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Community Development Advocates of Detroit (CDAD)

3663 Woodward
Suite 120
Detroit, Michigan 48201

Sarida Scott Montgomery

By Tunde Wey
December 16, 2013

Sarida Scott Montgomery doesn’t dispense readily available compact sound bites when speaking. Instead she is disarmingly genuine, finding her way to her point be explaining a couple of things around the edges first. There is one idiom she offers without any proprietary confidence: "Don’t try to boil the ocean."
Montgomery is the Executive Director of Community Development Advocates of Detroit (commonly referred to by its acronym CDAD), the trade association for community development and neighborhood improvement organizations, working to support them through technical assistance, information, public policy advocacy and capacity building. She is also co-owner of Good People Popcorn, a local gourmet popcorn shop in downtown Detroit’s Bricktown district. Two endeavors, each very different from the other but connected by Montgomery’s "ocean" aphorism, which mean to define a specific mission and tackle it.
When applied to Montgomery’s mission-driven work with CDAD, this specificity is a little paradoxical given the reality of the city’s neighborhoods, long suffering and disinvested. Taking Montgomery’s analogy a little further, because the city is where it is, its problems, while like individual streams, intersect at many points along their eventual journey into the proverbial ocean that is Detroit’s desultory state.
"Community Development to me touches everything," Montgomery says. "You can’t talk about community development without talking about schools, safety, creation of jobs, certainly affordable housing is a part of that." Montgomery implicitly admits to the interwoven nature of the challenges the city faces by rightfully suggesting a holistic adventure into its solution. Then she proposes the parameters integral to deploy this networked solutions approach: "It’s working in a defined space or place with the other partners and residents there to improve the neighborhood."
Community Development Corporations began nationally in the 1960s, with their work revolving primarily around affordable housing development. The growth of CDCs in Detroit was supported by community organizations and local social groups, such as churches and neighborhood organizations all working to marshal resources towards economic development (and the less aspirational basic needs servicing) in their particular area.
Under Montgomery, CDAD, with its member roll of 65 organizations which covers virtually the entire city, is working to provide directed support by helping local CDCs untangle the myriad, interlinked challenges that are stifling many communities.
For Montgomery, the way to provide CDCs this help is by creating a process that they use to navigate this "gumbo" of adverse circumstance. So for the last few years, in conjunction with its membership, CDAD has developed that appropriately titled CDAD Strategic Framework, "a community-driven, participatory neighborhood planning and revitalization tool" that empowers communities to produce solutions germane to their circumstances. The process guides communities as they create their own place-based community development plan.  Organizations such as the Warren/Conner CDC are direct beneficiaries of CDAD’s work; the Lower East Side Action Plan (LEAP) is the first neighborhood plan that followed the CDAD Strategic Framework process.
"I do believe in what I’m doing. This work has probably made me more enthusiastic about Detroit and the future," says Montgomery.  "I have the luxury of being involved in work where I see a lot of positive things happening. I’m also a realist. One of the things we say in the office is that 'we’re not trying to boil the ocean,' so we have to be pointed."
This pointed approach is the knowledge that even though the problems are wild, untidy and chaotic, the solutions don’t have to follow suit.

All photos by Doug Coombe. 

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