Case Study: Abyssinian Development Corporation

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For over a Century, U.S. reformists have struggled to remedy poverty challenges in low-income residences. Initially, these reformers could only decide on a handful of solutions. Still, by the end of the 20th Century, they had diversified their efforts to an expansive, dynamic, and complex action field such as community development corporations (CDCs) (Von Hoffman, 2012). In community development and empowerment, CDCs play a vital role in ensuring that communities receive the necessary and effective services required for the development. CDCs are nonprofit organizations created to support and offer better revitalization support that positively transforms a community. In this case, most of the CDCs tend to cast a critical eye on housing as the primary and core objective in molding the community within a given society. CDCs also offers extensive engagement in supporting basic community needs such as education, healthcare, job training, commercial development, and social programs that seek to address community challenges. Even though communities tend to differ, most CDCs tend to adopt a similar framework when dealing with a community. Several nonprofit CDCs have operated in the lowest income urban and rural spheres nationwide. CDCs emerged as alternative forces in the 1980s to improve the inner cities' revitalization. During the 1980s and 1990s, the community development movement provided the most conspicuous signs of inner cities' new outlook (Andrews & Erickson, 2012). The ghetto construction rehabilitation framework adopted by CDC's entailed mostly affordable housing programs and the establishment of industrial facilities to stimulate economic welfare of respective residential populations; however, most CDCs also sought to address educational inadequacies within the dilapidated settlements. (Andrews & Erickson, 2012). These organizations, such as Abyssinian Development Corporation (ADC), have helped stabilize social welfare and assist families and individuals in the most neglected neighborhoods. This paper explores several ADC aspects; history, political and cultural aspects, assets, challenges, and compares its operations with other organizations within the CDC sphere. Founded in 1989, Abyssinian Development Corporation (ADC) is a comprehensive nonprofit community and economic development corporation (CDC) (Crusoe, 2017). ADC began in 1987 when Reverend Dr. Calvin O. Butts III solicited the Abyssinian Baptist Church parish to work towards reconstructing the Harlem community a fresh. Over time, the CDC has become a nationally recognized institution (Crusoe, 2017). The ADC idea was mainly motivated by the late 1980s Harlem conditions (Crusoe, 2017). The area needed rehabilitation and reforms that came mainly through gentrification; thus, such dimensions led to ADC's birth. ADC's mission is to rebuild Harlem from the ground. Under this mission, the ADC aims to increase quality housing to persons of diverse incomes, improve social services delivery, especially to the homeless, elderly, families, and children; foster economic rejuvenation, enhance development and educational opportunities for youth and realize community capacity through civic involvement (Cause I.Q., n.d). As stated earlier, ADC began mainly as a nonprofit community and economic development corporation. The primary aim was a response to Dr. Butts' call to rebuild the Harlem community. The ADC's largest stakeholder is the residential population, grant issuers, and individual donors. In the late 1980s, Harlem was suffering from many social inadequacies and illnesses. An ADC's proposed Harlem Promise Neighborhood (HNP) had identified particular challenges for the community of about 14651 persons in the area surrounding the Abyssinian Baptist Church (Abyssinian Development Corporation, n.d). The 2000 U.S. census of the area had revealed its median household income was $ 21,195, and it was perceived that 33.4% of the population lived below the poverty line. The unemployment rate was 19.8%, and the homeownership rate was 12% (Abyssinian Development Corporation, n.d). Therefore, the social challenge was mainly in housing and economic wellness. However, inadequate educational attainment by the Harlem youth population also remained a critical item. Estimates showed that a mere 25% of the HPN population between 18 and 34 years of age had attained a bachelor's degree, approximately 6% an associate's degree, and an estimated 40% had never graduated high school (Abyssinian Development Corporation, n.d). Albeit several government entities, nonprofit organizations, and individuals had made several efforts to improve residents' life quality, Harlem remained one of the neediest urban communities in the U.S. in acute demand for high-quality integrated services focusing on health, crime, education, and other young person development challenges (Abyssinian Development Corporation, n.d). ADC's leading asset portfolio entails affordable housing units. However, CDC also has an asset portfolio of learning institutions such as Abyssinian Head Start, the Thurgood Marshall Academy Lower School, and the Thurgood Marshall Academy for Learning and Social Change middle and high school (Edelman, 2010). Cumulatively, as reported in the 2016 Form 990, ADC had a gross asset portfolio of $127 466,771. That was reflective of a 10.38% decline from the previous year. The organization mostly realized substantial asset decline from cash, 48.8%, pledges and grants, 38.8%, and tangible assets such as buildings and equipment, 13.4%. A considerable asset decline was also due to prepaid expenses and deferred charges, 49.4% compared to the previous year (Abyssinian Development Corporation, n.d). The 2008 financial crisis left the ADC overexposed. It began losing contractual rounds to deliver social services as expenses increased. Evaluating the extent of ADC's financial difficulties is complex since, by 2015, the organization had neither filed its financial statements nor filed its taxes since 2011. Butts had recognized financial challenges as the main problem and admitted that the corporation did not have adequate funds to finance its works, payroll, and relieving its workforce (McCambridge, 2015). The organization had mainly utilized debt capital for expansion when its program costs were not being fully funded. Consequently, as its programs' costs grew between 2002 and 2013, ADC's annual debts also rose from $48,000 to over $3 million over the same period (McCambridge, 2015). To cover mortgage payments and preserve its social services, the organization resolved to raise cash through property sales. In 2014, ADC had sold the Pathmark and Renaissance Ballroom and close one-fourth of its affordable housing (McCambridge, 2015). Thus, finances have been ADC's main challenge. However, evidence indicates that the organization's financial woes have resulted in business contract losses. In 2015, the ADC was cut off from $ 3.1 million in city contracts after it had failed to present three years of overdue tax filings and independent financial statements to the Contract Services in the Mayor's office. The director had stated that the organization was in a dire financial position and had been unable to pay for the audits. He reiterated that they had missed a few months of payroll and had laid off some of its workers (Gonzalez, 2015). The organization was also facing business reputation challenges, which most persons perceive to have emanated from non-transparencies. Besides being denied more than $3 million in city contracts, reports revealed that the corporation had failed to pay out $ 2 million in a contractual obligation to East Harlem Triangle (Boyd, 2015). Butts had blamed these problems on poor leadership. He was hence preluding to possibilities that the corporation was suffering from managerial incompetencies. ADC's funding comes from diverse spheres such as foundations, corporates, government grants and contracts, and individual donors. Several ADC stakeholders, organizational, and individuals have supported the corporation since its inception and recommitted that support based on goals focused on education. Based on the previous fundraiser successes, ADC began pursuing another dimension, seeking substantial strategic investment in organizations that utilized as partners, can leverage better results. Hence the CDC began several partnership discussions with individuals and collaboration donor prospects. ADC program mainly worked through improvement dimensions. Its primary approach was gentrification; buy and renovate Harlem housing. Its efforts to raise retail options and other social opportunities laid the foundation for neighborhood improvement. Over time, the corporation devolved its operations into four main programs: family services, homeownership, youth build, and senior services (Abyssinian Development Corporation, 2018). Each of these programs is designed to address a unique specific community challenge. The family services program's main objective was to address Harlem's family needs. The organization utilized a collaborative strength-based approach to help the families move toward permanent housing and self-sufficiency. This program includes intensive care management, permanent housing placements, onsite childcare, and life planning workshops (Abyssinian Development Corporation, 2018). Attaining these services is subject to eligibility criteria, determined by the New York City (NYC) Department of Homeless Services for families in need of temporary housing. The homeownership program works mainly to offer technical insight into housing. Since 2000, the ADC has delivered high-quality housing counseling through the Harlem Economic Literacy Program (HELP), one of the only Harlem methods that address societal needs by offering pre and post-purchase education and ongoing individual counseling (Abyssinian Development Corporation, 2018). It has remained an effective method that assists families in asset building, securitization, and providing financial stability to children. By 2018, the HELP program had educated over 2500 persons on financial literacy and homeownership (Abyssinian Development Corporation, 2018). The Youth Build program is designed to address a select youth age group's challenges specifically. It is designed to serve Harlem youth needs, those between 17 and 24 years. The program helps this population achieve their GED s, learning job skills, and community service by building affordable housing and becoming leaders in society (Abyssinian Development Corporation, 2018). The program model integrates education, leadership training, counseling, and vocational skills training, such as healthcare, construction, and hospitality, while providing resources for those who complete the curriculum. The senior services take a holistic dimension and support residents at Abyssinian towers. It aims to provide comprehensive support to individuals, particularly by promoting health and each person's well-being. It utilizes case management and supportive services to assist the older population in realizing independence. The program offers meals at a lower cost, exercise lessons, computer classes, and other recreational services (Abyssinian Development Corporation, 2018). Structurally, ADC has a board of directors as the governing body supported by other staff. For instance, in its HPN program proposal, the board of directors and the staff were integrated to form the Advisory Board. However, in its operational dimensions, the Advisory Board encapsulated the staff and constituent's representative of the 15 partner organizations and the community (Abyssinian Development Corporation, n.d). Thus, ADC operates through an integrated staffing model of professionals and partners. ADC's culture rose from its mission to rehabilitate Harlem block by block. Primarily, the CDC was mainly concerned with Harlem's housing rehabilitation. However, ADC realized early on that education was an instrumental component in sustaining any long-term community shifts and decided to make education an integral part of the corporation's strategic priorities (Edelman, 2010). For a considerable amount of time, ADC has improved Harlem residents' quality of life and lower the poverty rates. As a result, it has created several integrated programs and services to address Harlem populations' diverse needs. When residents seek assistance on an issue, they do not only obtain related solutions but gain exposure and access to several other beneficial ADC programs and services. ADC utilizes gaps and weakness identification model to realize community challenges in services, infrastructure, and opportunities. ADC's theory of change is subjective to the social problem sphere it aims to address. For instance, the proposed HPN theory of change was; if learners living in poverty, facing several socioeconomic difficulties were provided with the proper support, services, and mentorship, they would realize healthy academic and developmentally-appropriate outcomes. The program's action theory was modeled through the Harlem Promise Neighborhood Quilt, which presents fragmented services offered through various organizations, each with unique features and values (Abyssinian Development Corporation, n.d). The organization developed a framework to provide a continuum of solutions that provide a smooth transition and critical junctures of students' lives. Each CDC operates uniquely. In addressing Harlem's inner city's social problem, ADC had adopted a corporate structure, where it functions as a quasi-nonprofit organization that mainly aims to improve affordable housing and educational attainment. Its primary model has been purchasing, rehabilitating real estate properties, and leasing at affordable rates. Comparatively, the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI), another CDC aimed to address Long Boston's social inadequacies adopted a different dimension. It utilized an integrated community framework with elders and teenagers among its leadership. DSNI utilized a dimension whereby low-income community members work as an organizational team and are encouraged to consider their diverse individual and community assets and use them to improve social outcomes (Medoff & Sklar, 1994). Thus, the DSNI and CDC utilized relatively different organizational-structural approaches. Regardless, CDCs continue to emerge as dimensions to address community challenges, and most are functioning within these fundamentals. These organizations remain instrumental in societies and are continually expanding their scope, venturing into diverse spheres, education, housing, and healthcare. For instance, the Codman Square Health Center in Boston's Dorchester neighborhood section is a CDC that has emerged to address the area's population healthcare concerns (Von Hoffman, 2012). Thus, these organizations remain within the CDCs models as they generally aim to remedy what they perceive as community inadequacies by developing related programs. Conclusion Inequalities within communities have remained a significant challenge that has attracted the community development corporations' attention. The core objectives of the CDCs are aimed at remedying the social problems faced by a community. Adopting different frameworks such as the ghetto construction rehabilitation framework by CDCs has helped reduce the impact of economic and literacy challenges that have been a key problem to many communities. Among the CDCs' core objective is geared towards providing affordable and accessible housing programs that can accommodate the affected community. Even though there are numerous CDCs across the nation, their services are unique depending on the community's challenges. The CDCs' core focus is to launch multiple programs that help reconstruct and fulfill community needs. Abyssinian Development Corporation (ADC) is one of the reputable CDCs that has profoundly flexed its muscles on numerous programs geared towards improving and redefining the community's needs. The 2000 U.S censors of the Abyssinian area proved a tremendous shocking result in the population's education and housing condition. Nearly 33.4% of the region's population lived below the poverty line, with a 19.8% unemployment rate, which translated to a low homeownership rate of 12%. Thus ADC is set to focusing on homeownership, the core challenge of the region. Despite the increased challenge on homeownership, education remained another core factor that needed addressing to help reduce literacy and increase access to education. ADC also cast a critical eye on the education sector, especially after assessing the Harlem youth population. Nearly 25% of the population ranging between 18 and 34 years had attained a bachelor's degree, while only 6% had an associate's degree. Nevertheless, over 40% of the population never graduated past high school, making it a significant concern for ADC on its impending project to assist the community. Even though most CDCs have greater ambitions in transforming a given community, their major setback is associated with the limitations of the fiancé and support from dinners. One of the most significant challenges that affected the Abyssinian Development Corporation CDC was the increased financial challenges that pushed the non-profitable organization to the brink of collapse. Even though the organization has undertaken brisk steps towards expanding and improving the Abyssinian community's living conditions, financial challenges forced ADC to curb its annual development. On the contrary, ADC had widely utilized credit to fulfill its mission and complete the pending projects. However, due to the financial crisis by 2008, the donors funding was streaming in at a foot-dragging pace. Consequently, ADC also faced several financial setbacks. It could not provide annual tax filling, which made it extremely cumbersome for the organization to win contracts to generate income to support an array of projects the organization had launched. Despite the crumbling and pining of Abyssinian Development Corporation against the wall, poor leadership also played a decisive role in the institution's downfall. In the bottom line, CDCs' involvement within a community plays a vital role in revamping and empowering a community by addressing their needs. Despite financial constraints, proper leadership and funding within CDCs can help increase community outreach to impoverished societies. References Abyssinian Development Corporation (2018). Abyssinian House. Internet Archive Way Back Machine. Abyssinian Development Corporation. (n.d.). ADC promise neighborhood proposal to the U.S. department. Andrews, N. O., & Erickson, D. J. (2012). Investing in what works for America's communities. (ed.). Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. Boyd, H. (2015). Economic woes for Abyssinian Development Corporation. New York Amsterdam News. Cause I.Q. (n.d.). Abyssinian Development Corporation. Crusoe, N. (2017). Gentrification or Revitalization: The Abyssinian Development Corporation and the Redevelopment of Harlem by Means of Racial Uplift (Order No. 10283073). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (2117257574). Edelman, M. W. (2010, July, 23). Abyssinian development corporation creating community change. Child Watch Column. Gonzalez, J. (2015). Housing and social services arm of Harlem's Abyssinian Baptist Church cut off from $3.1M in city contracts due to overdue tax filings. New York Daily News. McCambridge, R. (2015, November, 22,). Historic Abyssinian development corporation struggles with financial mess. Community development corporations, philanthropy. NPQ. Medoff, P., & Sklar, H. (1994). Streets of Hope: The fall and rise of an urban neighborhood. South End Press. Von Hoffman, A. (2012). The past, present, and future of community development in the United States. Monograph. 5 (8).

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