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 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 three plans.
The three regional plans were then incorporated into the Regional Plan for Sustainable Development, a document to coordinate regional investments for a more prosperous future for the Baltimore region. This plan and the work leading to its publication was based on seven principles:
- Providing more transportation choices
- Promoting equitable affordable housing
- Enhancing economic competitiveness
- Supporting existing communities
- Coordinating policies and leveraging investment
- Valuing communities and neighborhoods
- Protecting the Chesapeake Bay
The Opportunity Collaborative’s community engagement phase, 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, was inadequately funded. There were a few community and regional events, but widespread knowledge and understanding of the Plans’ importance was not achieved.
The Opportunity Coalition exists to create opportunity for the Baltimore Region by building upon the RPSD while, however, adding a focus on the environment and environmental justice, and expanding partnerships and support of existing organizations who have long fought for a better Baltimore Region.