The other things FutureHeights does-ľand will do

Well into its seventh year, the Heights Observer has achieved a basic level of sustainability—it has repeatable operating processes in place, and brings in roughly the same amount of money each month that it costs to produce.

It’s a fragile balance that would fall apart quickly without the efforts of a large group of volunteers and a core of part-time employees/contractors, who perform the daily tasks you can’t expect people to do for free 77 months in a row, and counting.

Distributing nearly 120,000 print copies a year at more than 250 Cleveland Heights and University Heights locations, and serving 227,000 website pages to 63,000 people in 99,000 visits over the past 12 months, the Observer is the best known program of the nonprofit FutureHeights.

But it’s not the only one.

At the FutureHeights annual meeting late last month, Executive Director Deanna Bremer Fisher outlined the organization’s other activities. Here are just a few:

  • Hosted a speaker series on topics including community organizing, community gardens, safe winter sidewalks and a candidate forum;
  • Presented the inaugural Heights Music Hop, and the annual Best of the Heights awards;
  • Served as a fiscal agent for numerous small community organizations so that they could operate as if they had full nonprofit status—which is increasingly costly and regulated;
  • Co-hosted welcome events for new residents, highlighting some of the many fascinating people who call the Heights home;
  • Provided technical assistance to some of our highly valued business districts;
  • Participated actively in a range of local planning initiatives.

All of these activities, including publishing the Heights Observer, seek to support a sense of community—and they point to what’s next.

Over the coming years, FutureHeights plans to implement what it’s calling a community capacity-building program. It will help to strengthen existing community groups and encourage new ones to form so that our problems, needs and desires can be identified, not at a regional or city level, but neighborhood by neighborhood and block by block.

If it sounds highfalutin and theoretical, be assured, it’s not. Cleveland Heights has a long history of community groups that do this—block clubs and neighborhood associations. The tradition in University Heights isn’t as strong, perhaps because it’s a much smaller city. But the discipline of neighborhood planning—listening, analyzing data, identifying priorities and creating action steps—has grown more technical over the years. The issues we face have become tougher, too. More and more, existing community groups need support and expertise.

FutureHeights doesn’t plan to provide this by working alone. It hopes to work cooperatively with Cleveland Heights’s new administration; it’s begun raising funds to do the work; and it already has partnerships with some of the Heights’s most active community groups.

Over 11 years, FutureHeights has built technical and collaborative networks to help our neighborhoods take charge of their own destinies.  

With the Observer achieving self-sustenance, FutureHeights has more capacity to help others increase theirs. As a proud member of the organization and a former board member, I’m pleased to invite you to help in any way you can. Visit www.futureheights.org to learn more and become a member.

Bob Rosenbaum

Cleveland Heights resident Bob Rosenbaum, a former member of the FutureHeights Board of Directors, is co-chairman of the Heights Observer, and is responsible for its advertising sales and market development.

Read More on Opening the Observer
Volume 7, Issue 9, Posted 1:53 PM, 08.28.2014