The History of CNE
Thirty-one years ago, Bob Woodson sat down with a group of trusted grassroots leaders and asked them what an organization might do to help them realize their dreams of helping their neighbors in low-income communities around the country. They told him many barriers hindered their work, including their own lack of knowledge about how to structure and effectively manage an organization, raise and track finances, and to present their own case so others would want to support them.
Armed with only a $25,000 grant, Woodson resigned his position as a Resident Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, and launched the National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise. He founded the Center with three important principles:
• Those suffering the problem must be involved in the creation and implementation of the solution
• The principles of the market economy should be applied to the solution of societal problems
• Faith-based and value-generating organizations are uniquely qualified to address the problems of poverty
There have been many lean times over the years. But Woodson and the Center have remained true to those principles, and used them for some important victories, such as empowering resident management of public housing; giving low-income neighborhood leaders a voice in public policy; helping them create partnerships in the revitalization of urban neighborhoods; and developing a unique initiative that is effectively reducing youth violence in schools and communities throughout the nation. Over the years, the Center has brought training and technical assistance to more than 2600 leaders of faith-based and community organizations in 39 states and helped them attain more than 10 times the funding expended by the Center.
A CNE Chronology
- 1981: Robert L. Woodson, Sr., resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, resigns to found the NationalCenter for Neighborhood Enterprise.
- 1982: “Neighborhoods Reach for the Stars” NCNE’s historic national video teleconference links neighborhood-based groups from around the nation with policymakers in Washington, DC, in first major use of technology at this scale outside of corporate America.
- 1985: NCNE identifies and supports the efforts of public housing residents to take on ownership and management responsibilities for the properties in which they live, and helps establish successful pilot resident management program.
- 1985: With support from the Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) office, NCNE begins 15 year program of offering minigrants to youth-serving neighborhood organizations that otherwise would never qualify for conventional government or private sector support.
- 1987: For first time in eight years, the U.S. Housing Act is amended to allow resident management of public housing. It is passed by both Houses of Congress and signed into law by President Reagan with resident leaders in attendance.
- 1989: “Not Here You Don’t” major national video teleconference dramatizes successes of neighborhood-based efforts to combat drugs and crime.
- 1989: NCNE provides training and technical assistance to empower neighborhood leaders in South Africa as apartheid ends.
- 1991-1992: NCNE conducts series of “What Works and Why” conferences at five regions around the country, inviting effective grassroots program leaders to explain their success. More than 90% report that faith in a higher power is the most important element of their programs.
- 1991: The unique training of leaders of neighborhood-based organizations that NCNE has provided since its inception is formalized through the establishment of the Center’s Neighborhood Leadership Development Institute (NLDI). NCNE begins holding classes near Washington, DC.
- 1993: Indianapolis Mayor Steve Goldsmith targets seven inner city Indianapolis neighborhoods for revitalization, and asks NCNE to help empower potential neighborhood leaders so that their organizations can participate in the economic restoration of the center city. NCNE provides training and facilitates new partnerships among residents, city officials, and the business community. Groups trained by NCNE receive more than $80 million in grants and participate as full partners in a $700 million campaign to rebuild the city’s poorest neighborhoods.
- 1994: At the request of the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, NCNE begins work in Milwaukee, finding promising grassroots groups unknown to the foundation community. Working with its Milwaukee community-based partner Community Enterprises of Greater Milwaukee, NCNE provides training and technical assistance to more than 100 leaders, whose organizations were able to receive millions in funding as a result.
- 1995: In response to a request by the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, the National Center assembles a panel of some 30 of the nation’s most effective faith-based and community groups, to advise the Congress on welfare reform and other public policy issues. Their recommendations, presented in May, form the basis of Charitable Choice, the Community Renewal Act, and welfare reform legislation.
- 1995: The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania asks NCNE to assist its public policy efforts by identifying and coordinating a statewide task force of grassroots groups to develop specific recommendations. Their report is presented at an historic session of the legislature, May 10, 1995.
- 1995: The Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse (TCADA) threatens to close a Teen Challenge chapter in San Antonio because the faith-based program does not use state-credentialed drug and alcohol counselors or meet other requirements of the therapeutic industry. After appealing to the government to no avail, NCNE President Bob Woodson stages a rally at the Alamo attended by hundreds of former addicts. The public demonstration leads to newly-elected Governor George W. Bush appointing a committee on faith-based programs, and introducing legislation to create a separate category exempting faith-based programs from the requirements of the therapeutic industry.
- 1996: The leadership of the Wisconsin Assembly asks NCNE to find successful grassroots service providers in that state, to elicit from them how government can reduce barriers and work more closely with them. NCNE and CEGM partner to convene the leaders of more than 25 highly successful organizations and facilitate the preparation of their recommendations. The task force members present the report in a full session of the Assembly.
- 1997: Washington, DC is shocked by the murder of a 12-year old boy in violence between two youth factions living at Benning Terrace public housing development. NCNE works with a grassroots group–the Alliance of Concerned Men–to negotiate a truce and stop the killing. The NationalCenter then enlists the DC Housing Authority to provide jobs and other support. There have been no further crew-related killings in that area since that date. NCNE’s Violence-Free Zone program is established.
- 1998: The State of Ohio asks NCNE’s assistance in developing partnerships with community and faith-based organizations in welfare reform. NCNE develops a pilot program for five counties, which Ohio subsequently applies to the entire state.
- 1999: National teleconference “Solutions to Youth Violence” is held with 78 sites participating across the nation. Young people from the inner city and suburban and rural communities like Columbine, CO share experiences and strategies to stop violence.
- 2001: In response to requests from White House, cabinet officers, and members of Congress, NCNE again convenes some 25 faith-based and grassroots program leaders to produce report on barriers and public policy recommendations.
- 2002: Community leaders from Lowndes County, Alabama, appeal for help. NCNE launches Alabama Rural Initiative with support from HSBC to address lack of septic systems, high utility bills, high unemployment, and lack of economic development.
- 2003: NCNE and HSBC launch financial literacy education initiative, with grassroots organizations in the NationalCenter’s network hosting workshops throughout the country in low-income areas.
- 2003: NCNE is awarded grant from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Compassion Capital Fund, to provide technical assistance and subgrants to faith-based and community groups in Washington, DC’s Wards 7 and 8.
- 2004: The National Center links Victory Fellowship of San Antonio, TX and House of Help in Washington, DC to funders who make it possible for them to construct new facilities. NCNE provides training and technical assistance to both organizations.
- 2005: Violence-Free Zone initiative is producing outstanding results in Atlanta, Baltimore, Dallas, Milwaukee, and Washington, DC.
- 2006: NCNE moves to new headquarters in Washington, DC, and streamlines its name to Center for Neighborhood Enterprise (CNE).
- 2006: The Center for Neighborhood Enterprise celebrates 25 years of service to residents of low-income communities with a program of performances, videos, and inspiring testimonies at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, October 18, 2006.
- 2008: Milwaukee Public Schools contracts with CNE to put the Violence-Free Zone program in eight public high schools. The Latino Community Center and Running Rebels Community Organization are CNE community partners and implement the VFZ program in the schools.
- 2009: The Violence-Free Zone is in 32 public high schools for the 2009/2010 school year, including Atlanta (6), Baltimore (4), Dallas (13), Milwaukee (8), and Richmond, VA (1).