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January 2016 Featured Article

Featured Article

The Placemaking Movement is Having Profound Effects on the Changing Landscape of Grant Funding
Triad Associates

A variety of innovative philanthropic and funding programs are beginning to focus on an increasingly emergent element of community development, and that is “placemaking.”  Placemaking refers to the collaborative and multi-faceted planning, design and management of public spaces that connect people and the places in a community that they value.

The notion is a collaborative process that ensures greater success for community development projects. Although many of their elements are not well understood, they are shaping the public realm in an inclusive and equitable way. According to Project for Public Spaces (PPS): “Placemaking facilitates creative patterns of use, paying particular attention to the physical, cultural, and social identities that define a place and support its ongoing evolution.”

Community development projects all share the idea of strengthening connections between people and the places they share. Funding initiatives that capitalize on a local community’s assets, inspiration and potential in creative ways is growing in popularity. Funders are looking to gain a deeper understanding of where and how placemaking elements, such as art and culture, can enhance other aspects of development. This approach brings great potential in furthering projects that promote greater health, happiness and well being for residents and visitors.

In October, a group of 32 representatives from a variety of organizations across the United States and Canada gathered in Brooklyn, New York for a day-long discussion on the intersections between placemaking and philanthropy. Methods that can support cross-sector and cross-disciplinary projects, where arts and culture are tied into “local systems”, need to be tested and approaches documented. All of these organizations are looking to better understand the contributions of the humanities perspective with that of municipal departments, financial institutions, human services networks and area food systems, to name a few.

October’s forum was the second annual meeting of its kind. Sponsored by the Kresge Foundation in partnership with PPS, funders discussed five optimal ways their financial support can demonstrate placemaking projects: accessibility, accountability, equitability, local leadership capacity and building a value-added network for cooperation.  According to PPS: “The very diversity in the types of organizations at this forum is itself a testament to placemaking’s capacity for bridging a wide range of traditional funding categories - community development, civic engagement, arts and culture, environment and health.”

As the placemaking movement continues to increase funding opportunities for community development projects, it is important for local municipalities to reimagine their partners for future grant applications. They will need to demonstrate a clear connection between funders, communities and public space managers. The task will require establishing cross-sector and cross-disciplinary coalitions ahead of these funding opportunity announcements.

Published January 2016.

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