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Department of Agriculture: Rural Placemaking Innovation Challenge

Deadline: July 26, 2021

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) seeks applicants for cooperative agreement grants available under the Rural Placemaking Innovation Challenge (RPIC). The RPIC is a technical assistance and planning process for qualified entities to support rural community leaders to create places where people want to live, work, and play. Under RPIC, placemaking is defined as a collaborative process among public, private, philanthropic and community partners to strategically improve the social, cultural, and economic structure of a community. This work is based on a sense of place with qualitative and quantitative outcomes. Ultimately, the goal is to create greater social and cultural vitality in rural communities aimed at improving people’s social, physical, and economic well-being. The key elements of quality places include, but are not limited to, a mix of uses; effective public spaces; broadband capability; transportation options; multiple housing options; preservation of historic structure; and respect of community heritage, arts, culture, creativity, recreation, and green space. Placemaking contributes to long-term investment and therefore supports a community’s resiliency, social stability, and collective identity.

The project must directly benefit a rural area. All ultimate beneficiaries and/or subrecipients must be located in rural areas, and any activities or tasks must occur in rural areas. Rural area is defined based on the Rural Business Service’s Rural Area definition, which defines ‘‘rural area’’ as any area other than (1) a city or town that has a population of greater than 50,000 inhabitants and (2) any urbanized area contiguous and adjacent to such city or town described in subparagraph (1) above.

USDA encourages applications that support communities designated as economically distressed and/or planning projects that enhance capacity for broadband infrastructure and deployment.

Duplication of services is not allowed. Applicants must demonstrate that they are providing services either to new customers or new services to current customers. The assistance must be provided for up to two years.

This initiative is to provide planning support, technical assistance, and community training to foster placemaking activities. Funds can:

  • help enhance capacity for broadband access
  • preserve cultural and historic structures
  • support the development of transportation, housing, required infrastructure, and recreational spaces

Applicants must demonstrate existing and proposed partnerships with public, private, philanthropic, and community partners to provide assistance, creating new collaborative approaches, learning together, and bringing those learned strategies into rural communities. Eligible entities may use the funds to provide technical assistance and training to help rural communities develop actionable placemaking plans, convene partners and identify community needs.

Technical Assistance and Training for Placemaking means the applicant participates in the complete process for the delivery of placemaking planning and implementation in partnership with identified rural communities. The support provided may include, but is not limited to:

  • Evidence-based understanding of community assets, challenges, and opportunities
  • A description of the distinct qualities of the community—both positive and negative
  • A vision statement that summarizes the most important outcomes that the community wants to see achieved
  • A statement of values that identifies the principles that leaders and stakeholders should use in determining strategies
  • Evidence of broad community participation, public input, and buy-in

The proposed project must include a component that allows for active participation by the Cooperator and substantial involvement by USDA Rural Development (RD) in the majority of specified tasks outlined in the applicant’s project proposal. Examples of measurable substantial involvement include, but are not limited to:

  • Joint convenings of community members, partners, and stakeholders
  • Joint delivery of training for RD programs
  • Development of training sessions and outreach materials

Optional Innovation Seed Grant—This is an optional criterion for Applicants; and will be scored only if their proposal and budget provides for a system of funding Innovation Seed Grants. The seed grants are to be utilized to fund new and innovative projects highlighted in the placemaking plan. These seed grants are considered small financial awards for the purpose of getting a specific project implemented in the placemaking plan. The applicant can set aside, from the applicant’s award, funds for an Innovation Seed Grant up to a maximum of 10 percent. See solicitation for details.

Note: Interested parties are encouraged to attend a virtual workshop on June 24, 2021.

Amount: Up to $3,000,000 is available to make awards of up to $250,000 each. The maximum Period of Performance is 2 years. Applicants should anticipate a Period of Performance beginning October 1, 2021 and ending no later than September 30, 2023. Pre-award costs are not authorized.

Note: Applicants must provide a funding match of 15 percent. Cost sharing/matching must be committed at the time of application submission. It is permissible to provide a combination of third party in-kind contribution from a partner and cash contribution from the applicant, but it is not permissible for the applicant to provide their own in-kind contribution as part of the match combination.

Eligibility: The Agency seeks to partner with organizations located in the northeastern, southern, midwestern and western regions of the United States. The applicant does not need to serve an entire region. See solicitation for definitions. All eligible applicants must demonstrate experience in administering federal grants and providing economic development and placemaking technical assistance in one of the four regions. Eligible entities are:

  • Federally-recognized tribes and Native American tribal organizations;
  • Institutions of higher education including 1862 Land-Grant Institutions, 1890 Land-Grant Institutions,1994 Land-Grant Institutions, Hispanic-Serving Institutions and Historically Black Colleges and Universities;
  • Nonprofit organizations with 501(c)(3) IRS status;
  • Public bodies; or
  • Small private entities that meet the size standards established by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

Note: There is neither an advantage nor disadvantage to the number of communities served. Lead applicants may not submit more than one application but may identify more than one community with which they are providing placemaking assistance. New Mexico is included in the western region of the United States, as defined in this solicitation.

Link: https://www.rd.usda.gov/about-rd/initiatives/rural-placemaking-innovation-challenge

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