Building a Civic Corps Through Local Talent

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Birmingham, city leaders took innovative approaches to maintain progress toward economic security, public health, and racial justice. The public-private partnership Birmingham Strong (BhamStrong) is one of those innovations, created with a vision of empowering the city’s small businesses and workers to build a resilient community that overcomes COVID-19. The organization works through a two-part economic stabilization strategy: fortifying small businesses through emergency loan funding and technical assistance, and empowering workers to meet community needs through the Birmingham Strong Service Corps, which was modeled after the highly successful Baltimore Corps. As an emergency response, the Birmingham Strong Service Corps works to enlist unemployed residents as paid volunteers to assist in COVID-19 response efforts, aiding the city in meeting the diverse, emergent, and quickly changing needs of its community.

Recognizing the value of building local talent, Birmingham is partnering with FUSE Executive Fellow Jondell Stephens to develop a comprehensive plan that transitions the Birmingham Strong Service Corps from a COVID-19 response mechanism to a self-sustaining civic institution and talent incubator. Ultimately, the Birmingham Strong Service Corps will act to develop, retain, and enlist local talent to advance social innovation and equity in Birmingham.