In December of 2012, on behalf of a local steering committee comprised of local community, city, non-profit, and business representatives, the City of Indianapolis submitted a letter of interest in establishing a local Groundwork trust to the National Park Service (NPS) and Groundwork USA (GW USA). Following site visits by the NPS and GWUSA in May 2013, the City of Indianapolis was awarded funding and technical assistance from NPS and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) in December 2013 to conduct a Feasibility Study to assess whether or not a Groundwork was appropriate for our community and should be established in Indianapolis.
The Groundwork Indy Steering Committee was organized to reflect a working partnership between local government, business leaders, and community groups. This alliance is central to Groundwork’s approach and reinforced in its triangle logo (Changing Places, Changing Lives). The partnership model is designed to facilitate action and to help communities move beyond obstacles that have thwarted results in the past. It is also why the term “Trust” is used to describe Groundwork nonprofits.
The Steering Committee worked for six months to develop a strategic plan for creating Groundwork Indy, which would initially work on revitalizing the Northwest Area of the city through community-based environmental projects. The study considered a number of issues related to starting up a Groundwork Trust in this area, including the need for the organization, the primary goals and objectives, the short and long-term projects, the partnerships to be embraced, and how the organization could be sustained over time.
One of the great strengths of the Feasibility Study was that it took place in tandem with the completion of the Northwest Area Quality of Life (QOL) plan. This major community engagement process was led by local residents and organized by several members of the Groundwork Indy Steering Committee, including the City of Indianapolis, Flanner House and Local Initiatives Support Corporation. Over the course of a 16-month period, more than 3, 000 Northwest Area residents contributed to the QOL plan and 75% of the community was canvassed to develop a shared vision for moving the neighborhood forward. The results of the QOL strongly informed the Groundwork strategic plan and the Steering Committee viewed Groundwork as a one vehicle for implementing the QOL’s action agenda, especially as it relates to community open space, greenways, brownfields, youth development, and environmental restoration.
The Feasibility Study was completed in January 2015. Start up was approved by the Steering Committee, NPS, and GW USA in March 2015. A Board of Directors was formed and Groundwork Indy was established in April 2015, and an Executive Director was hired in August of 2015.