THE COMMUNITY CAPACITY BUILDING IMPACT OF THE BALTIMORE EMPOWERMENT ZONE

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2008-04-28

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The federal Empowerment Zone/Enterprise Community (EZ/EC) Initiative was the major urban initiative of the Clinton administration. It sought to replace the Reagan and the first Bush administrations' reductions in support for urban programs and passive focus on addressing urban issues through people-based policies and market and tax incentives. Baltimore was one of six cities selected for a full Empowerment Zone.

One of the core goals of the federal EZ/EC Initiative was to create sustainable community capacity. Baltimore's implementation strategy was recognized as the most community driven of all of the Zones. This dissertation examines the experience of the Empowerment Zone in building sustainable community development capacity in the form of community organizations to implement programs and presents lessons learned to guide future community capacity building efforts. This dissertation used a detailed literature review, interview, focus group, records review and case study approach to answer the question - Can a federal policy create sustainable community capacity?

The Baltimore Empowerment Zone was partially successful in creating or enhancing community development capacity in six urban neighborhoods in Baltimore. Five of the six community organizations - in the case of the Baltimore Empowerment Zone these were called village centers -- formed or participating in the Empowerment Zone effort operated throughout the ten year federal funding period and four remained in operation after the end of the program. This dissertation examined the internal (community) and external (economic, social, and political) factors that influenced each village centers' efforts to build sustainable development community capacity.

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