Many NeighborWorks Network Organizations send teams of eight volunteer residents to the national NeighborWorks Community Leadership Institute (CLI) and then try to replicate the sense of excitement and energy of this national event at the local level to encourage more local leaders to become a changing force in their communities. I’ve read several examples of what is being done across the country on this topic, and today I’d like to share one example from Homeport in Columbus, Ohio.
The team of volunteers that attended 2011 Kansas City CLI, went back to their community and created a strategy to provide leadership training opportunities in all of Homeport’s multifamily and scattered site properties. Homeport asked all its property managers on staff to nominate resident leaders from the communities they served. The Director of Community Life sent each nominated resident leader a letter of congratulations letting them know they had been selected to participate in this leadership training initiative.
An overall strategy for carrying out the training was created that included eliminating barriers to transportation and childcare, the City of Columbus Neighborhood Pride Center donated space for the sessions and NeighborWorks America donated binders to hold the training content.
Homeport also contracted with a national resident engagement consultant from Everyday Democracy who shared a presentation on “collaborative leadership with residents”. They were able to replicate a basic training format about a dozen different times in different locations. The sessions went as follows:
Each session started with sharing a meal, which was normally donated by a local sponsor, and then a panel presentation followed. Panelists were normally staff from Homeport, as well as volunteer advisory board members. Two key questions generated the basis of the panel conversation and then the rest of the attendees shared their thoughts around the topic as well. The questions were: 1) What does community mean to you and 2) What does leadership mean to you?
I am so glad to see a group focusing on these questions as a starting point. Many times in community development we jump this step and assume it is a given that we all have the same understanding of the concepts “leadership and community”. It was fantastic to see Homeport not taking this for granted and actually using these key concepts as conversation starters.
Keeping in mind their concept of community, on the first local event Homeport held towards the end of July, they announced that one of their local residents had been selected as a Dorothy Richardson Award recipient. Mr. Robert Fountain was one of six national award recipients recognized in October, and Homeport made a point at celebrating this success with his own neighbors. As stated in Homeport’s CLI report:
“ The impact of being awarded the NeighborWorks Dorothy Richardson Award has been great. Receiving the award has been inspirational, and provides the community with external validation on the importance of leadership and community service.”
Evaluation feedback for these events has been great. One of the most important benefits was the sense of hope and renewal gained. Many residents shared that the panels and following conversations helped them break through isolation and sense more of their potential to lead and share in their very own communities.
In photo: Volunteer at one of HomePort’s local CLIs
Do you come to a consensus on the definition of leadership and community when you work with residents in your neighborhood?