This week's vlog highlights my foray into running, which is something I never thought I would do! But, I've come to realize that the right motivation can make all the difference.
For this blog, I want to dive into what Phase 2 means to NeighborLink and what our goals are. This research project is helping Neighborlink assess how we can aid neighborhood development and improvement going forward. NeighborLink is developing a set of tools, information and processes to aid other neighborhoods in the future. This is why the research meets the 5 goals of an AmeriCorps VISTA project: it is focused on ending poverty, empowering communities, creating sustainable solutions, building capacity and expanding economic opportunities.
The project focuses on ending poverty by activating neighbors and assets that are already present in the neighborhood. This project is empowering to the neighborhoods because NeighborLink won't just come in to solve problems for people, rather we give tools and a framework to enable people to help themselves and others. When people realize they have the capacity to solve their own problems, then that becomes a sustainable solution. The research process falls under the capacity-building aspect because it is building a framework that will expand what NeighborLink can do going forward. Finally, it expands economic opportunities because neighbors who are equipped with knowledge and have developed plans for improvement can advocate well for themselves for grants and other economic investment.
Our goals for this project, beyond those stated above, are related to rebuilding social connection- because connection helps naturally solve problems. When a community is connected: suddenly you know someone to help with everything and can create a lively economy of exchange and goodwill. It also solves countless social problems. If one has a strong connection to others, a crisis is more manageable and less despair-inducing. I have been researching how to build connection and NeighborLink has years of data on how people have been connected. This data, however, has been difficult to visualize and track. However, with new tools like Landgrid (see my previous blog for an explanation) and Tableau, we can take our project data, Assessor's data on home values and Census data and plot it all on one map. This is our next step to understanding where to direct our efforts and what Phase 2 should include. These tools will aid our conversations with neighborhood leaders and allow us to track our progress on the ground.
Thus, Phase 2 is really about action and traction: we want this effort to spur growth that will be self-sustaining and continue even after our grant money runs out. Therefore, we have been learning not just about development, but how to do it strategically. One book we have been studying, is aptly named "Strategic Doing," by Ed Morrison, Scott Hutcheson, Janyce Fadden, Nancy Franklin, & Elizabeth Nilsen. This book outlines some crucial skills to strengthen collaborative efforts, which we aim to master because lasting change comes by collective, collaborative, grass roots work. Also, if many people rise to lead their community forward, then the movement will be more resilient and leader burnout will be less likely.
There is so much to learn and so much to do! We have many goals to achieve, but one is at the very core: how do we make these neighborhoods healthier?