What is CCEL?

Community-based Corridor Enhancement Labs (CCEL)

District Bridges Community-based Corridor Enhancement Labs are programs that leverage District Bridges’ organizational capacity to support emerging community-based economic development initiatives across the District and beyond.

District Bridges’ Community-based Corridor Enhancement Labs was a concept born out of experience. In 2005, a small group of passionate community members came together to plan a community event that would highlight the small businesses and unique community groups in the Washington, DC neighborhood of Columbia Heights. This event grew into a beloved annual event and in 2009, the small group of community volunteers established a nonprofit entity called the Columbia Heights Day Initiative to enable the event to grow and become sustainable. After 10 years of running successful festivals and growing the volunteer board of directors, the organization wanted to support the community beyond just a one-day event. It was with that vision that the board hired the first executive director and began developing dedicated programs that would serve the small business community of Columbia Heights, engage residents and community stakeholders, and support a holistic economic development strategy. It was that community -based grassroots movement that enabled the Columbia Heights Initiative to pursue a Main Street grant in 2016 which provided dedicated long term funding for this work. It is that legacy that built the organization that District Bridges is today and now we want to help other communities develop similar initiatives. We have developed three building blocks of success that enable communities to launch a new CCEL program. 

Three Building Blocks of Success

Building Block 1: Community Commitment

Many communities already have active citizens associations, business associations, arts and humanities organizations, and community stakeholders who are committed to supporting their communities. The first step necessary for establishing a CCEL program is identifying and engaging the active community stakeholders and gaining their commitment to the vision. Once we’ve identified our community stakeholders we work with them to form a Neighborhood Strategy Council. In partnership with the Neighborhood Strategy Council, we develop a fundraising campaign to raise an initial financial commitment of $25,000 to launch the program. 

Building Block 2: Community Needs Assessment

Once we have an established Neighborhood Strategy Council and the initial financial investment we start our community needs assessment. Through a collaborative process with work with the community, to conduct a business survey to understand the individual needs and challenges the businesses are facing. We will use this data to develop business technical assistance programs unique to the needs of the area businesses. We also conduct a community survey and corridor/stakeholder mapping to understand all of the unique perspectives of the community and to understand the assets and resources available.

Building Block 3: Identity, Communications, and Sustainability

Through a series of facilitated community sessions, we develop a brand and identity for the program. With this brand, we develop dedicated social media and communications channels to share out what the program is doing and how the community can get involved. CCEL programs are intended to be a launchpad to establish long-term, community-based economic development efforts in a community. Developing a sustainable funding strategy is critical to making a CCEL successful. We work with our community stakeholders to develop a strategy that leverages their unique assets and will provide the support and programming the community needs sustainably.