Communities Organized for Public Service, USA

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Communities Organized for Public Service (COPS) is an organisation of 26 parishes in the predominantly Hispanic, low-income West Side and South Side of San Antonio. Founded in 1974, it is the oldest of the Interfaith Area Foundation (IAF) organisations in Texas and, indeed, in the entire national network.

For more than a decade, COPS has brought literally hundreds of millions of dollars worth of new streets, drainage, sidewalks, libraries, parks, and streetlights to poor neighbourhoods. It has brought about the demolition of substandard housing and the rebuilding of new housing. It has begun to direct economic development funds toward poor inner-city neighbourhoods.

More than this rebuilding of the physical infrastructure of the city, however, COPS has rebuilt the culture of San Antonio's public life. COPS has created a public space which is fiercely non-partisan, and which allows for competition among a plurality of interests where issues are discussed and debated in the open. COPS is committed to neighbourhood and family values, democratic participation, leadership development, and public accountability of local and state officials.

The organisation nurtures leaders and future leaders who rise through the ranks developing their skills and teaching others what they have learned. COPS has taught how strength lies not in specific issues or personalities but in the process of empowerment and leadership development.

In this process, COPS continues to rebuild the city. Recent victories include these:

Over its 16 years, COPS has brought over $750 million into its communities for new housing, drainage, streets, sidewalks, parks and libraries.