Designing our Futures

In collaboration with Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) and Cornell University, the Designing our Futures Project is both exciting and challenging. It builds into one program all of the elements required for success: an interwoven approach that leverages the assets of both a nationally renowned “intermediary” that connects communities with resources, a land-grant institution with a deep commitment to public engagement, and a broad network of reciprocal partnerships throughout the state. Together, this consortium will employ a range of community-identified initiatives that are evidence-based and that emphasize capacity building and decentralized action, close coordination among local partners, and the recognition for continuous advocacy to ensure continued financial and policy-based support. The LISC and Cornell team is inspired by the rare opportunity this project represents for New York State (NYS).

In our response, we envision an improved NYS where selected individuals, families, and communities advocate for the prioritization of key local initiatives, are co-collaborators in the design of associated interventions, and receive the capacity building they need to sustain positive initiatives beyond the life of this initial collaboration. Coordinated research and evaluation systems will be guided by local voices, such that county- and community-level structures are supported by broad stakeholder commitment, leveraged funding, and sustained grassroots leadership.

Roles and responsibilities 

  1. Understand and map the physical and cultural resources that have already been developed to strengthen residents’ ways of supporting community and economic development (asset mapping).
  2. Identification of potential project funding opportunities – those that support:
    • Local community development initiatives (e.g. local and regional food systems, disaster preparedness and resiliency, renewable energy, education, health care, entrepreneurship, and job training; etc.)
    • Overall project goals (e.g. core funding for management; student engagement; research; evaluation and assessment; etc.)
  3. Scholarly and Grey Literature Review for University partnerships with National Community Development Organizations to answer:
    • What did/do these partnerships focus on? (Their mission/objectives)
    • What did/do they look like (structurally)/how did they operate?
    • What are their accomplishments to date?
    • How did they assess accomplishments?
  4. Conduct case-study research on community vitalizing work that increases community resilience.
  5. Share the outcomes of research for feedback

Qualifications and previous coursework

  • Interest in learning more about:
    • Community-informed development initiatives
    • Conducting and sharing research, locally and more broadly, to inform community change and understanding of critical topics
    • Community-based research methods
    • Community planning and development
    • Understanding and supporting Cornell Cooperative Extension and its many partners, including local government, to address the needs of those it serves
  • Planning skills
  • Strong communication skills
  • Strong people skills
  • Self-motivation
  • Past experiences with research, surveys, and/or interviews, or a strong desire to gain these skills

Learning outcomes 

  • How university-community partnerships can have a role in revitalizing communities
  • Community-engagement methods, challenges, & opportunities
  • Community-based-research protocol, including principles, design, and implementation
  • Understanding of place-based community development possibilities
  • Public speaking and outreach skills
  • Report writing for real-world application
  • Academic writing skills