Harvard Business School » Social Enterprise » Blog » Empowering Cleveland Communities Through Homeownership: SE Summer Fellow Alan Neider (MBA 2024)
Impact Insights

Empowering Cleveland Communities Through Homeownership: SE Summer Fellow Alan Neider (MBA 2024)

By: Alan Neider 20 Jul 2023

The HBS Summer Fellows Program enables students to apply their classroom training as they explore career opportunities in roles or regions where compensation is generally lower than the traditional MBA level. This summer, we are connecting with some of our 75 Social Enterprise Summer Fellows, who are working around the world to develop skills and knowledge while having significant responsibility and high impact.

What are you working on this summer? 

I am working for the City of Cleveland in the Department of Building and Housing as a Summer Fellow with the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative. The Bloomberg program embeds Harvard graduate degree students for 10 weeks in local governments around the world. I am developing a homeownership program using state of Ohio forfeited land parcels to help create generational wealth on the southeast side of Cleveland.  

Questions I am thinking about this summer:  

  • How can the city and its partners best identify and rehabilitate properties?  
  • How can this be done in a way that creates affordable and sustainable homeownership opportunities?  

This program is a part of the Mayor’s broader initiative to reinvigorate three southeast side neighborhoods, which have experienced decades of disinvestment as a result of systemic structural racism, redlining, and white flight.  

Why did you choose this internship for the summer? 

This summer I’m testing to see if the public sector (and local government specifically) is a good fit for me. To choose this internship I had to ask myself a few questions: 

  • Why the public sector? I’ve been tangential to the public sector through public-private partnerships but always from the private side. For example, in my most recent role at a digital health startup I worked with nurses, principals and parents in underserved schools during the COVID-19 pandemic. I was devastated to see the disparities that COVID severely exacerbated but felt limited in what I could help address. I am passionate about eliminating these disparities and believe that the public sector needs to lead this effort.  
  • Why local and not federal or state? I like how local government is close to the communities it is serving. Local government has the potential to build community-centric and innovative solutions and then continuously adjust based on community feedback.  
  • Why this role? For the Bloomberg Fellowship program, you apply and interview for a city/project. I applied for the Cleveland role because increasing homeownership could have a transformational impact on reducing the inequality gap in Cleveland. The Mayor and his administration have brought so much energy to the city and I saw that my work would be relevant to the administration's priorities.  

What are your goals for this summer? 

My main goal is to get something tangible done, however small, that will make a positive impact for southeast side residents. 

I am also excited to learn about how a city government operates. As a citizen I want to understand the levers that have a major impact on my life and those around me, and as a potential civil servant to identify if local government is a good fit for me. Within these 10 weeks I'm working to understand the policy process from high level decision making to implementation, sitting in on Mayor's cabinet meetings to accompanying the inspector team reviewing vacant homes.   

How has your MBA skillset prepared you to be successful in this role?  

The southeast side initiative involves collaboration amongst city departments including Building and Housing, Economic Development, Community Development, and City Planning, partner organizations and community members. I spent my first few weeks listening to these stakeholders to understand the community’s housing needs, what is being done to address them, and how a forfeited land parcels homeownership program could help fill the gap. Throughout this process I’ve been using skills developed by working through cases with complex scenarios and imperfect data sets this past year at HBS. It has enabled me to bring together various perspectives, data points, and best practices to start to identify the key components of a successful housing program.  

How has the summer influenced your thinking on future involvement in social enterprise? 

This summer has solidified my hope to work across the public, private, and nonprofit sectors during different stages of my career, particularly finding opportunities to work with inspiring leaders. I believe we will need deep collaboration across sectors to solve society’s biggest challenges. I hope to work in and understand each sector's strengths and limitations so that I can be a bridge to enable this collaboration. 

How can someone learn more about your organization? 

City of Cleveland

Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative