September 11, 2018 | Study Trip Recap | By Amanda Elliott, Richmond Main Street
This summer, the National Main Street Center hosted Amanda Elliot, Richmond Main Street Executive Director, for a four-day Study Trip as part of her two-year Fellowship program with LeaderSpring.
The LeaderSpring Fellowship program works with executives of community-based organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area to develop and sustain effective leaders for organizations and communities. LeaderSpring aims to enhance nonprofit capacity and improve services to low-income communities through collaboration and fostering partnerships.
I had a fantastic Study Trip visiting the National Main Street Center in Chicago! I am pleased to have had the opportunity to get an in-person view of the incredible work that is going on at the Center. As a long-time Main Street director running a program for nearly 11 years, it was quite enlightening to see first-hand the National Main Street Center staff hard at work. The Center’s work impacts so many communities throughout out our nation. From small rural towns to large metropolitan cities, the Main Street Approach has helped to transform communities and neighborhoods, providing services and resources that have lifted struggling districts that have often been neglected or forgotten and brought vibrancy, using economic development strategies through art and placemaking, to support and grow businesses.
I can say personally the stakeholder engagement strategies introduced to me through Main Street trainings and workshops has helped me throughout the years. I credit National Main Street Center with providing me with tools to engage with a disparate group of stakeholders many of whom had never heard about the Main Street Four-Points or community revitalization. They were just interested in making the neighborhood look better, get services and become safer. Through this strategy and approach, Richmond Main Street has been successful in forming the first and only Property Business Improvement District in Richmond, CA, and West Contra Costa County. Our concerned group of stakeholders has helped to transform our historic downtown and we are happy to welcome much needed new development projects and businesses to our downtown including a co-working business incubator CoBiz for which Richmond Main Street is a key partner that will open later this year and be located at our downtown BART transit hub.
I was happy to learn through my Study Trip that like me, there are Main Street practitioners, community leaders, business owners, and residents in Chicago just like my folks in Richmond, California, ready to roll up their sleeves and do the work to make our neighborhoods and communities the places we want to live, shop, eat and have a good time.
Special highlights were my visits to the University of Chicago office of Civic Engagement, Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce, South East Chicago Commission, QCDC and the 51st Street Business Association. They all welcomed me enthusiastically and offered to share their successes, best practices and challenges. I felt an instant closeness to all these extraordinary leaders who are doing this important work. I am proud to include myself among them. Although it was only a quick glimpse into what I know is all encompassing, neighbor transforming work, I felt them and I believe they received me. Glad to have had a chance to renew my passion and confirm that we really are practicing what we preach! Onward!!
A special thank you to Dionne Baux, who exceeded my expectations by creating a focused agenda that was relevant and connected me to individuals who were able to provide me with information that is salient to my work. I am pleased to see that the UrbanMain program is expanding and happy to participate in it. I see UrbanMain as critical to the future of Main Street. It is an untapped market that I believe will reach communities that may have traditionally not participated in Main Street. I look forward to advocating on its behalf in California.