The idea for CHEER came from two local citizen groups: The Long Branch Citizens Advisory Committee and the Takoma Park Citizens Advisory Committee for the Community Development Block Grant. Working independently of each other, each committee recommended that community indicators be developed and a report card be issued to measure important aspects of the community. CHEER began in March 2008 as the Silver Spring/Takoma Park Community Indicators Project, a sponsored program fund of the Community Foundation for Montgomery County. The name changed at the end of 2009.
CHEER is based on the community indicators model developed by the Urban Institute and Redefining Progress that has been used in dozens of communities around the country, including Jacksonville, FL and Spartanburg, SC. The model is regarded as one of the most powerful means of promoting meaningful and measureable community transformation. The community indicators model, as adapted by Bruce Baker from Takoma Park and Andrew Kleine from Long Branch, has developed into a process which encourages people to learn about what is going on in their community, build relationships, and provide a way to make a meaningful difference where they live.
CHEER had early and continuing support and cooperation from key government, nonprofit, and academic partners. It received startup funding from the City of Takoma Park in the fall of 2008. CHEER began conducting community visioning, goal setting, and indicators selection processes for housing, health and the local economy. Each process engaged 12- 20 residents and stakeholders who represented the community as a whole, along racial, ethnic and other important dimensions. Data experts from partner institutions assisted each group to identify indicators based on appropriate criteria.
In March 2010, CHEER was honored as one of the most promising new startup nonprofits in the Washington DC area and received an organizational development grant from the Schimel Lode. In September 2010 CHEER was selected by CommunityMatters and Ashoka’s Changemakers as one of 24 semi-finalists from among 260 entries in a national competition as one of the best approaches for, “Strong Communities: Engaging Citizens, Strengthening Place, Inspiring Change.” CHEER incorporated as a tax exempt nonprofit corporation in September 2010 and received it 501c3 status from the IRS in May 2011. With a growing number of partners, volunteers, and donors, the future for CHEER, and for the community it engages, is getting brighter every day.