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Engage Residents

Overview

  • After regional and neighborhood markets have been analyzed and organized into groups with similar market characteristics and corresponding broad strategic approaches, each neighborhood targeted for stabilization will benefit from its own plan that tailors strategies and implementation to its particular assets, challenges, residents and competitive advantage relative to other neighborhoods.
  • At this planning level, it makes sense to engage many more neighborhood residents. Their involvement will improve the plan, and they have a right to be involved in activities that impact their neighborhood.
  • Residents enhance stabilization plans because of their unique insight into:
    • Vulnerable properties
    • Residents at risk of foreclosure
    • Patterns of market activity
    • Motivations of owners, renters, landlords
  • Residents also can improve stabilization plans because of their unique ability to participate in the implementation of stabilization strategies:
    • Monitoring vacant property
    • Helping to maintain vacant property
    • Encouraging vulnerable owners to seek help
    • Maintaining their own property
    • Restoring a sense of control and confidence in the future

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Core Principles for Engaging Residents

  • A community engagement process must build the collective voices of neighborhood residents. For a neighborhood to improve, residents have to be willing to invest their time, money, and energy in individual and collective efforts to improve it. This will not occur if residents do not exercise meaningful influence in what happens during a neighborhood improvement process.
  • It’s all about relationships. People must know and trust one another in order to be able to take collective action. Relationships help people to negotiate with each other more effectively when making critical decisions about what should happen in a community. Any activity that helps people to get to know one another is therefore vitally important, even if its other neighborhood benefits are modest.
  • Planning should not get in the way of action. Action should begin on any issue as soon as promising opportunities are identified. Planning processes should not take months or years of meetings and data analysis before anything happens.
  • Partnership-building and negotiation paves the way for implementation. The engagement process must recognize that what gets implemented in any community improvement process is what people agree to do. Therefore, the building of partnerships, and open and honest negotiations among interested parties, is paramount in the process.
  • Seek to advance neighborhood quality of life and resident engagement more than the interests of our own institutions. Especially at the outset of the process, we should seek first to help people get engaged in their community and see what kinds of institutional roles they need and want to create. This is not to say that institutional self-interests are not valid, but it does mean that institutions should begin their engagement by listening.

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Tips on Engaging Residents

  • Use a variety of techniques to engage residents in planning stabilization strategies:
    • One-on-one meetings
    • Focus groups and house meetings
    • Planning events
    • Social media
    • Surveys
    • Neighborhood walks
  • Offer a range of opportunities for neighbors to be engaged with planning:
    • Organizing others
    • Participation in a planning event
    • Participation in a limited-duration task, such as surveying block conditions or bringing snacks to a meeting
    • Managing an ongoing group
  • Residents are already engaged in their neighborhood in many ways - meet them where they are rather than expecting them to come to a lot of meetings.
  •  Think about how people in your community get together:
    •  Sports leagues
    •  Faith institutions
    • Front porches
    • Corner bar
    • Block clubs and crime watches
    • Political groups
  • Help residents participate meaningfully by preparing them with any information they need.
  • Hold planning opportunities at a variety of times and places to accommodate schedules.
  • Provide child care and a meal to maximize participation in any events or meetings.
  • Offer engagement opportunities in multi-lingual and multi-cultural ways where needed.
  • Remember that neighborhood organizations, nonprofits, businesses and faith-based and other institutions are also neighbors and should be involved.

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