Communities of Opportunity: Categories of Impact
Using the Asset Based Community Development model, we engage with our residents and ask: “what matters to you?” rather than “what’s the matter with you?”. By framing our discussions in this way, we discover what people care about, what’s important to their community and what assets or potential are present within the community to contribute to our joint action. This approach draws upon the strengths that exist within a community to build stronger, more sustainable communities for the future.
Our residents are encouraged and empowered to form Tenant Councils and Resident Associations and in many of our buildings we have implemented “Building Captains”: resident volunteers who assist with communication between residents and our building managers. Our residents become empowered partners in the transformation of their own neighborhoods.
Staff and residents work together to co-produce recreation events that are educational, wellness orientated and fun for all. Often, resident talents are leveraged to benefit the whole community, such as art classes for children being run by artistic residents; exercise and fitness classes being led by enthusiastic resident volunteers; and entirely resident-led initiatives.
All of these activities build collective efficacy: the process of activating social ties among residents in order to achieve collective goals. Collective efficacy builds as residents are able to see that their efforts have made a difference. This develops a positive feedback loop, encouraging further collective action.
In the most successful examples of community building, our efforts generate a ripple effect into the wider neighborhood, connecting community organizations and spreading positive action.
Cambridge Tower, Detroit
The Resident Service Coordinator at Cambridge Tower in Detroit worked with residents to create a Resident Resource Advisory Council. The Council and Coordinator meet weekly to co-produce programming and resource development. Together, they have brought in a rich variety of neighborhood resources including: health care providers, Detroit Department for the Aging fraud prevention programs, Detroit Institute for the Arts, and in addition have established a strong collaboration with a neighborhood university-managed community garden. A health fair at the property attracted over fifteen community providers to share information as well as conduct health screenings.
Grace West, Newark - Service a-thon
An inter-generational group of Grace West residents joined forces with Mission Continues, the Boys and Girls Club, Friends of Jesse Allen Park, and the Spencer Allen School to clean up the community. There were over 200 volunteers working together, including 40 Grace West residents. Even the seniors demonstrated their support by helping supervise the 20 different service projects that took place around the campus. The veterans from Mission Continues worked with the residents to clean up Grace West, while other volunteers helped plant a garden at the Boys and Girls Club and beautify Jesse Allen Park.
Here, the spirit of Communities of Opportunity spread through the entire neighborhood, as everyone worked together to create a safer environment. The children and the seniors of Grace West displayed a great spirit of altruism, as they worked side by side in their efforts to improve their community. The campus, park, and neighborhood were left cleaner, and the community more engaged. Following the success of this service-a-thon, we are building our partnerships and plan to continually create opportunities for the residents to connect with the local community.
No-one understands the community quite like its inhabitants. The residents are a community’s strongest asset.