What We Do
Open Buffalo is a Community Movement for Social and Economic Justice.
By developing a unified movement, our communities will be organized to access resources, advocate for their rights, and be empowered to live free from poverty and discrimination.
Open Buffalo’s mission is to create systemic changes leading to an “open” city for residents of Buffalo, N.Y., through the measures of equality, justice, and freedom. Open Buffalo provides leadership development, media and policy strategy and coordination, direct support, and assistance to social and economic justice organizations and campaigns, facilitates action-oriented community research, and raises the profile of and mobilizes funding for this important work.
What we do
BUILDING CIVIC CAPACITYOpen Buffalo will increase Buffalo communities’ capacity to effect systemic change through four strategies:
- Arts Integration: The Open Buffalo Arts Integration strategy is about creating new spaces and partnerships to uplift both art and activism in our community. Open Buffalo arts partners play a role in designing our leadership development initiatives, contribute creativity to our issue-based work, and help to change the stories Buffalo tells itself and the world.
- Innovation Lab: The Innovation Lab builds Buffalo’s capacity to generate new ideas, do original research, draw more effectively on local and national best practices, share information more broadly, and draft new laws and policies.
- Leadership Development: Through various workshops and leadership training initiatives, Open Buffalo works to increase Buffalo’s population of skilled change-makers. We train residents to mobilize their communities around equity issues and to take on leadership roles in community, nonprofit, and government sectors.
- Restorative Justice is bringing neighborhood-based solutions to conflicts at designated "Peace Hubs" throughout the city of Buffalo. Open Buffalo partners are also working to see the Buffalo Public Schools and the criminal justice system embrace Restorative Justice practices, in which all the stakeholders affected by an injustice discuss its effects and decide what should be done to repair the harm, offering more satisfying resolutions to victims and better results for offenders and communities.
Open Buffalo’s social and economic justice campaign work falls into two general issue categories:
- High Road Economic Development will make sure that the community benefits from economic development programs and projects through quality jobs, education and training, local and minority business opportunities, and green design and operations, with an initial focus on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, the WNY Regional Economic Development Council, and the New York Power Authority. This area of our work addresses poverty, inequity, and training needs among workers, particularly minorities, refugees, youth, and ex-offenders.
- Justice and Opportunity will work with residents, community-based organizations, and the local criminal justice and corrections systems to create safer neighborhoods, cut recidivism, and bring about true community-oriented policing practices in Buffalo.
OPEN PLACES INITIATIVE
Buffalo was one of three regions chosen by Open Society Foundations (OSF) for its Open Places Initiative to increase the capacity of local communities to bring about lasting systemic change in equity, justice, and democratic practice. OSF reached out to community groups in 16 cities and asked them to apply for planning grants, of which eight were awarded. Of the eight resulting plans, OSF chose three for implementation funding, which is expected to last at least three years and up to ten. The other regions chosen were Puerto Rico and San Diego.
Open Society Foundations initially reached out to four community groups: Coalition for Economic Justice, Partnership for the Public Good, PUSH Buffalo, and VOICE-Buffalo. These groups crafted the Open Buffalo plan through a broad-reaching community process with door-knocking, community events, focus groups, three working groups, a planning council, and an advisory committee. Local foundations, government officials, academics, labor and business leaders, activists, and residents all played key roles in shaping the plan.