Community and Organizational Development
Partnership and collaboration are integral to our mission to improve the lives and life chances of people in South Jersey. Our work to develop communities and organizations centers on a commitment to bring more people to the table to seek solutions to challenging issues. We often serve as the backbone organization for collaborative projects and coalitions to facilitate community-based interventions.
In addition to researching and presenting findings, we also provide a venue for public, private and nonprofit leaders to engage constructively on issues that impact South Jersey. Since inception, WRI has tackled an array of policy problems including social service delivery, local government capacity, release and re-entry of violent offenders, civic engagement, housing affordability, and regional development. All of these projects have connected stakeholders, as well as students, with opportunities for discussion and collective action.
Current and Ongoing Projects
Reports and Resources
An important component of any serious effort to improve governmental capacity is an assessment of the skills, capabilities and development needs of the municipal workforce. While numerous studies have noted the need for governmental capacity building in Camden, none had provided an assessment of its employees. To that end, the Office of the Chief Operating Officer requested that WRI design a survey of development needs and technical skills of all levels of employees in City Hall. Questions probed employees’ understanding of governmental processes and operations, their educational attainment and training, allocation of time to critical activities, and their responses to motivation and incentive alternatives, as well as information technology skills.
The United Way of Camden County (UWCC) engaged WRI to prepare a Comprehensive Community Assessment of all 37 municipalities in the County. The objective of this Community Assessment is to provide a broad array of data for the UWCC to use in orienting its community-building process. The study draws on Compass 2.0, a community-building model developed by the United Way of America and used as a community assessment and community-building tool by United Ways throughout the country.
Prepared by WRI faculty fellow Robert Wood, this report examines agritourism in the context of New Jersey agriculture and the state’s farmland preservation program. Agritourism—a broad array of activities linking farmers and consumers more directly—is often seen as an important way to answer the question: Once farmland has been preserved, how do we preserve the farmer? New Jersey has the second largest farmland preservation program in the nation in terms of proportional acreage, but many traditional types of farming in the state are in decline. The report argues for a synergistic approach to the relationship between agritourism and farmland preservation, making proposals to enhance the potential of each to contribute to the other and thereby contribute to a continuing place for a productive agriculture in the Garden State.
The Greater Camden Partnership contracted WRI to coordinate a study to evaluate Camden Special Services District (CSSD) operating structure and analyze their relationship with stakeholders. WRI will focus on the coordination of CSSD operations with key municipal departments.
The Camden Special Services District project is vital to downtown Camden, as it promotes Camden as a clean and safe place to live, work, study, and invest. The CSSD enhances maintenance and security of the city’s main commercial areas. The study will assist the Greater Camden Partnership in bringing economic growth to downtown Camden.
How are businesses being affected by the literacy of their workforce? How aware are businesses of workforce literacy issues? What kinds of literacy services would benefit businesses and their employees? Given that an estimated 42% of adults in the county lack literacy skills needed to be successful in family life and the workplace, these are critical questions for the county to answer.
Burlington County Workforce Investment Board’s Literacy Committee contracted WRI to explore these and other questions regarding workforce literacy in the county. Utilizing surveys and focus groups, WRI helped the Literacy Committee find the answers to these questions and formulate strategies to address the needs of Burlington County businesses and residents.
WRI completed a Smart Growth Forecast for the counties of Southern New Jersey to assess the effects of urban sprawl in the region. The study assessed current land use practices in an effort to establish the need for better land use management in Southern New Jersey. This assessment involves the collection of data and creation of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) maps to illustrate possible development scenarios in the region.
WRI conducted a Smart Growth Forecast for Camden, Gloucester and Burlington Counties in southern New Jersey. The Institute developed a land use simulation model to enable policymakers, planners, developers and community groups to see where potential new development should take place as well as to assess the extent to which existing urban centers needed redevelopment. This alternative approach advocates coordinated, comprehensive planning processes that encourage urban revitalization and open space preservation while promoting sustainable economic development.
On April 4, 2006, WRI convened the second South Jersey Regional Development Forum. This Forum featured a presentation by Barry Seymour, Assistant Executive Director of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission on Destination 2030: A Vision for the Future. This presentation provided an opportunity for policymakers and stakeholders at the Forum to discuss in a broader regional context the Growth Fit Model for housing developed by the Builder’s League of South Jersey.
On November 3, 2005 WRI hosted the first South Jersey Regional Development Forum which featured a discussion on the Growth Fit Model as presented by the Builder’s League of South Jersey. This forum was held in an effort to foster open and productive discussions of critical issues facing development in southern New Jersey. The outcomes of this discussion included: identifying the need for media support and an outreach plan to educate the public about these issues, the crucial nature of further discussions regarding these issues and the need to incorporate environmental issues into this discussion.
Responding to stakeholders in the South Jersey region, WRI was approached to help explore ways to better manage regional development. Under the leadership of WRI, a Regional Development Forum was organized, bringing together diverse stakeholders for candid policy discussions about development issues. The group, comprising builders, environmentalists, planning experts and policy advocates came together to identify common goals and generate recommendations for improving planning, with special consideration for southern New Jersey, the fastest growing region in the state. The group came to consensus on a county-centric planning model, entitled Growth Fit. A document titled “County-Centric Planning and Development for New Jersey“ details the model. A document titled “Legislative Draft,” composed by WRI, presents a policy recommendation for county growth fit planning.
The report, “South Jersey’s Views on Sprawl, Development, and Regional Identity,” is based on surveys surrounding the issues of suburban sprawl, development and regional identity. Survey responses from South Jerseyans help to understand the myths related to South Jersey’s identity, and the cycle of valuing open space while urban flight and suburban development increase demands for those lands to be developed. Valuable for its description of South Jerseyans’ values and preferences.
This report offers three different viewpoints for incidents of Part I crime in Camden City. The report, based on data collected from the Camden City Police Department, provides longer and short term looks at one of Camden City’s most pressing policy concerns.
Written at a critical time for Camden County, “Toward a Metropolitan Complex: The Camden HUB Smart Growth Report” describes the looming peril of a decreasing tax base and increasing health and social service demands in Camden County. WRI considers the current and impending state of affairs in this report, and offers a sound solution for regional development that employs and conserves environmental, institutional, social and infrastructure resources.
Affordable housing in South Jersey has a unique set of constraints and factors compared to the more populous regions of the state, and as such current policy may not appropriately address the issues of this region. This projects aims to narrow the focus of affordable housing from the statewide debate, to one centered specifically on Southern New Jersey, with the ultimate goal of creating a new dialogue and recommendations specific to this unique region.
WRI and the Rutgers School of Business conducted an administrative staff capacity building project for the City of Camden. The first phase included a planning retreat for top level administrative staff that took place at the Camden County Boathouse.
The retreat focused on goals for the new administration given the current economic climate, as well as issues of communication, governmental process and accountability.
The capacity building project focused on and develop the knowledge, abilities, and desired behaviors of city employees to improve institutional structures and processes so that the City of Camden can meet its mission and goal to serve Camden residents in a sustainable and efficient way.
Funded by the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development (LWD), the WRI and the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, collaborated on an evaluation of the services provided by LWD with an emphasis on the One-Stop Career Centers (OSCCs), occupational training, and the Parolee Employment Placement Program (PEPP).
WRI led the evaluation of the Parolee Employment Placement Program (PEPP). Staff utilized quantitative and qualitative research methods, including stakeholder interviews, focus groups, surveys, and an outcome analysis to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the program as well as its sustainability.
WRI provided a broad assessment of Gloucester Township’s current operations and created recommendations on how the municipality could adjust to the current budgeting necessities in New Jersey. The report focused on the implementation of problem-solving collaborations to combine services and reduce costs between and among municipalities and surveyed best practices from across the country.
WRI conducted a needs assessment for United Way of Salem County (UWSC). UWSC is charting a course for the future that encompasses resource allocation, funding opportunities, project development, and goal achievement. The needs assessment has helped the organization to pursue this path and best accomplish critical goals for its community. The comprehensive review of available data specific to UWSC around their four priorities of education, income, health, and youth development, provided critical timely information necessary for the organization to plan effectively.