On Thursday, March 3 at Sound Outreach, 25 community members came together to discuss the planned development on Hilltop, the process of gentrification, potential long-term displacement of current Hilltop residents, and how to raise awareness. What we thought would be a small group of about 10 community leaders, easily became a strong group of 25 concerned community residents. This is a great first step and we left the meeting knowing that we will call together a larger group to talk about equity and empowerment for the whole community.
To catalyze and sustain comprehensive change efforts in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty, it is important to have both an authentic desire for change within the community and active involvement of neighborhood residents throughout the process. It is critical for leaders to understand residents’ views of the neighborhood, particularly the neighborhood’s needs and assets, and how the residents want their neighborhood to change. Thinking beyond the conversations, here is how I would frame successful strategies to community development.
Involve those experiencing needs that should be addressed. It’s both fair and logical to involve those who are most directly affected by adverse conditions. They know best what effects those conditions have on their lives, and including them in the planning process is more likely to produce a plan that actually speaks to their needs.
How to make this happen:
Involve community members from the very beginning of the process. This encourages both trust in the process and community buy-in and support, not only of the conversation, but of whatever actions are taken as a result of it. Full community participation in planning and carrying out community conversations also promotes leadership from within the community and gives voice to those who may feel they have none.
Use community-based participatory research, further involving community members and increasing community capacity. Staff of the organization that will run it, members of the target population, community officials, interested citizens, and people from involved agencies, schools, and other institutions all should be invited to the table. Everyone’s participation should be welcomed and respected, and the process shouldn’t be dominated by any individual or group, or by a single point of view.
Provide an easy-to-follow road map for conducting any activity. Planning ahead will save time and effort in carrying out the process.
A planning process will give community members the opportunity to voice their opinions, hopes, and fears about the community. Their idea of priorities might be different from those of professionals, but they shouldn’t be ignored.
It may be important to address the community’s priorities first, in order to establish trust and show respect, even if you don’t believe that those priorities are in fact the most important issues. Building relationships and credibility may be more important at the beginning of a long association than immediately tackling what seems to be the most pressing need. Among other things, community members’ priorities may be the right ones: they may see underlying factors that you don’t yet understand.
Based on other conversations I’ve had with residents, here’s what I understand some of those priorities to be (subject to change):
1) Priority on “Good Jobs and Local Hires”
2) Safety – Community Policing
3) Home ownership
4) Sustain and value existing community organizations
5) Programs for youth and seniors
6) Peoples Center as a cultural hub of information & programs
7) Hilltop Library
8) Community Journalism
9) Keep homes affordable and livable for seniors and people with fixed incomes
The next step needs to be the hilltop community getting together on the same page to establish a platform, determine what we are willing to do, and what we need from community organizations to thrive. We need an action plan. We are coming together to great a fantastic coalition of residents and community organizations to work through issues and have a united front to make real change in Tacoma’s Hilltop Neighborhood.
If you are interested in attending please email Corey Mosesly @ firstname.lastname@example.org to be placed on the list for future events.
Special Thank you: Hilltop Action Coalition,Sound Outreach, Tacoma Housing Authority, Hilltop Urban Gardens, People’s Center Advisory Committee, Computer Club House, Hilltop Library Committee, Tacoma Urban League, Pierce County Black Collective, Pierce County Building and Trades Council, United Way of Pierce County, Peace Community Center, Metropolitan Development Council, and many other dedicated community residents for coming out.