ReCity: A Project of Unity

Jan 13, 2017

4,000: This is the estimated number of disconnected youth in Durham who aren’t in school and aren’t working.

400: This is the number of non-profit organizations in Durham that serve youth.

Something about these two numbers doesn’t add up, and that’s exactly what pastors at the Summit thought when they heard these statistics two years ago as part of a report from the IBM Smarter Cities Challenge grant. With 400 non-profits specifically targeted at youth in Durham, how could there still be 4,000 disconnected youth? Seeking answers and solutions to this situation led to the Summit starting what is now known as ReCity, an organization that unites non-profits, churches, and businesses in Durham in one shared space around one shared mission: to reconnect and restore opportunity for Durham youth.

Rob Shields, executive director of ReCity, believes the startling number of disconnected youth in Durham is not due to a lack of organizations but instead to a lack of collaboration between the organizations. Instead of creating another program, ReCity facilitates a co-working space in downtown Durham that brings together all of the leaders and organizations already at work.

In addition to providing financial support and resources to develop ReCity, the Summit has also mobilized volunteers to help with everything from assembling furniture in the building to serving as mentors to actually hiring youth from the network. For two years, the founders of ReCity built relationships and developed trust. Finally, in early 2016, they opened up shop in their facility in downtown Durham. In the past year, ReCity has grown to a network of more than 30 non-profits and businesses, including organizations like Step Up Durham, Partners for Youth Opportunity, Durham YMCA, Project Build, and Grace Park Church (a Summit church plant).

ReCity’s hope is that as this community network continues to grow, it will eventually develop into a one-stop shop of resources and relationships for disconnected youth all across the city. The vision is that one day, any young person could go to ReCity and be able to connect with whatever resources they need in a single space, instead of having to go around to dozens of different locations. Their long-term dream is to replicate this same model in Raleigh and every major city in America.

Shields says that the most exciting thing he has seen God do in this revolutionary movement is taking the resources of a predominantly white church and leveraging them behind local leaders of color who are the ones most qualified to solve the issues facing their own communities. He believes that white leaders leveraging their privilege and submitting to minority leadership is one way the church can begin to heal from the racial division in our city and nation.

“My role is to identify who God is already using in our community and leverage our resources behind them,” Shields said. “Fifty-six percent of ReCity’s network is organizations led by people of color. Of all the progress we’ve made so far, that is by far the most important indicator of real progress.”

By Rachel Dabiero