This Entrepreneur Weaves Solutions Into Communities
Community-Vision Solutions CEO Stephen Shaff Shares His Plans for Strengthening Neighborhoods
Devin: What do you see as your superpower?
Steve: I’m a connector, but my superpower is, one of my associates said to me, “You’re not quite a connector.”
I said, “What?” He said, “You’re a weaver.”
Weaver? I thought he called me weasel. He said, “No, you’re a weaver. Because what you do is beyond a connector role. You connect people, and you get things done.”
Stephen Shaff, founder and CEO of Community-Vision Solutions, is building a company to revitalize communities from the inside. “Our goal is to initiate, facilitate and agitate for the common good,” he says.
“I'm a for-profit developer with a nonprofit mission,” Steve says. “Social enterprise with an equal mission for financial and social returns can happen.” The 35 years he’s spent in the space testify to his conviction that this is true.
1. Community Vision Solutions is a startup founded by CEO Stephen Share to build scalable economic equality solutions.
2. They are a social consultancy providing collaborative services for community-based organizations.
3. Steve's vision for the company is to initiate, facilitate, and agitate for the common good.
4. He believes that social enterprise is a better way to rebuild communities and that it could be scaled to compete against the status quo.
5. Steve's superpower is his ability to bring people together and create change.
6. Steve, founder of Community Vision Solutions, discusses his superpower of weaving organizations together to make great things happen.
7. Steve emphasizes the importance of working to one's strengths and passions to achieve success and purpose.
8. Community-Vision Solutions aspires to be an employee-owned shop to ensure everyone is invested and receives a piece of the mission.
9. Steve, founder of Community Vision Solutions, talks about how the company combines business and community development.
10. The company is currently building its social media presence and launching a crowdfunding campaign in the coming months.
Steve provided an example of the work he has done and hopes to do with Community-Vision Solutions:
The typical arts organization that gets that phone call from the landlord saying, “Guess what? Thank you for improving our community. Now we're going to be putting the property up on the market.”
Well, instead of that arts organization bemoaning the fact that they've got to pack up and move from the community they helped create, we work with them to find solutions.
Can we put together a coalition or a network of investors and developers or other community stakeholders so that that nonprofit that may not have any money or resources or capacity to do this—can we create a joint venture that would preserve that property, buy the property, and then develop that in a way that benefits the community?
This is an example of the sort of thing Steve has done in the past and is working to repeat.
Crowdfunding has emerged as a relatively new tool that can benefit smaller-scale projects and small businesses, particularly in Black communities. Steve sees how these businesses can take advantage of the significant growth in waste management and recycling industries.
By collaborating with wrap-around partners, they can establish a blueprint for setting up a computer or appliance warehouse, remanufacturing organization, and more. Crowdfunding can provide the necessary capital to set up these businesses, which can create local jobs and provide housing for community residents.
Throughout Steve’s career, he’s developed the ability to weave people and projects together to catalyze positive change; he sees weaving as his superpower.
How to Develop Weaving As a Superpower
“Weavers get stuff done, and they have a certain impatience to get even more done,” Steve says.
Steve recounts his successful efforts to revitalize a drug-ridden neighborhood over several years. Despite being a white outsider, he was able to gain the trust and respect of community members by treating them with dignity and working collaboratively. Steve emphasizes the importance of communication and mutual respect in any community-building project.
Through his work, Steve demonstrated that outsiders can play a positive role in community development by listening to and collaborating with local leaders. He rejects the idea of "helping" others, instead emphasizing the importance of working together as equals. Steve acknowledges that his status as an outsider initially led to skepticism, but he was able to overcome this through persistence and a commitment to building relationships.
Overall, Steve's story illustrates the transformative power of community-based approaches to problem-solving. By prioritizing communication, respect, and collaboration, he made a real difference in the lives of those he worked with. His example is a valuable reminder that positive change is possible, even in challenging circumstances.
Steve has some simple advice for becoming a weaver: “Make sure everyone works to their strengths and their desire.” By optimizing roles and passions, the people you work with can accomplish significant change.
You can make weaving a strength that becomes a superpower by following Steve’s example and advice. You can do even more good in the world.
Steve will speak at SuperCrowd23. He’ll be moderating a panel discussion entitled, “Social Entrepreneurship on the Front Lines of Community Revitalization.” Get inspired by the remarkable stories of social entrepreneurs leading the charge in community revitalization.
Superpowers for Good readers are eligible for half-price tickets. Get yours now!
Stephen (Steve) Shaff (he/him)
Founder, CEO, Community-Vision Solutions, Benefit LLC
About Community-Vision Solutions, Benefit LLC:
Stephen Shaff is a social entrepreneur who merges expertise as a housing and community developer, political activist and social-solutions strategist to build scalable economic equality solutions.
His community organizing and leadership contributed to the founding, funding, advising and/or serving on several nonprofit Boards of Directors serving anti-poverty, arts, youth, environmental and other community-change organizations. His real estate development activities helped create affordable homeownership opportunities to over 400 hundred residents within several underserved Washington, DC communities.
Simultaneously to his entrepreneurial and community efforts, Shaff has served as a political activist and strategist that spans efforts from inner-city Washington, DC, to a national base of advocates and networks.
In response to the pandemic and its aftermath, Shaff co-founded Community Vision Solutions, Benefit LLC - a social enterprise consultancy, advocate and community investor. Its signature initiative is the Community Alliance Project - an effort to create greater economic equality and community wealth through close partnerships with local stakeholders.