Austin’s quality-of-life plan called Austin Forward. Together. (AFT), is a set of goals created by and for the community designed to address 23 strategies with 84 total actions across 7 Issue Areas between 2019 and 2024: Community Narrative, Education, Housing, Youth Empowerment, Economic Development, Public Safety, and Civic Engagement.
Today, there are more than 45 dedicated volunteer members across seven Task Forces, each focused on one of the seven Issue Areas in the plan. In partnership with ACT, these Task Forces have signed on over 70 unique organizations as implementation partners and together have initiated more than 42% of the plan’s total actions so far!
One of the many ways ACT helps catalyze local development is by working to attract investments in the Austin community as a whole. To that end, ACT has secured funds from several sources that desire to support AFT.
In 2018, ACT’s ability to apply community-driven solutions to foster economic opportunity resulted in a $1 million Vital Communities grant from The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Part of that investment was utilized to support necessary infrastructure and the remainder was allocated to ACT Core Members implementing activities in the plan.
We are proud to announce these eight organizations were selected during this last funding cycle, for which $150,131 total funds will be distributed.
The goal of the Economic Development Task Force is to create economic revitalization in Austin and by Austin. We will support new and existing local businesses, entrepreneurs, and the workforce; improve our commercial corridors; and attract new investment to build a stronger, more dynamic local economy.
FUNDED ACTION: Expand and support local resources like bootcamps and apprenticeships in high-demand economic sectors.
$12,500 will support New Moms’ job training and job-readiness program that includes career planning and coaching on critical life and parenting topics for young, unemployed women ages 16-24 in Austin, many of whom face homelessness or have dropped out of school. The program has been in place since 1996, and over the past 5 years, has placed 378 young moms into permanent employment, of which 57% have retained employment for 12+ months, and 70% increased their educational levels while enrolled.
$16,891 will be allocated to Manufacturing Renaissance (MR) for their Young Manufacturers Association Career Pathway Services program that offers ten weeks of technical training and career development for Austin residents aged 18-29 to start a living-wage career in the high-demand manufacturing industry. Participants also receive professionalism training, job interview coordination and placement, job retention supports, and on-the-job coaching.
FUNDED ACTION: Build a new Manufacturing Training Center in Austin.
$14,000 will help Jane Addams Resource Corporation (JARC) continue their manufacturing training programming and plan for their future move into the Aspire Center for Workforce Innovation. JARC’s training in welding and computer numerical controls means more residents, many of whom are justice-involved or experiencing housing insecurity, can increase their capacity to provide for their families and invest in their community.
The goal of the Public Safety Task Force is to collaborate and create programs that increase a sense of safety, community and quality of life to build a healthy and resilient neighborhood.
FUNDED ACTION: Increase restorative justice activities in the community.
$22,500 will support BUILD’s continued efforts to increase the number and scope of restorative justice (RJ) activities available to residents in the Austin community, with a specific focus on training and a speaker series to coincide with the opening of the Austin Peace and Justice Center at BUILD’s new headquarters. BUILD’s RJ efforts this year will include increasing awareness and educating residents on restorative justice practices, recruiting and training youth, residents, and community partners as Restorative Justice Community Ambassadors, Circle Keepers, and Peacemakers (who will, in turn, train youth and community residents), and maintaining a full-time dedicated project manager tasked with overseeing this work. BUILD will also host RJ events in collaboration with community partners, including an Annual RJ Summit, an RJ speaker series, RJ conferences, workshops, and educational forums.
FUNDED ACTION: Expand outreach intervention programs that break the cycle of violence.
$16,500 will allow the Institute for Nonviolence Chicago to focus their violence reduction efforts in different “sectors” of Austin. INVC plans to work with local churches to bring congregants and those at greatest risk of being involved in violence together to build at least one new block club, support existing block clubs and provide nonviolence training as well as opportunities for the groups to host pop-up events throughout Austin to encourage inter-generational communication.
The goal of the Education Task Force is for our local educational system and partners to provide the services, opportunities, and support to help all our students stay on track, enrich their education and serve their needs, from early childhood through high school, to job and career readiness.
FUNDED ACTION: Improve the early learning environment in Austin by helping providers become accredited and more deeply prepared for child development.
$20,000 will help Austin Childcare Providers Network provide academic assistance for ten early care professionals as they pursue higher education to become eligible for child care credentials.
The goal of the Community Narrative Task Force is to revitalize the image and spirit of Austin by promoting assets such as our historic housing, creating a healthy community and building a more robust environment for local arts and culture.
FUNDED ACTION: Build a sense of community through activities such as creating and maintaining community gardens.
$16,740 will fund South Austin Neighborhood Association (SANA)’s to support the Austin Veterans Community Organization, maintain the Veterans Peace Garden, and host community events. A portion of the funds will be used to focus on marketing and outreach for events, increasing SANA membership, hosting more fundraisers and building out a sustainability plan.
FUNDED ACTION: Bridge the gap between residents’ experiences and how they are reflected by media outlets.
$16,000 will support the expansion of the Austin Has The Mic (AHTM) training program at BUILD Inc. AHTM will leverage strong community partnerships between multiple stakeholders to reclaim and rebuild the narrative often told about Austin. BUILD will recruit Austin youth who will partner with local media outlets, the Austin Weekly News and the Austin Talks online news site, to conduct interviews with Austin residents willing to share stories about their experiences. Austin youth will receive professional training in various facets of journalism, including interviewing and storytelling.
The goal of the Youth Empowerment Task Force is for Austin to have healthier and more engaged youth who are able to reach their full potential.
FUNDED ACTION: Create paths for youth interactions with mentors and role models.
$15,000 will support staffing for St. Joseph Services’ Youth Mentoring Program at St. Angela’s Catholic School which provides a safe mentoring environment to teach youth the crucial life, social, and emotional skills needed to cope with trauma, peacefully resolve conflicts and sustain positive behaviors. Plus, guest speakers deliver a valuable component of programming by leading classes on topics based on their expertise.
If you or anyone you know would like to get involved in the Austin Forward. Together. (AFT) quality-of-life plan, please contact AFT Lead Organizer Ethan Ramsay at