Provided training, peer learning opportunities, creative space, and resources to
enable participants to tackle obstacles and create more homeownership opportunities in their communities
In January 2020, Enterprise Community Partners launched its Native Homeownership Learning Communities Cohort (NHLCC), a twelve-month initiative focused on building the capacity of participating organizations to deliver homeownership programming. The initiative was designed to provide training, peer learning opportunities, creative space, and resources to enable participants to tackle obstacles and create more homeownership opportunities in their communities.
To support impactful work in Native communities, Enterprise saw the value in developing a peer learning cohort that could build on the curriculum and go beyond stand-alone training sessions to give participants the opportunity to dig deeper and work more intensively on the critical components of homeownership. A diverse mix of 18 organizations participated in the 2020 NHLCC Cohort, representing Tribally Designated Housing Entities (TDHEs), Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFls), and other Native nonprofit organizations, and ranged from new, start-up
organizations, to more mature, experienced organizations.
Originally, Enterprise planned a twelve-month initiative, which would include in-person
convenings at the beginning, middle, and end of the twelve months. During the pandemic, this shifted to a fully virtual program, and was extended to May 2021. Cohort members met virtually each month, through sessions that provided homeownership content, as well as opportunities for peer-sharing, community teamwork, and reflection. In addition, Enterprise added new discussion topics to address emerging issues that cohort members were facing, including foreclosure prevention. Each cohort organization received grant funding to support their homeownership efforts.
As the NHLCC is a pilot initiative, Enterprise made a commitment to understanding program impact and identifying ways that the current and future cohorts could be improved. Enterprise's Knowledge, Impact & Strategy (KIS) team and Seven Sisters evaluated the initiative through a series of surveys and interviews over the course of the program.
The results of the evaluation were overwhelmingly positive, and 93 percent of participants would recommend NHLCC to a colleague.
The evaluation also highlighted opportunities for improvement, including providing more time for breakout discussions, convening a smaller cohort, adding advanced content, continuing to incorporate in-person gatherings, and ensuring that each organization participates with a regional partner. NHLCC might consider exploring a cohort for small TDHEs and increasing funding for participating organizations.
Enterprise provided up to $30,000 in grant funding to each participating organization over the course of the program, with $15,000 in grant funds allocated at the start of the NHLCC and the remainder available as needed.
After two monthly, three-hour virtual sessions, Enterprise shifted to providing two shorter cohort sessions each month. The first two-hour session provided opportunities for peer learning and connection, with time for community teams to meet, group discussions, and topic-specific breakout discussions. Monthly cohort discussions focused on key topics, including foreclosure prevention, accessing tribal leaders support, goal setting and evaluation, and business and sustainability planning.
The second, one-hour session covered presentations of homeownership-related content with primarily guest speakers. This second session was offered in a webinar format and was optional to cohort members depending on their interest in the topic, and was also frequently open to non-cohort members as well. Some webinars built on topics in the Enhancing and Implementing curriculum, while others focused on additional topics suggested by participants, including preparing for a housing needs assessment in a pandemic and frameworks for holistic community development.
Collecting participant feedback on the NHLCC experience has been vital for Enterprise in evaluating the value of the pilot program and measuring impact goals. The baseline and final surveys explored the impact of the NHLCC on participating organizations' capacity to develop or enhance homeownership programs, while the mid-point survey focused primarily on peer-to-peer learning and cohort partnerships.
Overall, the evaluation indicated that the NHLCC program was successful in advancing tribal homeownership efforts among participating organizations and in meeting the program's impact goals. At the completion of the program, 73 percent of respondents found the NHLCC to be "very useful" and 93 percent of respondents would recommend this program to other colleagues.
Participants highlighted the value of the diversity of the organizations which made up the cohort, in terms of type of organization and level of experience: "I think the diversity of the group brought a lot of different knowledge to the table." Similar initiatives typically bring together similar organizations (TDHE, CDFI, nonprofit) with comparable levels of experience. Significantly, both mature and younger organizations expressed that cohort programming was valuable and met their needs.
Every organization that had the opportunity to work in a community team through the cohort shared that their partnerships were strengthened through the initiative. Starting at the initial launch at Gila River, community teams had the opportunity to meet together to develop joint plans and common goals. Even when many cohort members were working remotely during the pandemic, many of the monthly cohort session also provided the time for partners to meet through virtual breakout sessions. One participant noted, for example," ... we got to know them better, their particular needs and how we might help each other, so that was definitely a great partnership." Another participant shared, "We recently reached out to Mazaska, and Lakota Funds has been huge in helping us ... they are really coming through for us to fill gaps."