Community development is the process of convening and leading people and institutions in creating and implementing collaborative strategies to restore thriving, sustainable neighborhoods.
While housing is often the first lens through which we judge the condition of a neighborhood--and decent, affordable and stable homes are the foundation of neighborhood health--a strong neighborhood is about more than just housing.
A sustainable neighborhood is clean and safe, and provides residents with affordable access to food and life's necessities, jobs, health care, transportation and education among other things.
Community development is the definable yet flexible process through which stakeholders--residents, community service providers, nonprofits, government agencies, churches, businesses, community funders--collaborate over extended periods of time to focus resources and expertise on efforts to restore neighborhoods and equip residents to sustain the work over time.
Our role is to coordinate and guide the process of listening, aligning and action, where residents and community partners work together to develop and implement a commonly shared vision and goals for renewing neighborhoods.
Through a process of listening, aligning and action, residents and community partners work together to develop and implement a commonly shared vision and goals for renewing neighborhoods.
Community development starts with listening when we communicate proactively and directly with neighborhood residents, asking open-ended questions that help us discover what people care about, what they like about their neighborhoods and what they'd like to see improved. Over time themes emerge, strengths are recognized and areas of desired improvement are identified.
Once a basic understanding of neighborhood needs and strengths is gained, the process of alignment begins. Aligning is bringing people together in Community Discussions to affirm and clarify what was learned during the listening phase, and to align stakeholders behind the mutually agreed neighborhood priorities.
Community Discussions are like strategic planning sessions for neighborhoods and build unity, energy and excitement around the idea of collectively addressing neighborhood needs. Alignment also introduces community partners into the process that will come alongside of the neighborhood with expertise, resources and a desire to partner for long-term improvement.
Listening well and aligning people naturally gives birth to action. The action phase begins when both stakeholders and neighborhood residents begin investing their time and resources. This is the most exciting phase of a neighborhood initiative and can last for an extended period of time depending on the scope of the change or improvement that is desired and the resources available to achieve it.
The process of community development is one that takes time, and requires a long-term commitment on the part of residents and community partners.
Neighborhoods take decades to decline, and there is no overnight solution to restoring the interdependence and interconnectivity of systems and relationships needed to build a thriving and sustainable community of people.
Community Development is an investment in people and places that takes time and resources. It will be considered successful when lasting change in a neighborhood is realized and can be sustained by the neighborhood residents with little or no outside support.
If you live, work, play or worship in a neighborhood that you feel has unmet potential and are interested in pursuing neighborhood improvement, please contact us to explore community development opportunities!