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The Value of Community Partnerships For Nonprofits like ICW

Updated: Jun 17

Learn firsthand about the impact of community partnerships. With insights from ICW and Rashad Cope, Director of Boston’s Department of Youth Engagement and Employment.

What is Community Partnership? With Insights from Rashad Cope

A community partnership is a collaborative relationship between an organization and individuals, groups, businesses, or other organizations within the community. At Innercity Weightlifting (ICW) Community partnerships are the reason we do what we do! They power our team and help us provide more resources to our clients and trainers. 

Rashad Cope, Director of Boston’s Department of Youth Engagement and Employment, sitting at a desk.

What Community Partnership Means to Innercity Weightlifting 

We got the chance to speak to Rashad Cope, Director of Boston’s Department of Youth Engagement and Employment, about his partnerships with ICW. You can listen to that interview here, or read the transcript below. In general, here reasons why community partnership with professionals like Rashad are essential to our success:

  1. Resource Sharing Community partnerships allow nonprofits like ICW to access a broader range of resources, including funding, volunteers, expertise, and in-kind donations. Pooling resources with other community entities helps us achieve our goals more effectively and efficiently.

  2. Increased Impact By working together, we can leverage each other's strengths and networks to comprehensively address complex social issues, like that of systemic racism and mass incarceration. This often results in a larger reach and impact in Boston and beyond. 

  3. Community Engagement Partnering with the community creates a shared sense of ownership. When individuals feel connected to an organization's mission and initiatives, they are more inclined to actively support our endeavors. Establishing partnerships in the greater Boston area not only strengthens this sense of ownership but also provides valuable insights into the needs of the community being served.

  4. Diverse Perspectives Collaborating with diverse partners allows for a range of viewpoints and expertise. This diversity can lead to innovative solutions and approaches to addressing social challenges. Additionally, by engaging with stakeholders from various backgrounds, ICW can develop more inclusive and culturally competent services.

  5. Sustainability Establishing strong community partnerships can contribute to the long-term growth of our programming in Massachusetts. By building relationships with key stakeholders, we can create a supportive ecosystem that provides ongoing support and resources. Additionally, these partnerships can open up opportunities for joint fundraising, shared infrastructure, and capacity-building initiatives that enhance the organization's resilience.

Overall, community partnerships play a crucial role in ICW’s mission to amplify the voice and agency of people who have been most impacted by systemic racism and mass incarceration.

Meet Rashad Cope, One of our Newest Community Partners

We had the pleasure of interviewing one of ICW’s key partners Rashad Cope, the Director of Boston’s Department of Youth Engagement and Employment. You can either listen to the audio through this link or read the transcript below!

Read Rashad Cope's Full Interview Transcript

Q: So what is your connection to ICW?

Yeah, my connection to ICW is, we oversee the City of Boston's youth Jobs program, and it's an opportunity to use city funds to create short term workforce readiness and career exploration opportunities for youth and young adults within the city of Boston. In this capacity, we work with approximately 150 to 200 nonprofits, community-based organizations and city agencies, who are champions of young people in our communities, and they create the job experiences for the young people and the young adults as well. Our role is to provide the funding support, to provide the administrative support to those organizations, and really just create space and access for, um, young people to have, to engage in employment opportunities. So ICW was one of our employment partners this past summer, in which they had the opportunity to employ a number of youth between the ages of 14 to 18, and also, a handful of young adults between the ages of 19 and 24. Those youth and young adults are young people that ICW  has just long standing relationships with. They work with them and other capacities, to support their success,  and we were excited to just play a role in making sure that ICW was in a position to continue to support the population that they care so deeply about.

Q: Speaking of community and kind of ICW’s mission, when people think about the word return on investment, many think about nominal value. At ICW, we talk about return on community. How would you define this term and what is your return on community?

I would define this term in two ways. One, it's giving back what was given to, you know, to myself and others that grew up in these communities in a more effective and measurable way. it, It is our responsibility to make sure that we are guiding our young people, we are coaching our young people, we are creating a foundation of success for our young people. So when I think about return on community, I think about making sure that we understand what the needs are, of the  communities that we come from, that we live in, that we, we work in, and making sure that we are in a position to play a pivotal role in supporting the folks that are in need. The second thing I would say is that we need to recycle our greatness right back into our communities.

I think far too often our community breeds successful individuals that feel like there's not enough for them within their own communities. There's not enough support. They have challenges with finding employment. They have challenges with housing. So they leave and they take everything about them somewhere else and impact other communities and other neighborhoods. I think that that’s a disservice. It does a disservice to our communities. So I think we have to do a better job of finding ways to recycle our greatness, and keeping individuals that are from our communities, in our communities because our young people need them, and our young adults need them as well.

Q: ICW staff and coaches partner with a very targeted population who all have many proven risk factors. Why is it important that DYE support such individuals?

Yeah this is also two reasons why. One is because of our mission. So we exist to employ, develop and engage Boston’s young people and we feel that we are positioned to do this by bridging opportunities for personal and professional growth. Right? So when we think about that mission, right, we, we envision a future where young people,  they're educated, they’re equipped, and they're empowered to transition successfully into adulthood.

So if we are living our mission then partnering with an organization like ICW, and other incredible youth serving organizations, and addressing the challenges that are in place, (so that we can) make sure young people succeed, it's in our right mind to be able to do that because it aligns very well with our mission. I think the second piece is really ensuring equity and access within the youth job space and within programs. I do believe that city resources should be designed and support disconnected and marginalized populations. I'm pretty sure a lot of folks that work in the cit believe that as well. So it is important for us to work with proven risk young people, court and gang involved young people because we are a launchpad for them. When we think about their, their success and we think about their goals, when you think about things that they want to accomplish in the future. So I think we have to use our resources to be able to  support those that typically don't have access to resources. I think that that's really important.

Q: What are the top two to three ways we can create greater access and opportunities for those impacted by the criminal justice system?

I think one is intentional job training, skill development and access to pathway programs. I think that we need to deliberately focus on creating access to workforce development opportunities for young adults who are considered disconnected, or have just these lived life barriers that may affect their ability to navigate other workforce readiness programs or job opportunities successfully and otherwise who would not be able to participate and have access to these type of services. I think that that is truly imperative. I think we, we know like any individual, and I believe this wholeheartedly, any individual, they want to make a living for themselves and their families, right? They do, and they want to also be supported and qualified to be able to do that.

So when we recognize that, especially in folks that may have, you know, been impacted by the criminal justice system, and that are reentering into society, reentering into our communities, we have to believe that  they want to do well for themselves. And if they are showing up to, you know, to community organizations, if they're showing up to programs, if they're showing up to resource fairs, job fairs, if they're showing up, we have to believe that they want the support.

That is the first step for them. So if they show up, it is now our responsibility or the professional's responsibility to make sure that we are recognizing that yes, they are here, and that they may not know what the next step is but the first step was for them to show up. So now that they showed up, it's our responsibility to work with them and connect them to the experts and the professionals in certain areas to guide them appropriately. I think we all have a responsibility for that. I think the second thing is really designing developmentally informed approaches in support within all of these programs and services that are available, for these young people that have been impacted by a criminal justice system.I say that because we know the data around recidivism, right? To limit individual's chance to reoffend, we have to incorporate real conversations about the impulses and their reasoning behind why they did what they did. If we don't do that, then the likelihood of them probably re-offending is high. So I think that when we're creating pathway programs, job readiness programs, and we're trying to reenter these folks back into society, it's an individualized approach because everyone's situation is different. It's a psychological developmental practice that needs to be incorporated in all of these programs and services, because we can't forget how —-, not how strong, but like how powerful, the mind is, right?And how powerful the mind controls our actions in our decisions, right? If we don't take the time to sit down to really understand that, then, we may not be helping an individual in a way in which we think that we're actually helping. So I think that that's really important. Um, just focusing on that human brain aspect of these individuals, is an opportunity that we have to do more of.

Yeah. at ICW , we talk a lot about meeting people where they are, and I feel like that's exactly what you said, like them showing up, showing the first step, us meeting them where they are. So that's great. Um, that is it for today. Thank you so much for your time.

BONUS QUESTION: what brings you to this work?

That's a great question. I grew up in the Roxbury community. I was raised by community champions. All I knew were people that cared about community, cared about young people,and those are the people that poured into my life. So,I'm a triplet; I am one of three. I have two other brothers. We have navigated life together and I was the only one that was able to go on to pursue and graduate college, and also to obtain an advanced degree as well. So for me, it was absolutely important to figure out ways in which I can come back to my community, and figure out like, okay, where do I belong? Where do I need to be positioned to make sure that I am supporting and helping the young people that are coming behind me? So community has always just driven my passion for doing this work. I'm still learning and growing as we all are but I think I couldn’t have done it without the support of a village as we say.

Recycling your greatness, Huh?

Recycling my greatness. Yeah.

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