Grounded Solutions Network is a newly formed national nonprofit, the result of a merger between the National Community Land Trust Network (NCLTN) and Cornerstone Partnership (Cornerstone). Public Interest Management Group worked with NCLTN and Cornerstone to forge a merger agreement and integration plan over an 18-month period, starting in 2014.

As of last month, the two entities are one.The new organization is taking a holistic approach to ensuring that communities across the U.S. are inclusive across all income levels for generations to come.

This is not a small issue to tackle. It’s no secret that many cities have seen sharply rising housing costs in recent decades. While the affordable housing sector accomplishes a great deal with limited resources, the powerful current of change is pushing many urban centers towards increasingly homogeneous bastions of higher income households. Low and moderate income people and families have seen skyrocketing rents, or have been dislocated to outlying areas with poor access to jobs and services. This is a social justice issue, but we all pay an economic price for these pressures; the loss of diversity in urban cores threatens to change the character of communities in negative ways. Housing supply and policy are big parts of the solution, but this issue overlaps issues like transportation, economic development and the environment. Grounded Solutions Network aims to promote communities that are highly functional on multiple levels.

The merger process had many complexities. For example, the two partner entities had very different structures. NCLTN was a membership organization of community land trusts, an innovative affordable housing model that ensures long-term affordability and helps low-income households build equity and gain an economic foothold. Cornerstone, by contrast, was a program of Capital Impact Partners, a nationally focused community development financial institution with a 30-year history.  While the partners have had a close working relationship for years, their organizational differences entailed a many-layered approach to integration.

Grounded Solutions Network Co-Executive Directors, Rachel Silver and Melora Hiller.

Grounded Solutions Network Co-Executive Directors, Rachel Silver and Melora Hiller.

Co-Executive Director Rachel Silver describes the motivation of a single, combined organization: “We were two moderate-sized entities with big goals, a strong history of partnership, and increasingly overlapping work areas. The question for us throughout the exploration and negotiation process was whether together we could create a new organization that was stronger, more impactful, and more efficient than the sum of our parts.”

Turns out, the answer to that question was a resounding “yes.” The two staffs are now one. A new board, with representatives of both partners as well as diverse and talented “new blood,” has begun its work. National funders, including the Ford Foundation, are supporting the new entity. The agenda is bold, and Grounded Solutions Network is off to a running start.

What made the process successful? Clearly, the willingness of the partners to think differently and work together was crucial. The support of funders made a difference. Careful attention to integration details was essential. And the negotiation process was handled with care.

The PIMG consulting team “knew what to bring up and when, which topics required preparation behind the scenes, and how to keep people focused on our goals and moving forward, while respecting everyone’s need to be heard and the sometimes emotional nature of our discussions,” according to Silver.

As a result of the coordinated efforts of many, we can look forward to a bright future for an exciting new organization attacking a challenging issue for our country. Grounded Solution Network’s work will include promoting successful community-based housing approaches, supporting nonprofit housing practitioners in their work, coordinating efforts with various national entities working on related issues, and advocating for inclusive public policies across the nation.

Join me in wishing our newest national nonprofit focused on building inclusive communities well in its launch!

AuthorScott Schaffer