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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