such communities, two new Florida coalitions have been formed.

The Florida Assets and Prosperity Collaborative, an outgrowth of the State Prosperity Campaign, will implement a networking strategy among members to provide free tax preparation and other asset-building services. Led by Tuskegee University, Florida organizations will also participate in a second statewide network as part of a regionally based project.

Florida Assets and Prosperity Collaborative
The Florida Assets and Prosperity Collaborative evolved from an earlier statewide coalition of local, county and regional initiatives—a loose confederation of 12 groups committed to sharing practices, promoting state legislation and increasing access to prosperity services. The new collaborative will bring formal structure for these and other participants to share their knowledge and expertise.

Over 50 members representing diverse cultural and geographic perspectives met in Orlando last July to organize the new collaborative. The goal was to convene political leaders, private sector representatives, community-based organizations, financial institutions and governmental entities to maximize access to asset-building and preservation. A follow-up September meeting in Tampa included about 100 participants.

The collaborative—led by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, Broward Children's Services Council, the Human Services Coalition of Miami, and Northeast Florida Real Sense Prosperity Campaign—aims to expand asset-building opportunities, offer community tax preparation services, engage constituencies through leadership development, and provide access to financial services for low- and moderate-income individuals throughout the state of Florida.

Florida organizations join regional asset-building program
In addition, Florida asset-building organizations are participating in a newly formed regional strategy also led by Tuskegee University. With technical assistance provided by the Center for Social Development at the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis, Tuskegee is mobilizing stakeholders in Southern Black Belt States and the Gulf Coast regions of Florida, Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi to participate in an asset-building coalition.

The Florida Family Network and Florida A & M University, along with Alabama Arise, the Federation of Southern Cooperatives and the Mississippi Association of Cooperatives, have convened meetings in support of the plan. With support of the Ford Foundation, these organizations have created asset-building coalitions in their respective states to focus on areas affected by hurricanes and on traditional land-based communities and farmers with limited resources. The key Florida conveners of the regional coalition are also involved in the Florida Assets and Prosperity Collaborative.

During this period of economic uncertainty, building and preservation of assets are critical needs. Organizations and partners throughout the state are working to provide essential services in their communities—volunteer tax preparation, financial education, access to mainstream financial services and Individual Development Account (IDA) programs. These two new collaboratives enhance existing services and act as a catalyst for other organizations to serve their communities.

This article was written by Janet Hamer, senior regional community development manager at the Atlanta Fed's Jacksonville Branch.