Winning ideas announced to help Fairfield County young adults achieve independence and self-sufficiency by 25

Dec 18, 2014

Bold—and tiny—home ownership idea tops list gained from a crowdsourcing challenge

NORWALK, December 18, 2014 — Winning ideas submitted this fall to the What Works Community Challenge, a crowdsourcing initiative of Fairfield County’s Community Foundation, were announced Monday, Dec. 15, 2014, at an award luncheon in Southport.

The Challenge aimed to identify innovative solutions and strategies for helping Fairfield County young people achieve self-sufficiency by age 25. It encouraged anyone—young, old, students, workers, parents, retirees—to answer:

“What barriers prevent or challenge Fairfield County young people from achieving independence and success by age 25? What opportunities and support can we provide to improve the results?”

The responses recognized on Monday are as follows:

Winner: Tiny Homes, submitted by Alison Riith, recommends promoting home ownership for young people by removing regulatory and zoning barriers to allow development of micro homes and cottages built with reclaimed materials at a cost of $20,000 to $50,000 per house.

Finalists: (1) Positive Youth Development, submitted by Chrissy Cacace, recommends pro-active before-school and after-school programs that teach students skills that prevent trouble and failure. (2) Communal Living, submitted by Carol O’Connell, recommends developing housing that allows young people to live in group settings and share costs.

Most Votes: High School and College Completion Network: 8th through Life, submitted by Quentin Ball, recommends connecting eighth grade students to an array of academic, guidance and mentoring supports that help them make a successful transition to high school and beyond.

“Congratulations to our winners and many thanks to all participants of the What Works Community Challenge,” said Juanita James, president and CEO of the Community Foundation. “We greatly appreciate your effort and ingenuity in proposing ideas to help our county’s young people.”

Today’s older teens and young adults face unemployment rates from 13.6 percent in Danbury to 49.5 percent in Bridgeport, plus one of the most expensive housing markets in the nation. Up to 10,600 young people in Fairfield County are not in school, nor receiving job training or working.

“If our young people have to leave the county to support themselves, our population will decline, businesses will flounder, unemployment will rise, our tax base will shrink, and the need for government and nonprofit services will increase,” said James. “It’s a moral and economic imperative that our young people can remain in Fairfield County, support themselves and their future families, and energize our communities. We want to help our young people ‘thrive by twenty-five.’”

The What Works Challenge was announced in mid September and accepted responses through Oct. 3. Participants submitted their ideas via the What Works Challenge Hub (supported by Citi Ventures, Citi Foundation, and the Low Income Investment Fund):

Forty-eight ideas were submitted to the Challenge, 12 of which generated enough support to graduate to the expert review phase of the competition. The Community Foundation’s panel of outside experts then awarded three of the ideas high enough scores to qualify as finalists. A total of four ideas were recognized at Monday’s luncheon.

Fairfield County’s Community Foundation promotes philanthropy as a means to create change in Fairfield County, focusing on innovative and collaborative solutions to critical issues impacting the community. Individuals, families, corporations and organizations can establish charitable funds or contribute to existing funds. The Community Foundation is in compliance with the Council on Foundations’ national standards, and has awarded $180 million in grants to nonprofits in Fairfield County and beyond. For more information, visit