For Community Action to be relevant and effective, we must continue to innovate and grow. By working together, we ignite ideas that could become the solutions of tomorrow, thus securing our ability to continue helping communities in the future. NCAF is at the forefront of identifying innovative practices in Community Action, and working to expand and find resources for these practices.  The work we pioneer paves the way for the country. The incredible programs that have started with us since 1964-- Weatherization, Head Start, Legal Aid, Community Health Centers-- are not the end of the story. NCAF is creating the space to cultivate the innovations that will guide the network in anti-poverty solutions.

Banner Photo: chico945

Photo:  Dennis Skley

What is innovation?

Innovation is an approach, not a program. It is a willingness to adapt and learn from issues. It is an openness to ideas. An innovative agency, sees a community need and brainstorms how to address it. Innovative agencies track their performance and measure success. An innovative agency works towards addressing critical issues efficiently and effectively. Innovative agencies don't stop looking for ways to improve their services. An innovative agency constantly strives to improve their programs and services. Even if a program isn't broken, an innovative agency will work to fix it.

Innovation in Community Action

Comprehensive innovative partnerships combine the efforts of numerous community stakeholders to generate services for a diverse and vast cross section of community members. These partnerships stand out because they take common resources, available in most communities, and utilize these resources to develop solutions that are unique to the challenges that face their communities.  

Photo Credit:  Quinn Dombrowski

Photo Credit: Quinn Dombrowski

The Helping Home Fund

As many as 4,000 households across North Carolina could soon be eligible for an energy makeover.  Duke Energy announced the launch of its Helping Home Fund, a $20 million program that will be administered by the North Carolina Community Action Association. This partnership was borne out of NCAF's 2013 Ideas and Innovations Conference where the North Carolina Community Action Association and Duke Energy met and discussed partnership possibilities. 

Measures may include weatherization upgrades, heating and cooling system replacements, appliance replacements, and health and safety upgrades to customers’ homes. An energy assessment of the home will help to determine which measures are most appropriate. Customers will also receive information on their home’s energy use and strategies to save energy.

Photo credit:  hobvias sudoneighm

Photo credit: hobvias sudoneighm

Home base connections Resource guidebook

BFCAC developed the Home Base Connections Resource Guidebook to provide a comprehensive and portable resource guide for members of the community. This guide is published internally and is in both English and Spanish and can also be accessed online. By publishing internally, BFCAC is able to easily update the guide with corrections or additions. 

The book includes information, referrals, and advocacy relating to community, county, and state resources and programs provided in Washington. As a result of extensive partnerships with numerous service providers throughout the region, this guidebook serves as a one-stop resource for those in need. At this point, BFCAC, has published on 9,400 Guidebooks for residents of Benton and Franklin Counties.

In a world that is becoming increasing digital and subsequently alienating those without constant access to technology, BFCAC simplified things and provided a powerful tool that can accommodate any lifestyle. The level of coordination between various partners and the scope of programs and services listed make this project unique asset to the community. 

Indiana Cotton Mill

At the request of local community leaders including the Perry County Chamber of Commerce, Lincoln Hills Development Corporation (LHDC) became involved in efforts to preserve the Indiana Cotton Mill. LHDC purchased the mill, and adjoining property, and transferred the property to its subsidiary, Cotton Mill Apartments, Inc. and began efforts to preserve, rehabilitate and convert the mill into 70 units of affordable rental housing.

After over 3 years of painstaking efforts, LHDC - with the assistance of numerous partners, investors and supporters - was successful in preserving this National Historic Landmark for the enjoyment of future generations. At the time LHDC became involved in the project, the Indiana Cotton Mill was ranked the #1 Most Endangered Historic Landmark in the state by the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana.

Through this partnership, LHDC transcended the perception of CAA’s as simply being service providers to the role of preservationists. This project benefits the communities of Crawford, Harrison, Perry and Spencer Counties not only by addressing the persistent lack of affordable housing but also working to preserve their rich history. 

NCAF's Ideas and Innovations Conference

This Conference stemmed from the recognition that organizations that do not innovate can become irrelevant. It is a way for Community Action to learn about innovative ways to address low-income issues, form partnerships, and learn from each other. 

Past speakers include:

  • Reverend Faith Fowler, Cass Community United Methodist Church and Cass Commnity Social Services.
  • Col. Jim McDonough, Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University
  • Richard Kohl, Center for Large Scale Social Change
  • Debbie Taylor, Citi Bank
  • Karima Rose, The Food Trust


There will not be an Ideas and Innovations Conference this year. However, If you have any ideas about topics or speakers that we might use in the future, please let us know below.


Topic or Speaker Ideas for NCAF's 2016 Ideas and Innovations Conference

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