Neighborhood Opportunity Network

Supporting one another in a time of crisis

  • The Neighbors Campaign was recently renamed the Neighborhood Opportunity Network to reflect our full collaboration with the Montgomery County Department of Health & Human Services.

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An Unfolding Story of Shared Leadership

Posted by frankieblackburn on June 28, 2009

Several weeks ago, I posted a reflection about the first of several meetings to be held between the government and community partners who are working to birth an unprecendented collaboration. Depending which chair you sit in, we  refer to the project as the Neighbors Campaign or the Neighborhood Safety Net Center Initiative (note: use of two names indicates that we still have work to do, right?)

Last Thursday, we held the second meeting in this current round of joint planning and as Uma Ahluwalia said “This meeting was like a real lovefest” and her lead staff member, Betty Lam declared, “I feel like we are building a better relationship with each other.” Of course, for us IMPACT folks in the room, Betty used the magic words – building relationships. Her acknowledgement are the moments we live for at IMPACT. Thank you Betty. (For new readers, take note that this room is made up of long time social workers and long time community organizers – coming from very different perspectives and ways of being).

For those of you who tire of our focus on relationships, we want you to know how productive we were in our two hour meeting.  Here’s a quick summary, below. Following the summary is a picture of the team and a quick video clip. We apologize in advance for continued audio difficulties. We will enlist the services of a newer,better Flip camera next time. We also want to acknowledge that all participants in this meeting understand that many others need to be involved in the continued joint visioning and these meetings are a sparking force for these conversations and not a conclusion or final answer.

Outcomes of our second meeting:

  1. As agreed to at our last meeting, Winta Teferi of IMPACT  presented a two page outline of our emerging vision for Neighbor Corps, a cohort of resident leaders and community partners who commit to spending three months together in a learning community – as they also knock on doors and help implement the campaign.
  2. The stated purpose of Neighbor Corps – as presented by Winta – is: To develop a neighborhood-based leadership development and collaborative action program (in our three targeted neighborhoods) that will increase the ability of 60-80 people from a range of backgrounds and cultures to develop relationships of trust and use their new network to better connect low income residents to available social services and to spark circles of mutual support.
  3. After hearing from Winta, the team asked clarifying questions, talked about various strategies and timing issues – but overall agreed that the plan presented represented the vision crafted at the previous meeting. See outline attached. Of course, there are many people who need to see and comment on this proposal – but it is a start to have key components on paper.  Draft Proposal for Neighbor Corps – 23
  4. Kate Garvey of HHS then proposed that we use the last hour of our meeting to take on a new topic area – ideas for improving the Neighborhood Safety Net Center environment – in terms of continuing to our shared goal of creating centers that are welcoming, inclusive and facilitate new connections of support.
  5. After some back and forth regarding how to manage the realities of our exsiting centers and partners, Uma convinced us all to step back and build a vision – even if the vision cannot be fully achieved in the short term.  We crafted the following list of specific changes needed to achieve an effective commuinty-based Neighborhood Center:
  • Host multicultural food days: Pupusas, Asian food, inside or in food trucks outside
  • Various classes, seminars an and trainings
    • Cooking healthy
    • Diabetes education
    • Exercise club run by Lesly
    • Support groups (jobs, mothers, marriage, etc…)
  • Non traditional hours
  • Celebrations (new jobs, successful access to services….)
  • Different groups use the space for fun activities or meetings
  • Tea, coffee, water refreshments
  • Vending machine
  • Separate childcare area with great games and well-organized activities
  • Comfortable couches and hang out area
  • Magazines, newspapers
  • Well managed flyer rack
  • TVs with tutorials on how to get help and information on different programs, resources etc…
  • Music!
  • Community resource exchange bulletin board (2 way information exchange)
  • Internet access
  • Family evenings with homework club for kids while parents watch a movie
  • Active, friendly volunteers greeting people …. helping people open Gmail accounts and use the computers
Social Workers and Community Organizers - TOGETHER!

Social Workers and Community Organizers - TOGETHER!


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