Thursday, January 24, 2013

Leadership Development and Community Building Activities Improve Communities and Help the Bottom Line

This blog entry is reposted from our Leaders for Communities website.
By Sara Varela NeighborWorks America Community Building and Organizing communications specialist

Twin Cities Community Development Corporation in Fitchburg, MA wrote a fantastic example of how community building and organizing activities help an organization’s bottom line, and how leadership development improves a neighborhood. These are my favorite types of stories. What do you think about them? Read the examples below and leave a comment.

Examples of leadership development improving a neighborhood are reflected in these two stories:

Photo of Paysha Rhone and James Kayaba with a little girl. These are two of the three residents who advocated for sidewalks in their community.
Three residents involved with Twin Cities CDC spoke on behalf of the Elm Street Area Neighborhood Association in front of the City Council Public Works Committee. Residents LeNeia Thomas, Paysha Rhone and James Kayaba had not spoken much publicly before, but they advocated earnestly for sidewalk and road improvements in their neighborhood. They argued the improvements would enhance the safety of children and elders in the area. Prior to this action, all the three resident leaders attended either or both  the NeighborWorks Community Leadership Institute and the Community Action Training sponsored by Twin Cities CDC. Thanks to their efforts, the process for paving these streets has begun.

A second story relates to a resident-led open house and barbeque. As Twin Cities CDC finished building new homes in the Elm Street Area, the organization became concerned about selling them. The first home had been on the market for two years. The construction had created debt, other homes were adding to the organization's inventory and there was pressure to sell the homes under the rules for HUD's HOME program.

Resident-led open house and BBQ
Residents decided to hold a block party to help sell the homes. They got out the grill, organized the music and that day the first home was sold to an employee of Fitchburg State University! Two of the three homes for sale were sold shortly after this event, greatly relieving financial stress on the organization and proving what the residents of the neighborhood already knew: people wanted to live in the neighborhood.

Residents were also excited about a new daycare business inside a formerly foreclosed home. They welcomed the daycare with a press conference and used this as yet another opportunity to sell a new homes. At the time Twin Cities submitted their quarterly report to NeighborWorks America, the last of the new homes had been put under agreement and another home they rehabilitated was also under agreement.

Community building activities and resident leadership development are not often looked as money makers for an organization, but these stories demonstrate that resident activities can help an organization’s bottom line!