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The Opportunity Coalition is an outgrowth of the federal Sustainable Communities Initiative (SCI), which in 2011 provided a $3.5 million grant to the Baltimore Metropolitan Council to carry out regional planning activities in the Baltimore Metropolitan area. The Sustainable Communities Initiative program represented a recognition by the federal government that better integration of planning activities at a regional level would result in a more efficient use of government resources, more equitable expenditures of federal funds, and perhaps, better economic outcomes for regions that work together. Under the aegis of the Baltimore Metropolitan Council, the Opportunity Collaborative was formed as a partnership of local governments, universities, state agencies, foundations and nonprofit organizations. This partnership was tasked with the development of regional plans that addressed housing, transportation, and workforce development. Thousands of hours of research, drafting and deliberation went into the creation of these plans. One part of the work of the Opportunity Collaborative was Community Engagement, an effort to inform and engage the general public in the planning process, and to obtain the “buy-in” that might lead to community and social change. This portion of the work was inadequately funded, and while there were a few community and regional events, widespread knowledge and understanding of the Plans’ importance was not achieved.

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