Many Strategies, One Goal: Empowering Residents

Posted May 1, 2007, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

Res­i­dent engage­ment strate­gies sup­port­ed by Casey are as var­ied and diverse as the com­mu­ni­ties they serve. But they all work to give res­i­dents a voice and a mean­ing­ful role in shap­ing solu­tions to local chal­lenges and in link­ing res­i­dents to each oth­er and need­ed resources. Fol­low­ing are a few examples.

Study Cir­cles, Sto­ry Cir­cles, Fam­i­ly Circles 

Draw­ing on meth­ods — adapt­ed by the Foun­da­tion and by spe­cif­ic Casey sites — from the Study Cir­cles Resource Cen­ter, res­i­dents work togeth­er, often meet­ing in homes or com­mu­ni­ty cen­ters, to act on press­ing issues. Fam­i­ly cir­cles in Indi­anapo­lis, for exam­ple, have helped launch new play­groups, after-school pro­grams and youth-men­tor­ing programs.

Net­work Organizing

Mak­ing Con­nec­tions res­i­dents and local part­ners have formed pow­er­ful net­works that help con­nect fam­i­lies to jobs, edu­ca­tion, child care and civic involve­ment, attract­ing mem­bers through incen­tives like free pub­lic trans­porta­tion and dis­counts at local retail­ers. Such a net­work in Louisville, Ky., has drawn more than 2,000 mem­bers and is help­ing con­nect fam­i­lies to jobs in health care and oth­er sec­tors. The Edge­wood Fam­i­ly Net­work in San Anto­nio runs pro­grams that help fam­i­lies get job, health and edu­ca­tion ser­vices and ensures ser­vice providers heed res­i­dent voic­es and priorities.

Com­mu­ni­ty Orga­niz­ing and Mobilization

Help­ing res­i­dents work with com­mu­ni­ty lead­ers, faith-based groups, gov­ern­ment, schools, foun­da­tions and oth­ers for more equi­table poli­cies and prac­tices to meet com­mu­ni­ty needs is a Casey hall­mark. In Mak­ing Con­nec­tions Den­ver, for exam­ple, com­mu­ni­ty orga­niz­ers from an influ­en­tial group called Metro Orga­ni­za­tions for Peo­ple have helped res­i­dents advo­cate for improved ear­ly child­hood edu­ca­tion oppor­tu­ni­ties and stronger schools. Sim­i­lar efforts have helped Den­ver res­i­dents and oth­er part­ners achieve an unprece­dent­ed com­mu­ni­ty ben­e­fits agree­ment with the city and devel­op­ers of a mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar com­mer­cial, res­i­den­tial and retail cen­ter. The agree­ment sets aside jobs, appren­tice­ships and afford­able hous­ing for neigh­bor­hood residents.

Res­i­dent Lead­er­ship Institutes

Lead­er­ship insti­tutes in many Casey sites help hun­dreds of res­i­dents devel­op skills to increase their civic par­tic­i­pa­tion. The Res­i­dent Lead­er­ship and Facil­i­ta­tion pro­gram in Indi­anapo­lis offers train­ing in devel­op­ing results-based and data-dri­ven strate­gic plan­ning. Hun­dreds of res­i­dents grad­u­ate from res­i­dent lead­er­ship train­ing in San Anto­nio, Prov­i­dence, R.I., and oth­er Mak­ing Con­nec­tions cities each year. Some go on to become school board mem­bers or city coun­cil officials.

Trust­ed Advocates

Well-respect­ed res­i­dents in many Casey sites — known as walk­ers and talk­ers,” the Span­ish pro­ma­toras” or res­i­dent ambas­sadors — can­vass their com­mu­ni­ties; engage friends and neigh­bors in strate­gies to address neigh­bor­hood issues; and con­nect vul­ner­a­ble fam­i­lies to oppor­tu­ni­ties and sup­port. Trust­ed advo­cates in White Center/​Seattle play key roles in the community’s strate­gic plan­ning and rep­re­sent their neigh­bor­hoods at the deci­sion-mak­ing tables of local pub­lic and pri­vate agen­cies and funders.

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