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Community Solutions consulting: Where advocacy and strategy meet

May 17, 2021
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For more than 100 years, The Center for Community Solutions (Community Solutions) has served Cleveland and Northeast Ohio. Through our research, policy analysis, communications and advocacy, we endeavor to improve social and economic conditions for the community we serve – and there has been tremendous change during this last century of service. Two world wars, two pandemics, the Great Depression and the introduction of the internet have been a part of our long history. And while there has been progress during all this change, progress has not always been equally distributed nor fully realized.

 Scarcity often means many community-based organizations are limited in their capacity to keep up with the rapid pace of change and plan appropriately.

Often, health and human service organizations have had to scrape together whatever resources they can to improve the conditions of our shared community. However, scarcity often means many community-based organizations are limited in their capacity to keep up with the rapid pace of change and plan appropriately. As public policy gets developed, the economic landscape shifts. As technology becomes more entrenched in our day-to-day lives, smaller organizations must have the insights, networks, and strategy to be resilient. It is with this context in mind that Community Solutions provides consulting services.  

As a think tank and advocacy organization, our primary work is not consulting, and we may not be known for it. Typically, we have only engaged in consulting work when an organization or unit of government has approached us and needs to address a specific issue or challenge. For me, the value of this kind of work became apparent in my most recent experience with Joseph’s Home, an organization focused on providing temporary relief and coordination for housing insecure men with behavioral health challenges. As Joseph’s Home sought to be more financially resilient and expand its services to women, it was a formative and gratifying experience to connect with residents around their needs, and to design a strategy that enables the organization to fulfill those needs. Importantly the plan focused on residents’ needs on the terms of the residents, rather than attempting to impose a more abstract model that simply sought to increase revenue. But my experience is not unique! Here are some of my colleagues’ reflections on what our consulting work means to them:

"One of the things I love about working with organizations in Greater Cleveland on research is - they aren't just looking to us to write a report so it can collect dust on a shelf somewhere. We work hard to engage the community and collect relevant data so that it can be put into action by people who are serving the community on the ground. It's really gratifying to be able to provide that perspective and insight, and I always love learning from the community about the issues they're facing."

  • Kate Warren, Research Fellow

"What’s exciting to me about our consulting work is the elevation of community voices, giving constituents a platform to speak about their experiences to decision makers directly through our work.”

  • Alex Dorman, Research AssociateFrom a community-needs assessment for a children’s hospital, to a survey of clients served by Legal Aid, to helping food banks plan for the future, we have leveraged our policy and planning competencies to position organizations to do what they do best: serve. Often, the experience we garner in working with these practitioners helps us better understand the impact public policy has on them and their organizations. This enables us to better advocate for policies that advance our mission.
 The experience we garner in working with these practitioners helps us better understand the impact public policy has on them and their organizations.

And here’s the thing: we are not interested in becoming a consulting agency. There are plenty of organizations that do great work focusing on such services, and we are always willing to make connections for our community partners who need that type of assistance. For Community Solutions, however, we intentionally do not rely on contracts to execute our mission or maintain our balance sheet. Instead, we make our time available to organizations if and when they need support to confront change or to adapt to changes in public policy that affect their clients’ future. So, if you like our work and need some help, give us a call. Maybe we can learn from one another and collaborate to benefit the community we serve.

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