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Networking: Key to Keeping Maine a Quality Place?

PHOTO: Harvesting carrots at Wolfe's Neck Farm in Freeport. The Maine Coast Heritage Trust's Teen Agriculture Program benefitted from the Quality of Place Initiative. Courtesy Devin Altobello.
PHOTO: Harvesting carrots at Wolfe's Neck Farm in Freeport. The Maine Coast Heritage Trust's Teen Agriculture Program benefitted from the Quality of Place Initiative. Courtesy Devin Altobello.
May 6, 2013

ELLSWORTH, Maine - Saving fish populations described as "at rock bottom;" helping kids learn how to grow vegetables in three-foot by five-foot gardens; and turning a vacant lot in the town of Biddeford into a public park and gathering place: just some of the wide-ranging work to come out of the Quality of Place Initiative. The idea of the collective action that unfolded over a three-year period was to coordinate the efforts of 16 very diverse groups and fund them to the tune of $1.5 million.

According to Jo D. Saffeir, coordinator at the Environmental Funders Network, these are groups that have proven records.

"If you drill down into the work of all of the different non-profits funded, there's no doubt that they made significant accomplishments in their own particular field," she stated.

The goal of the unique funding effort was to improve not only Maine's renowned landscapes and recreational attractions, but also its forests, farms and waterfronts, and its historic downtowns. So it's not entirely a "green" initiative, but more broadly, a "quality" one.

To test the idea that pooling resources can lead to greater impact, the Maine Philanthropy Center and the Maine Community Foundation assembled the Environmental Funders Network. Jo D. Saffeir explained what's meant by "quality of place."

"All the qualities that make Maine unique and attractive for people to live" go into that, she declared. "So, it's making sure that Maine's natural environment is protected, but also its historic downtowns."

Saffeir said that what stands out is the diversity of the groups that were grantees in the Quality of Place Initiative.

"When looked at individually, they seem like they're working on very different things," she remarked. "When taken together, you see that all of them have an impact on what makes Maine unique."

The initiative concluded - among other things - that "a collective vision is ultimately more powerful than that of any one organization or funder," and pointed out, "In an era of finite resources, no one has the luxury of going it alone."


Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - ME