The International Town & Gown Association honored the Ogden Civic Action Network (OgdenCAN) for a plan that will combine the resources of seven long-time Ogden institutions to strengthen a 10-by-10-block area of the city known as the east-central neighborhood.
East central, which runs from 20th to 30th streets and Washington to Harrison boulevards, is Ogden’s most economically disadvantaged area. Of the 15,037 residents, an estimated 30 percent live in poverty and face challenges involving education, housing and access to health care.
More than 170 organizations and institutions have worked to provide various types of support to east-central residents. In 2016, Weber State University invited Ogden City to co-author a civic action plan to combine the strength of all those organizations through a strategic, cohesive, master plan to revitalize the neighborhood and help lift residents out of the cycle of intergenerational poverty.
“The vision of OgdenCAN is to improve the health, strength and engagement of our community — socially, environmentally, educationally and civically,” said Brenda Marsteller Kowalewski, associate provost for high-impact programs and faculty development. “Many organizations, WSU included, have worked in this community for years. Now we get to explore partnerships collectively and join hands to address the same set of concerns.”
For its efforts in creating the structure and impetus for the civic action plan, OgdenCAN, was honored with the International Town & Gown Association (ITGA) Presidential Excellence Award during its annual conference in Columbus, Ohio, May 29-31. In addition, Weber State recently has been selected as an inaugural member of the Higher Education Anchor Mission Initiative, where institutions commit their resources to enhance the economic and social well-being of surrounding communities.
“I have been asked, ‘Who in his right mind would address all of the most challenging social issues of a community at the same time?’” said Bill Cook, OgdenCAN executive director. “But this is the only way to truly give people who are living in poverty a hand-up. We need to address all of the social determinants of health to affect a wide range of health, functioning and quality-of-life issues.”
OgdenCAN consists of seven anchor institutions — those institutions that are unlikely to move and that contribute significantly to the economic and social stability of a community — and six partner organizations.
The anchor institutions include Weber State University, Ogden City, Intermountain Healthcare’s McKay-Dee Hospital, Ogden Regional Medical Center, Ogden-Weber Technical College, Ogden School District and the Weber-Morgan Health Department.
This initiative is designed to align all of the available resources and enhance community collaboration. Alignment includes partnerships with the Ogden Diversity Commission, Latinos United Promoting Education and Civic Engagement, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Utah Alliance for Determinants of Health, Weber County Intergenerational Poverty Initiative, and Ogden United Promise Neighborhood.
To ensure sustainability of this planned 40-year effort, Weber State created the Office of Community Development, which is responsible for supporting OgdenCAN and provides staff for the organization. A 13-member board of directors will make decisions about projects and funding. The board will elect a chair and vice-chair at its monthly meeting June 21 at 9 a.m. at the Ogden-Weber Technical College Board Room.
“We are focused on addressing the deeply-rooted poverty in this neighborhood,” Cook said. “We will create opportunities and remove barriers for all of the residents. With a coordinated effort of the resources available, we will have a significant positive impact.”