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Welcome to the Community section of CPN. In this section we feature several essays on community organizing, social capital, and urban democracy to provide a broad range of approaches. Our case studies are drawn from faith-based organizing, assets-based approaches to community development, comprehensive urban revitalization strategies, formal systems of urban democracy based on neighborhood associations, and various other community visioning and study-circle methods.

Civic Perspectives

Reweaving the Fabric: The Iron Rule and the IAF Strategy for Power and Politics. (1993), by Ernesto Cortes, Jr., provides the core principles of faith-based organizing.

Community Building Coming of Age. (1997) by G. Thomas Kingsley, Joseph B. McNeely, and James O.Gibson. This report examines the core themes of the community building movement and offers important recommendations for strengthening it through a national campaign, federal and local supports, and local intermediary organizations.

The Consensus Organizing Model. (1996)
by Michael Eichler and the Consensus Organizing Institute

Kernels of Democracy. (1994)
by Ken Thomson, Jeffrey Berry, and Kent Portney

Regenerating Community. (1994)
by John McKnight

Stories & Case Studies

Empowerment Zones: A Missed Opportunity (2001: 368 KB pdf), by Marilyn Gittell and colleagues at the Howard Samuels State Management and Policy Center, examines six cities through three years of field research and turns an especially critical eye on how party politics and city bureaucracies impeded community engagement.

The Atlanta Project Uses a Community Based Approach to Solve Urban Problems. Planning of large-scale community and civic revitalization projects is challenged by the dialectic that exists between the need for effective, centralized coordination and the affirmative value of neighborhood empowerment and control. For The Atlanta Project, striking this balance is both an ongoing challenge and a source of strength. Case study plus.

"Building Diverse Communities" in South Carolina's Sea Islands. This case study describes the importance of dialogue in developing community leadership among diverse groups. In the context of South Carolina's Penn School for Preservation, it highlights ways communities can create diverse leadership cadres working toward common goals, and critiques common assumptions about the effectiveness of current leadership training methods. Case study plus.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Builds Coalitions for the Future. In mid-1988 the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Citizens Forum elected to launch an ambitious self-evaluation/strategic planning process using the ten components of the Civic Index to orient the effort. For one year a diverse 60-member Stakeholders Committee met at three- to four-week intervals to build coalitions, evaluate local governance practices, and identify priority community projects. Case study plus.

Citizen Participation Project (See Kernels of Democracy above)

Birmingham Neighborhood Associations Bring Local Voice to Community Development. In the early 1970s, following a decade of racial strife and the mobilization of black neighborhoods, the city of Birmingham, Alabama, developed a formal system of Neighborhood Associations. Today there are 95 of them, organized in various Community Advisory Committees and an effective biracial Citizens Advisory Board that is mandated to meet with the mayor and city council at least once each quarter. They focus primarily on community development projects, such as housing rehabilitation and commercial development, and many of the low-income neighborhoods have worked with local ministries and community organizers to provide ongoing leadership development. Case study plus.

Dayton Priority Boards Bring City Officials into Neighborhoods. Growing out of the Model Cities program and neighborhood councils of the late 1960s and early 1970s, Priority Boards were established on a citywide basis in Dayton in 1975. Most of them encompass both low and higher income neighborhoods, and work with the city to improve services, such as garbage collection and housing rehabilitation. Each month, an Administrative Council representing each city agency meets in each Priority Board area not as experts with all the answers, but as staff ready to listen to local citizens and elected board members, who set the agenda. The boards also focus on how to help neighborhood groups generate self-help projects beyond what the city can provide. Case study plus.

Portland Neighborhood Associations Bring Local Voice to City Government. Citizens of Portland, Oregon, began creating neighborhood associations in the 1950s, and then built upon Model Cities and Community Action programs in the 1960s and 1970s to create one of the most effective citywide systems of citizen participation in the United States today. After a series of struggles between the associations and the city government in the early 1970s, the city formally recognized the neighborhood associations, and has since helped to build an elaborate structure to fund them, ensure open and fair participation, and give them an important role in city budgeting, crime prevention, and land use planning. Case study plus.

St. Paul District Councils Form Backbone of Community Empowerment. In the early 1970s, citizens groups and community councils organized to demand a voice in city government and local development planning, and the city responded by creating a comprehensive system of 17 District Councils. Today these councils play a large role in land-use planning, housing, hazardous waste and pollution control, crime watches, and arts festivals, and also have a major voice in determining the city's capital improvement budget. The councils are incorporated as nonprofits, and engage in many collaborative projects with other nonprofit organizations. Often housed in community centers with a dozen other nonprofits, they serve as an important hub of both formal participation and broader civic engagement. Case study plus.

Community Boards of San Francisco Strengthen "Civic Muscles" through Conflict Resolution. Believing that the community is where the responsibility for problem solving and conflict resolution should first fall, where the most effective prevention work can be done, and where meaningful lessons about conflict and its impact on friends, neighbors, and community can best be learned, the Community Board Program provides free community mediation services in San Francisco and offers conflict resolution-related program development and training assistance to schools, juvenile correctional facilities, and other agencies nationwide. Story and case study plus.

"Community Building in Partnership," is the story of how Baltimore's mayor, Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development (BUILD), and the Enterprise Foundation attempted a broad-based, comprehensive renovation of an entire neighborhood, Sandtown-Winchester, focusing on development of the neighborhood's human resources, as well as infrastructure. Excerpted from Harold A. McDougall's Black Baltimore: A New Theory of Community. Case study plus.

Despite Conflicts Over Citizen Control, the Empowerment Zone/Enterprise Community Program Begins to Show Results. As the EZ/EC program marks its second anniversary, The Neighborhood Works journal devotes an entire issue to articles on EZ/EC job creation strategies, community governance, green development, application tips, zone profiles, and more. Profiled communities include: Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, the Kentucky Highlands, Los Angeles, the Mississippi Mid-Delta, New York, Philadelphia/Camden, and the Rio Grande Valley. 1997. Case study plus.

Dialogue and Problem-Solving Bridge the Divides of Race and Ethnicity. The process of overcoming bias must begin in communities, where people interact and daily face the consequences of racial, ethnic and class antagonisms. This article profiles several successful programs that combine opportunities for face-to-face dialogue among individuals from diverse backgrounds with broad-based support and involvement of local organizations and governing institutions. Case study plus.

A Differences Approach is Creating Opportunity in Fargo, North Dakota. Through a regional collaboration between Fargo, North Dakota and its neighboring city, Moorhead, Minnesota, citizens are addressing the opportunities and challenges of an increasingly diverse population by implementing extensive educational and outreach strategies to promote understanding of the different cultures in the region. The community is one of fourteen working with the Pew Partnership for Civic Change, which focuses attention on the civic capacity of smaller cities. Case study plus.

Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative Creates an Urban Village. "Long Boston's most impoverished area, the Dudley Street neighborhood is living an extraordinary story of community rebirth shaped by the dreams of ordinary people of different races and generations. This inner city neighborhood, like so many around the country, was treated like an outsider city—separate, unequal and disposable. The resident-led Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI) is rebuilding it with the power of pride, organizing and a unified vision of comprehensive community development." (Streets of Hope, 1994). Story and case study plus.

East Brooklyn Congregations Build Nehemiah Homes. "Come, let us rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, so that we may no longer suffer disgrace." With these words from the Book of Nehemiah, local ministers drew upon the prophetic Old Testament imagery of the the black church tradition to inspire grassroots action and move the mayor of New York City to support what has since become an innovative housing program for cities around the country. East Brooklyn Congregations represents the values-based style of organizing of the Industrial Areas Foundation, which sees community organizing as not just advocacy but as schools for public life and public leadership development. Case study plus.

Good Shepherd Alliance Combats Homelessness in Loudon County, Virginia. Confronted with the problem of homelessness in this northern Virginia suburb of Washington, D.C., local ministers started to build upon the relationships that they had with civic organizations, local businesses and developers. They eventually created an alliance that mobilized assets from every part of the community, involved the homeless in running the organization, worked with the county, and nurtured independence and self esteem through vigorous efforts to keep work and training opportunities available. President Reagan honored them with a Private Sector Initiatives Citation. Story and case study plus.

HandMade in America Builds a Regional Community Development Strategy. This broad-based coalition in Western North Carolina is implementing a twenty-two county community development strategy based on the unique history of the region as a center for handmade crafts. The community is one of fourteen working with the Pew Partnership for Civic Change, which focuses attention on the civic capacity of smaller cities. Case study plus.

Malltown Square: Can Malls Become Civic Spaces?. An introduction to the Malltown Square project, undertaken by the Walt Whitman Center, and a report on current trends in malls and democratic space. The aim of the project is to analyze the challenge of creating new suburban public space in malls and then move toward a model design and possibilities for a pilot. Case studies plus.

The National Task Force on African-American Men and Boys Works to Repair the Breach. This task force, supported by the Kellogg Foundation, has investigated key ways to support family life, reclaim our streets, and rebuild civil society in America's communities. The task force's report, Repairing the Breach, offers analyses, case studies, and recommendations to help accomplish this goal. Case study plus.

The Phoenix Futures Forum Creates Vision and Implants Community. In Phoenix, Arizona, the pressures of unprecedented population growth—and the catalytic effect of a highly critical outside assessment of the community's response to growing size and diversity—led to a multi-year, ongoing effort to shape neighborhood attitudes and aspirations into a comprehensive plan for the future. Case study plus.

Rock Hill "Empowers the Vision" in Citywide Strategic Planning. Rock Hill, South Carolina used a citywide approach, called Empowering the Vision (ETV), to produce a 10-year plan that will significantly transform the city's image as a "southern urban village on the leading edge of Charlotte, North Carolina." Case study plus.

South Bronx Rebuilds from the Bottom Up. Over the past few years the South Bronx has experienced an amazing turnaround. Well regarded community-based development corporations (CDCs) are acting as organizers, catalysts and implementors of strategies designed to fully recreate their neighborhoods. The Comprehensive Community Revitalization Program (CCRP) is a large scale national demonstration of how to rebuild communities from the ground up, now taking place in the South Bronx. Other initiatives are discussed as well. Story and case study plus.

United Way Impacts Communities through Neighborhood Partnerships. In this 48-page report, United Way of America summarizes and highlights the capabilities, experience and lessons learned by local United Ways as they build community through neighborhood-based affordable housing and community development initiatives. Profiled communities include: Boston, MA; York, PA; Memphis, TN; Houston, TX; Chicago, IL; Providence, RI; and Denver, CO. 1997. Case study plus.

United Ways' Stories Focus on Community Building. The United Way of America has published two collections of, and on, community building stories. United Ways' Community Capacity Building Stories is intended to provide some exposure to community capacity-building, a new and emerging approach to community building. Story-Making: United Way and Community Building provides readers an opportunity to learn from the professional and practical experiences of the United Way's Committee on Community Building. Case study plus.