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Neighborhood Allies and Steel Smiling launch Organization-in-Residence Pilot Program


Last updated 8/17/2021 at 8:04am

Neighborhood Allies and Steel Smiling are launching an innovative Organization-in-Residence Pilot Program.

The Organization-in-Residence initiative is an innovative pilot program co-created by Neighborhood Allies and Steel Smiling. The intention of the program is two-fold: To incubate a nascent and growing, Black-led organization to eventually launch as an independent non-profit entity and to bring a holistic, more person-centered approach to community development by aligning Steel Smiling’s Black mental health programs with Neighborhood Allies’ economic mobility and digital inclusion work. 

Through this partnership, Neighborhood Allies endeavor to develop a model that suits the specific and individualized needs of Steel Smiling, yet is flexible enough to be replicated and adapted for equitable growth across the sector. In sharing our infrastructure, Neighborhood Allies is embodying the practice of “Transformational Capacity Building” by working to mitigate the racial inequities that often prevent nonprofits of color from serving their community members to their highest potential. The hope is this partnership alignment will begin to shift local paradigms.

“Mental health, healing and restoration are more important than ever in developing healthy neighborhoods. In this alignment we view our role as a thought partner, close collaborator and a mentor-like organization”, said Neighborhood Allies President, Presley Gillespie. “We want to aid Steel Smiling in managing their accelerated growth, and create space for them to grow at a pace that is sustainable, so they are eventually poised to successfully transition into their own complementary 501c3 organization.”

The launch of this program represents the evolution and growth of a long-standing relationship between Neighborhood Allies and Steel Smiling, which is grounded in mutual respect and foundationally aligned missions, that until this point, were disconnected from an operational standpoint. Through organic growth, the Organization-In-Residence model was something that was created over a two-year period--beginning with a bundled fiscal sponsorship and Catalytic grant that Neighborhood Allies provided to Steel Smiling in 2019. 

At the core of this innovative model is the intention to disrupt inequitable patterns of investment and resourcing when it comes to building capacity for Black-led, Black-focused nonprofits and other non-profits of color in the Southwestern Pennsylvania Region. With this partnership, Steel Smiling will have heightened capacity to meet the needs of those they serve by accessing Neighborhood Allies’ organizational infrastructure. Having the ability to share in these structures, policies and services means that the Steel Smiling team will be able to both broaden and deepen their reach in ensuring that every Black person in Allegheny County has at least one positive mental health experience by 2030.

“This partnership will help us meet the exponential mental health and wellness needs of our Black neighbors in a more comprehensive and holistic way,” said Steel Smiling founder and managing director, Julius Boatwright. “At a time when racial and economic disparities continue to grow, we’re positioned to address these inequities through a one-of-a-kind accelerated, scalable, and sustained model.” 

The Steel Smiling staff officially joins the Neighborhood Allies team in August, 2021. In the first 60 days, Steel Smiling plans to onboard four full-time staff members, implement financial oversight policies, procedures, and practices, re-imagine their advisory board structure and identify internal resources to support scaling and efficiency of programmatic efforts.


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