Roots: A Space to Anchor and Sustain a Community

Roots: A Space to Anchor and Sustain a Community

Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Rather than develop a specific urban housing solution, our proposal goes to the root of the problem, and works to reduce the need for rural-urban migration. We will work with Grassroots United to introduce rural community centers to co-create community-driven programs to bring opportunities, independence, and recovery. Our design is a simple sustainable community center to be built by community members with local materials. This modular building can adapt to needs of any community and will provide a place to gather, share resources, and learn techniques to create a sustainable community. Community-identified and driven programs housed in this structure may focus on job creation, infrastructure development, education, farming and land stewardship, health and family services, and the arts.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

All members of the community will benefit from programs housed by the community center. People who were once forced to leave for cities to find jobs will have support to create jobs in their own communities. Support for infrastructure development and land stewardship will help Haitians find creative ways to make their rural environments more hospitable. The building complex will serve as a model and proving ground for sustainable and appropriate technologies that can be used by Haitians to build homes. Programs that focus on schools and provide teacher training will reduce the need for children to be sent to cities to receive an education. By providing space and support for community-driven programs, this project eliminates barriers that keep communities from meeting their own needs.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

We believe that there are many architectural, financial, and community strengthening ideas for how to strengthen the fabric of our cities and make them more sustainable, hopefully this competition will discover many more. What we have seen through time spent in Haiti, Jamaica, and Honduras is that the pressures from globalization and frequent disasters has made it more difficult for individuals to find what they need in their rural communities. The resulting migration to urban centers stresses the physical, economic, and social limitations of the cities, and leads to many of the problems we see today. Our project looks to lessen the strain in urban environments due to overpopulation by giving rural communities the tools to move toward a more self-sustaining environment. Through use of a community center, locals learn methods of creating safe, sustainable, and energy efficient housing. They will also have access to knowledge that can support programs such as community gardens, land stewardship, health care, school and infrastructure development, entrepreneurship, and the arts. The modular nature of the community center itself allows our project to be applicable to a wide variety of areas, especially in similar climates. With increased funding the project has great potential to incorporate more technical energy solutions into the community center, like solar panels and wind turbines, which will in turn help teach locals how to use such technology.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

While New Leaf Initiative's project has not yet begun, Grassroots United has had success with other building technology demonstration projects in Haiti, such as Earthships, shipping container housing, and geodesic domes. They also have proven success with logistical support and coalition building to distribute donated relief and medical supplies, such as LifeStraws, to Haitians in need. Success of the community center will be measured by assessing community well-being, both anecdotally through questions focused on human needs, and by measuring income generation and service and infrastructure development over time. Community center programs will be kick-started with a facilitated session to help the community determine critical needs and form programs to address those needs. This will provide an opportunity for New Leaf Initiative to conduct a baseline assessment of perceived well-being and current state of affairs with regard to jobs, schools, services, and infrastructure. Perceived well-being will be based on subjective individual assessments of personal fulfillment in categories that mirror Manfred Max-Neef's nine fundamental human needs - Subsistence, Protection, Affection, Creativity, Identity, Freedom, Understanding, Participation and Idleness. Additionally, success will be monitored by levels of community participation and awareness of center programs.
About You
New Leaf Initiative
About You
First Name


Last Name


About Your Organization
Organization Name

New Leaf Initiative

Organization Phone


Organization Address

204 West College Ave State College PA 16803

Organization Country

, PA, Centre County

Country where this project is creating social impact

, OU

How long has your organization been operating?

Less than a year

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What stage is your project in?

Idea phase

Share the story of the founder and what inspired the founder to start this project

New Leaf Initiative is a partnership of many sustainability practitioners with a broad array of expertise, from urban planning, to architecture and engineering, to community and collaborative services development. Our goal is to help society transition to a new model that encourages balance and restoration, guiding target populations to a place where they can meet their human needs without damaging the environment that they depend on for survival and stability. In Haiti, we see a desperate need for the most basic services - primarily food, jobs, schools, and clean water and waste management. But no community will become fully sustainable without also considering support for the arts or acknowledging their right and ability to determine and satisfy their own needs. We firmly believe that any sustainability model that is supported purely by foreign aid and based on the supposition that rural communities will eventually migrate to urban environments, out of necessity, will fail to bring Haiti’s people to a fulfilled and restorative future.

In Haiti, New Leaf will partner with Grassroots United, an organization that has proven success in bringing rural communities what they need most - health care, sustainable housing, and waste management technologies. Grassroots United has been working on the ground in Haiti since the earthquake and has been able to manage the tricky business of getting aid to the people that need it, while other well-meaning nonprofits have been mired in bureaucracy and logistical quagmires.

Social Impact
How many people have been impacted by your project?

Fewer than 100

How many people could be impacted by your project in the next three years?


What barriers might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?

Ever-present barriers to success are struggles to provide needed assistance to a community as an outsider to that community. New Leaf is accomplishing this by partnering with groups, like Grassroots United who have been working within communities for years, and have already built the relationships of trust and communication that will allow community centers to be operated immediately by residents.

Other barriers may include a reluctance of urban inhabitants to move to a rural environment. Some people feel a need to live in cities for special reasons, like proximity to arts communities or specialized jobs. And rural living can carry a stigma. However, the more success a community center has in supporting the well-being of a local community, the less necessary urban migration will become.

How will your project evolve over the next three years?

Over the next three years, we hope to have a thriving community space with strong knowledge sharing and support mechanisms in our first implementation of a Roots complex. We expect that in three year's time, the space will no longer rely on grants or microfinancing, but will be operating on it's own income, raised by the community through entrepreneurship programs.

After analyzing the success of this community center we can expand in either the same area to further alleviate stress on the urban environment or grow into different areas where the urban environments are being over-stressed or where the rural environments demand restoration to support communities. An eventual network of community centers will be able to share resources efficiently and work together on country-wide issues.

For each selection, please explain the financial and non-financial support from each

The construction and operation of the center will be funded initially by this grant and through a microfinancing program run by New Leaf Initiative. This program will allow individual investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency projects.

Once the center is set up, it will be primarily the responsibility of community residents to run programs and they will be encouraged to find ways to raise operational costs themselves over time. Grassroots United will facilitate interaction between residents and potential outside funding sources as needs arise. This may involve soliciting funds through microfinancing, or it may involve finding markets for products that the community would like to sell. Grassroots United will also organize any requested training sessions as needs arise.

To support the role of Grassroots United in this program, New Leaf Initiative will pursue grants to provide funding for a staff of 3 individuals to coordinate microfinance opportunities on the ground, run projects at the center, build a network of support in the target community, and coordinate collaborative problem solving initiatives with other centers and organizations.

How do you plan to grow and/or diversify your base of support in the next three years?

New Leaf Initiative works to bring together businesses, universities, and organizations to magnify the work each group is already doing by fostering mutually beneficial relationships. In this way, we hope to build community centers that foster and encourage local businesses and organizations to stand on their own and compete with globally produced goods, and city-centered opportunities. We hope that as the community centers grow, they will be anchored by deep roots into the communities they serve through increased offerings and participation.

Although the current proposal is focused on construction of a single community center in Haiti, it is our overall goal to create a design and implementation plan that can be reproduced throughout the world. Our existing group contains a unique blend of expertise which allows for both planning and execution of construction and future usage. To support these centers, New Leaf hopes to continue to grow itself, bringing ideas and energy to the centers by incorporating additional universities and organizations.

Please select your areas of intervention in the home improvement market

Design, Technology, Technical assistance, Sanitation, Water, Infrastructure, Energy conservation, Renewable energy, Green housing, Environment, Income generation, Rural development, Citizen/community participation.

Is your innovation addressing barriers in the home improvement/progressive housing market? If so, please describe in detail your mechanisms of intervention

Truly successful housing projects require community participation in design and decision-making. By demonstrating potential technologies through the construction of the building and grounds, this community center will offer support to residents who wish to explore those technologies. By providing space for members of the community to come together and work to improve their own well-being, we remove barriers to participation and understanding that exist when solutions are passed down instead of created within and by a community.

Our community center design will be modified specifically to suit its location and usage, but the most important aspect of our design is connectivity- connectivity to the community, to education, to technology, and to an improved future. In our proposed design, this connectivity is achieved through direct interaction between the interior and exterior spaces. Although the building may have minimal “interior floor space,” it will simply provide centralized meeting and storage area as well as emergency shelter. The use of windows, doors, and extensive landscaping will create a much larger area for activities, education, meetings, and other community uses.

Are you currently collaborating with private companies, or have you partnered with private companies in the past? With which companies?


Please describe in detail the nature of the partnership(s)


Select the unit(s) with which the partnership was formed