When the Creating Safe, Equitable and Thriving Communities (SET) Fund was established in 2018, there were still a lot of questions. There was widespread agreement that our youth needed encouragement, opportunity, and protection, but exactly how to build a community that worked for them was still unclear. And yet, the City of Cedar Rapids, Linn County, and the Cedar Rapids Community School District each committed funding and staff time to work toward the recommendations made by the SET Task Force.
To oversee the new fund held at the Community Foundation, Rachel Rockwell was hired as a part-time SET Program Officer. The SET Policy Committee, comprised of representatives from funders and the community, established that the first priority would be addressing gun violence.
The SET Fund began making grants in 2019 to support programs and projects that address the inter-relational factors that lead to youth violence. At the same time, the SET Policy Committee began exploring a groundbreaking, evidence-based approach called Group Violence Intervention (GVI). When the grants that were awarded in December of 2019 were interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Community Foundation helped the grantees shift strategy and pivot to “ReSET 2020” to collaboratively engage youth amid school and program closures.
GVI is a strategy developed and supported by the National Network for Safe Communities (NNSC) and has been implemented with great success in cities around the country. In October 2020, an anonymous donor made a $465,000, three-year grant to fund technical assistance from NNSC for GVI implementation and expand the SET Program Officer position to full-time.
With this funding, stakeholders began the transformative process of implementing GVI strategies in Cedar Rapids. The work was in full swing by May 2021, and initial data shows a significant impact on youth violence. With help from SET Fund grants, Foundation 2 has led Support and Outreach components of GVI, receiving additional support from Linn County Public Health through a Centers for Disease Control grant. The work itself involves close collaboration with local law enforcement, and a strong partnership has emerged.
Thus far, the Community Foundation has filled the role of project management while GVI gets off the ground. While such a role is unusual for the Community Foundation, it was necessary and logical, given the SET Policy Committee’s role in bringing GVI to Cedar Rapids. Once the GVI strategies and partnerships are fully operational, the Community Foundation will step back into the role of funder, which is anticipated to occur in early 2023.
SET Program Officer Rachel Rockwell, inspired by her work in managing this project, has recently left the Community Foundation to work for the Central City Development Corporation. The Community Foundation is currently in the process of hiring a new program officer, who will take on a portfolio of grantmaking work that initially includes SET Fund administration.
“The funding partners remain committed to this work, as do several nonprofit organizations and local law enforcement,” said Karla Twedt-Ball, Senior Vice President, Programs and Community Investment. “We’ve been working to put things in motion, and now it’s time to let these groups manage the work together. The SET Fund will now explore new ways of supporting this work, building equity, and ensuring that our youth have access to opportunities, and we’re excited about that.”
To learn more about the Program Officer position and how to apply, click here.