Connective Summer Recap

5 min readSep 16, 2022


As summer officially ends, despite the local temperatures, we’re reflecting on a season spent in conversation and collaboration with partners, friends, and leaders. We’re energized and optimistic about the accomplishments of our community and know that we’ll finish the year strong with several significant projects in their final stretches.

We’ve also spent more time together in person — reflecting, brainstorming, and celebrating. Here are some highlights from our summer.

Hurricane Harvey’s 5th Anniversary

We attended the Air Alliance, Climate Justice Museum, and One Breath Houston’s “Five Years After Landfall” event on Friday, August 26. The event was an opportunity for the community to share their Harvey experiences and stories and reflect on the work our community has done — and has still to do — for Harvey recovery.

During the event, several community members, leaders, and artists spoke about their experiences with Harvey, disaster response, mitigation gaps, and our community’s shared grief surrounding the storm. Speakers included Harris County attorney Christian Menefee, Harris County policy advisor Zoe Middleton, Houston Flood Museum founder Lacey Johnson, and artists Outspoken Bean and Meta-Four Houston, among others.

As part of our participation in the event, we created a “Hurricane Harvey Living Library,” a shared space for reflections on data, public reports, and disaster-related books. The curated collection included housing reports, community groups’ recommendations for recovery, human-centered design research about COVID-19, books on climate change and mitigation efforts, news articles about equitable (and non-equitable) disaster recovery efforts, and poems written by Harvey survivors.

As attendees stopped by the Living Library, they were asked to help us create a book of Hurricane Harvey Stories, which will be displayed permanently at the Climate Justice Museum. Those who chose to document their stories answered one of the questions that were positioned along the table, like “How did Hurricane Harvey affect you?” or “What policies would you like to see implemented post-Harvey?” Then they placed their answer inside a photo album alongside a photo to commemorate their experience.

Some of the Connective team at the “5 Years After Landfall” event. (L-R: Elaine Morales, Rachel O’Connell, Marlen Guerrero, Melissa Langston, and Elena White.)
Visitors to the Hurricane Harvey Living Library.

Nonprofit Disaster Recovery Framework Design Potluck

In close collaboration with more than 30 partners over the past 18 months, Connective developed a Nonprofit Disaster Recovery Framework (NDRF) to serve as a “playbook” for disasters. It provides a comprehensive guide, built on our community’s experience and expertise, for nonprofits to prepare for and adapt before the next disaster. The NDRF is also a tool our community can build from and continue to improve to inform future disaster response and recovery.

In June, we hosted a Design Potluck to gather designers, creators, and data visualizers and find effective and exciting ways to share the information with the public. The design potluck started with a group brainstorming session followed by small team breakouts, solo focus time, and one-on-one discussions.

The NDRF Design Potluck day kicked off with a group brainstorming session.

Designers pulled out all the stops and suggested visual resource hubs, board games, interactive web tools, illustrated and printed resources, and flow charts to communicate the NDRF to organizations and the public.

Designers suggested flowcharts, board games, and interactive web tools to explain the NDRF.

At the end of the Design Potluck day, the designers showcased the ideas to our partners, many of whom participated in developing the NDRF.

We’re thankful for these creatives that join our Design Potluck, for the individuals that have shared their knowledge along the way, and for all of our NDRF partners that contributed to this significant effort: ACAM, Avenue CDC, Baker Ripley, CEER, Fifth Ward CRC, Center for Urban Transformation, Children at Risk, Hope Disaster Recovery, Houston Area Urban League, Houston Housing Collaborative, Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative, H.O.M.E., Memorial Assistance Ministries, Harris County Pct 1., Texas Housers, Volunteer Houston, West Street Recovery, The Alliance and the University of Houston School of Social Work.

WORTH Grant Announcement and Panel Discussion

This month, the Wells Fargo Foundation announced a $7.5 million WORTH (Wealth Opportunities Restored Through Homeownership) grant for Houston to make homeownership access more equitable in our community. Houston is one of seven cities in the U.S. to receive this grant to make homeownership more accessible to families of color. Connective is a partner in the WORTH grant for Houston, along with Harris County Homeownership Collaborative members Avenue, Fifth Ward Community Redevelopment Corporation, Houston Habitat for Humanity, Tejano Center for Community Concerns, the City of Houston Housing & Community Development Department, and the Texas State Affordable Housing Corporation.

According to the 2022 Kinder Institute State of Housing report, the homeownership rate for Black homeowners in Houston has declined by 7% since 2010. In addition, Black and Hispanic Harris County residents are more likely to have their mortgage applications denied. Last week, we participated on a panel hosted by LISC Houston and the Harris County Homeownership Collaborative to discuss how this grant can support turning pilot initiatives into long-term, sustainable housing strategies for Houstonians of color.

As always, our efforts are done in collaboration with our partners, and we know we can come together to advance racial equity in homeownership, by increasing access to it and sustaining the wealth built by so many families of color in our region. During the panel, we explained our plans to build a homeownership portal that will help prospective and existing homeowners navigate programs and resources. These programs include homebuyer training and education, credit score repair, down payment assistance, home repair, legal aid services, and homeownership counseling services.

Panel participants and moderator (L-R: Otis Rolley, Head of Social Impact for Wells Fargo; Laura Jaramillo, Executive DIrector at LISC; Elaine Morales, Director of Partnerships and Policy at Connective; Kathy Flanagan, President of FIfth Ward CRC; and Cindy Tessler, Vice President of Programs and Operations at Avenue.)
WORTH grant panel discussion: (L-R: Cindy Tessler, Vice President of Programs and Operations at Avenue CDC; Elaine Morales, Director of Partnerships and Policy at Connective; Kathy Flanagan, President of FIfth Ward CRC; Otis Rolley, Head of Social Impact at the Wells Fargo Foundation.)

Combined with the Harris County Homeownership Collaborative’s additional strategies, this initiative aims to open up access to 5,000 new homeowners of color in the next four years.

We’ve worked together this summer, both as a team and with our partners, to transform social services and disaster recovery. We’re looking forward to a fall full of possibilities to further our mission of eliminating states of crisis for communities in need so that all people can thrive.




Connected, empathetic and accessible social services.