What is a Community Development Corporation (CDC)?

CDCs are, by definition, local nonprofits focused on building or reviving neighborhoods- whatever it takes. Usually this includes improving housing stock, producing affordable housing, creating a safe environment, building and expanding the economic base, ensuring educational opportunities, and encouraging resident leadership.

CDCs date back to the Settlement House crusade in the 1800s and have been strongly influenced by community organizing movements ever since, most powerfully by the Civil Rights Movement and the War on Poverty.

At last count, there were 4,600 CDCs throughout the United States, including 20 or so in Rhode Island.  Depending on capacity, mission and local need, they take on a wide variety of roles, including but not limited to:

  • advocating for and building affordable housing
  • building and running childcare centers and/or community facilities
  • developing neighborhood shopping centers.
  • spearheading community planning efforts
  • running charter schools and delivering afterschool and social service programs.

The hallmarks of an effective CDC, according to ‘Community Building Coming of Age’, Kingsley, McNeely & Gibson, 1997, are:

    • Focus around specific improvement initiatives in a manner that reinforces values and builds social and human capital;
    • Community-driven with broad resident involvement;
    • Comprehensive, strategic and entrepreneurial;
    • Asset-based;
    • Tailored to neighborhood scale and conditions;
    • Collaboratively linked to the broader society to strengthen community institutions and enhance opportunities for residents; and
    • Consciously breaking down institutional barriers and racism.

We at NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley are committed to upholding these standards in all of our initiatives and projects and in the way in which we manage our organization and deploy its assets for the public benefit.