Illustrative Case Study of Cherry Hill Baltimore Community Development

What we plan to achieve

This case study is intended to illustrate how the ShuraForAll tool might be used to bring people together to decide on a course of action that addresses an issue of importance to a community. It also presents an approach to creating self-organizing teams that commit to carrying out the actions designed to deliver the desired outcomes.

The problem

Community development work often involves many stakeholders whose needs are not adequately addressed. Information gathering activities such as town hall meetings, personal interviews, in-person and online surveys, and demographic analyses combined with recommended courses of action can easily end up being "the solution."

But the attendant social issues that accompany community development are complex and require actively managing the participation of key stakeholders as they work toward a solution.

The cause

A significant number of complex social issues stem from many years of deliberately harmful institutional behaviors that persist today.

The solution

Student and professional social workers need to add to their toolset a tool that makes it easy for them to

  • establish a forum where issues/problems can be understood;
  • get broad participation when deciding on the best course of action to take; and
  • provide structure to help them coordinate the actions of stakeholders while working toward desired objectives.


The following description is adapted from "A Comprehensive Demographic Profile of the Cherry Hill Community in Baltimore City prepared by The Institute for Urban Research, Morgan State University." Click here for the full report.

Located in the southern section of Baltimore City, the Cherry Hill community is one of the most historic African American communities in the United States. During the industrial buildup to World War II, thousands of southerners, both African Americans and Whites migrated to Baltimore in search of high-paying industrial jobs.

The Cherry Hill community was established in the late 1940s when the Housing Authority of Baltimore City (HABC) selected it as the housing site for African American war workers. Several other options had been considered but they were opposed by Whites who did not want these workers and their families moving too close to their neighborhoods. Even though it was known that Cherry Hill was an unsuitable housing location due to the presence of industrial plants, polluted water, and the presence of the city incinerator, it was selected to become the First planned "Negro Suburb" in the nation.

Following the end of the war, the Cherry Hill homes were converted to low-income housing. According to a 1945 report by the HABC entitled, "Effects of the Post-War Program on Negro Housing", there was a need to prevent the continued expansion of "Negro" communities. The solution was to make their current locations more densely populated.

Although the Federal Racial Relations Office warned HABC that such a plan would effectively convert a racially flexible area to one of racial exclusion and would reduce the land areas available for "Negro" residence, the HABC continued with their plan. They rejected 39 alternate locations, reasoning that Cherry Hill is the "only politically acceptable vacant land site for Negro housing." HABC added another 632 units in 1952 and 360 units in 1956.

The situation was not an isolated event. It was just one in a series of unfair housing practices forced upon African Americans throughout Baltimore and the United States. The results of these kinds of institutional behaviors in housing and other areas which include employment, education, and healthcare, continue to negatively impact many segments of the population in the nation.

In the recommendations section of its study, the Institute for Urban Research noted that studies often contain findings that usually receive considerable attention by policy makers, followed by a flurry of public comment afterwards and then the final report is shelved. Baltimore City developed a five year Cherry Hill Master Plan in 2008. The plan addressed ten themes where approximately 185 actionable recommendations were made. Although some of these may have been completed since 2008, many still have yet to be implemented.

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