Open Buffalo Launches
Open Buffalo is a collaborative working towards a more democratic, innovative and unified Buffalo. Funded by the Open Society Foundations, the project is designed to increase low-income and minority communities’ influence and access to economic, civic, and political opportunities in local areas. It aims to further the capacity of local communities to bring about systemic change relating to equity, justice, and democratic practice.
Buffalo was one of sixteen sites asked to apply, and one of eight to win planning grants. Locally the collaborative is being led by four groups that the Open Societies Foundations asked to work together: Partnership for the Public Good, Coalition for Economic Justice, PUSH Buffalo, and VOICE-Buffalo. From April to September, 2013, Open Buffalo will work to craft a multi-issue plan to build the region’s capacity to bring about long-term change. The foundation
will review the plans from the eight sites and award three to five implementation grants of up to $1 million per year for a minimum of three years and potentially a full decade.
Open Buffalo will employ an inclusive, arts-infused process to identify strengths and weaknesses in Buffalo’s civic capacity to achieve progress in three policy areas:
- Open Government, including public participation in budget decisions; improved transparency in public spending and political campaigns; and language access; and
- Equal Justice/Equal Opportunity, including alternatives to incarceration, reduced racial disparities in criminal justice, and lowered barriers to reentry; and
- Economy for the Common Good, including reinvestment in the urban core, subsidy reform, and community-based, green, neighborhood redevelopment.
Open Buffalo will explore two key strategies: Democracy Centers where residents become engaged with leadership training, direct action, and policy advocacy; and an Innovation Lab and Action Center where new policies are researched and drafted.
The Open Buffalo Planning Council, with representatives from the founding organizations plus three other experts, will oversee the planning. An Advisory Committee of leaders from non-profit, government, academic and business sectors will help develop an organizational framework that best leverages local resources and partners. Working Groups for
the three policy priority areas will prioritize the issues and craft the goals and strategies.
Multiple, arts-related strategies will be used to get input from diverse sectors of the public. Rather than a traditional planning process, this will be a five month series of conversations and events to start changing the civic culture of Buffalo.
Open Buffalo is: open to full democratic participation by all its residents, open to innovative ideas and policies; open to new leaders from disadvantaged communities; and open to meaningful economic opportunity and sustainable wealth creation for all.