Practitioner Briefs

IFF: Building Capacity Through Scale and Integration »

Since its founding in 1988, IFF—a community development financial institution operating throughout the Midwest—has helped build community development and human services capacity in low-income and underserved communities, including struggling suburbs. In this brief, Joe Neri and Trinita Logue, CEO and President of IFF, describe how IFF has intentionally evolved to embody two elements that have been critical to the organization’s success: its effective scale and integrated continuum of services. They also share lessons IFF has learned on building capacity in resource-strapped suburbs.

Neighborhood Opportunity Network: A Collaborative Response to Rising Need in Montgomery County »

In this brief, Uma Ahluwalia, director of the Department of Health and Human Services in Montgomery County, MD, describes how the county partnered with nonprofit service providers, philanthropy, and community members to create the Neighborhood Opportunity Network–a collaborative and culturally competent response to growing need in Montgomery County, MD.

The Road Map Project: Regional Innovation for Student Success »

Mary Jean Ryan of the Community Center for Education Results discusses how the Road Map Project, a four-year-old collective impact project focusing on Seattle’s southern suburbs, emerged to tackle the region’s education challenges, and offers lessons for other regions that may be contemplating similar collaborations that span traditional jurisdiction and sector boundaries.

Building Capacity Through Collaboration in Chicago’s Suburbs »

In this brief, Robin Snyderman and Beth Dever of BRicK Partners describe the formation of municipal collaboratives in Chicago’s suburbs following the housing crisis, and offer 10 lessons for other communities considering collaborative approaches to promoting economic opportunity.

Case Studies

The MET Center »

Located in an inner-ring suburb of St. Louis, the Metropolitan Education and Training (MET) Center has crafted an integrated workforce development model that works with residents and employers throughout the region to promote the economic self-sufficiency of low-income workers and contribute to a competitive metropolitan economy.

CommonBond Communities »

CommonBond Communities, the Midwest’s largest nonprofit provider of affordable housing integrated with services, has operated in the Greater Minneapolis-St. Paul region for more than 40 years. This case study describes CommonBond’s success in expanding its offerings in the region’s suburbs, as well as continuing challenges and potential solutions for meeting growing affordable housing needs in suburbia.

The Denver TOD Fund »

The Denver TOD Fund, the first of its kind in the country, is an innovative funding tool that leverages public and private investments to increase the access of low-income residents to affordable housing, jobs, and services around transit.

Great Neighborhoods »

Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance launched Great Neighborhoods in 2010 to build a regional nonprofit infrastructure that supports partners across Greater Boston’s cities and suburbs as they work to make their communities more affordable, diverse, walkable, and vibrant. This case study describes the initiative’s design and accomplishments to date.

The Housing Partnership Equity Trust »

In 2013, the Housing Partnership Network, together with a mix of private and philanthropic investors and 12 of its nonprofit members, launched the Housing Partnership Equity Trust. HPET is a market-driven, social-purpose real estate investment trust that allows HPN’s nonprofit partners to quickly and efficiently acquire and preserve affordable housing in cities and suburbs across the country.


From its origins as a $2.7 million loan fund focused on Chicago nonprofits, IFF (formerly the Illinois Facilities Fund) has grown into one of America’s leading nonprofit community development financial institutions (CDFI), offering a continuum of services across the Midwest.

Latin American Youth Center »

In 2005, D.C.-based Latin American Youth Center (LAYC) extended its comprehensive portfolio of urban social services—from education and job training initiatives to the coordination of housing for homeless and runaway youth—into nearby suburbs. To do so successfully, LAYC had to adapt its approach to service delivery.

Montgomery County »

In 2009, during the deepest part of the recession, officials from Montgomery County government partnered with leaders from the faith-based community, social service nonprofits, and grassroots organizations to develop strategies aimed at delivering critical emergency and safety net services to struggling communities and families in the area.

Mortgage Resolution Fund »

Four of the nation’s leading organizations working on low-income housing needs brought their complementary skill sets together to create the Mortgage Resolution Fund (MRF). MRF’s goal is to help homeowners stay in their homes and to stabilize and revitalize communities hard-hit by the foreclosure crisis.

Neighborhood Centers »

Houston’s Neighborhood Centers is a social service nonprofit that provides services to over 400,000 low-income residents a year in more than 60 locations throughout across Texas. Its services reach inner-city as well as suburban communities, and include programs for children, youth, seniors, and immigrants on everything from health and education, to leadership and economic development, financial literacy and security, and paths to citizenship.

Road Map Project »

The Road Map Project, launched in the Seattle Region in 2010, aims to double postsecondary educational attainment and close achievement gaps for the almost 120,000 students in the suburban school districts of Auburn, Federal Way, Highline, Kent, Renton, and Tukwila, as well as the public schools in South Seattle.

Suburban Chicago Collaboratives »

In response to the foreclosure crisis, suburban municipalities on Chicago’s west and south sides formed interjurisdictional collaboratives to address shared challenges together, rather than compete with one another for limited resources.