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NRC Workshop Feature: Engaging Communities for Better Health

The following post was written by Kendall Reingold, summer intern for the Alliance for Children and Families Center for Engagement and Neighborhood Building.  She is an undergraduate student who has been assisting with the planning of the 2014 Neighborhood Revitalization Conference.
 
The 2014 Neighborhood Revitalization Conference is proud to present a workshop that will provide an inside look at successful strategies to engage community members in improving their own health and wellness.  Featuring speakers from two Alliance member organizations, United Neighborhood Houses of New York and the Gary Comer Youth Center, as well as Aramark, an Alliance partner, the workshop offers three unique perspectives.
 
Jerica Broeckling, Program Manager of the Aramark Building Communities program at the Alliance for Children and Families will facilitate the workshop, entitled: “Using Authentic Engagement to Improve Health Outcomes.”  The panel will include Terry Kaelber, Director of Community Engagement Projects at United Neighborhood Houses of New York; Ayoka Samuels, Senior Program Director at the Gary Comer Youth Center; and Michelle Jordan, Director of Community Relations at Aramark. 
 
The presenters are committed to the importance of authentic engagement strategies.  Mr. Kaelber explains, “Working to increase access to and use of healthy food often involves changing individual eating habits.  Social norms drive eating habits and can be the doorway to changing individual behaviors.   To impact social norms, a level of deep community engagement is needed.”  For Kaelber, this means “projects must be driven and led by local residents, who are involved at the earliest points of idea generation and planning, are invested in through skill building and training opportunities, and who become partners and leaders throughout implementation and evaluation.  Such approaches are built upon relationships and a commitment to partnering, both of which take time and tremendous effort, but the rewards and impact can be significant and long-lasting.
 
Authentic engagement is a longstanding principle of community-based organizations, although the term itself is relatively new to the lexicon.  This workshop is sure to help your organization realize its potential for positive authentic engagement outcomes.  Register for the conference online to attend this workshop, which will take place on Thursday, July 24th, the first day of the conference.
 
Early bird registration for the Neighborhood Revitalization Conference in D.C. is available online until July 7.  For the latest details about the conference and these presenters, stay tuned on Twitter.  Follow UNHNY, Aramark, the Gary Comer Youth Center, and the Alliance’s Center for Engagement and Neighborhood Building, and keep up with conference news using the hashtag #NRC14.

NRC Workshop Feature: Leveraging High Impact Change

The following post was written by Kendall Reingold, summer intern for the Alliance for Children and Families Center for Engagement and Neighborhood Building.  She is an undergraduate student who has been assisting with the planning of the 2014 Neighborhood Revitalization Conference.
 
Here at the Alliance, we value organizations that achieve a high level of impact, by which we mean the creation of lasting positive change in their communities.  ANDRUS, an Alliance member organization, exemplifies high impact in its Adverse Childhood Experiences Public Awareness Campaign.  The campaign works to raise awareness and implement policies of trauma informed care.  Trauma informed care is a shift in the traditional way caregivers approach behavioral issues.  Kerron Norman, Vice President for Community Based Programs at ANDRUS, told Behavioral Healthcare, “We have to stop asking what’s ‘wrong’ with people…You look at a child who’s acting out in school, and the automatic response based on our cultural understanding would be, ‘What’s wrong with that child?’”  Instead, we ought to ask, “What has happened to that child?”
 
The campaign, with the goal of educating as many individuals as possible who touch the lives of children in the City of Yonkers, caught on rapidly.  ANDRUS has trained over two thousand community members, including parents, community leaders, school principals, clergy, city council members, and the mayor, and has now begun working closely with multiple schools throughout the City of Yonkers.  
 
The community recognizes the quality of ANDRUS’ work: Westchester Magazine calls them “a leading provider of child and family resources.” Their success has come from a combination of leveraging different public and private funding streams; collaborative efforts; and thinking differently about our own services, to help create local systemic change.
 
Lorelei A. Vargas, Kerron Norman, and Mimi Corcoran of ANDRUS will present their story at the 2014 Neighborhood Revitalization Conference on July 25th, the second day of the conference.  The workshop, “Leveraging research and resources for systemic change,” is a panel discussion that will cover 1) how current research is made accessible and shared with various stakeholders; 2) the process by which various stakeholders are engaged; 3) how public and private funding streams are directed towards this effort; 4) the various entry points to address and create systemic change; and 5) lessons learned in the process.
 
Early bird registration for the Neighborhood Revitalization Conference in D.C. is available online until June 24.  For the latest details about the conference and these presenters, stay tuned on Twitter.  Follow ANDRUS and the Alliance’s Center for Engagement and Neighborhood Building, and keep up with conference news using the hashtag #NRC14.

NRC Workshop Feature: Data and Community Engagement

The following post was written by Kendall Reingold, summer intern for the Alliance for Children and Families Center for Engagement and Neighborhood Building.  She is an undergraduate student who has been assisting with the planning of the 2014 Neighborhood Revitalization Conference.
 
In this digital age of transparency, the openness of data matters. Especially in issues that concern communities. To effect individual and neighborhood-level change in American communities, today’s top non-profits are putting data in the hands of community members themselves.
 
The 2014 Neighborhood Revitalization Conference, co-sponsored by the Alliance for Children and Families and the Center for the Study of Social Policy, addresses this connection between data and communities in a workshop entitled “Engaging Community in Data Collection, Analysis, and Planning.”  Presenters Elsa Falkenburger, Leah Hendey, and Kathryn Pettit of the Urban Institute and Isaac Castillo of Alliance member organization the DC Promise Neighborhood Initiative (DCPNI) will lead the workshop.
 
Castillo, DCPNI’s Director of Data and Evaluation, emphasizes the importance of presenting data to residents in meaningful ways. “At DCPNI, we strive to include residents in the data collection process," he says. "We want residents to use data; the best way to get residents to use data is to have them involved from the point the data are collected through when the data are released publicly.”  This type of inclusive approach is important for all organizations trying to enhance their engagement efforts.
 
The interactive skill-building workshop, held on July 24, the first day of the Neighborhood Revitalization Conference, will showcase efforts to combine the skills of research experts with the deep knowledge that community residents have of their neighborhoods, as well as examples from the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership and the DC Promise Neighborhood of sharing data with community groups to spur new conversations and inform strategies.
 
Early bird registration for the Neighborhood Revitalization Conference is available online until June 24.  For the latest details about the conference and these presenters, stay tuned on Twitter.  Follow the Alliance’s Center for Engagement and Neighborhood Building and keep up with conference news using the hashtag #NRC14.  You can also follow Isaac Castillo and the Urban Institute for updates on their work in engaging communities with data.

NRC Feature: Successful Collaboration to Revitalize New Jersey

The following post was written by Kendall Reingold, summer intern for the Alliance for Children and Families Center for Engagement and Neighborhood Building.  She is an undergraduate student assisting with the planning of the 2014 Neighborhood Revitalization Conference. Continue to check the Building Neighborhoods blog for more NRC Features ahead of the July Conference.
 
We’ve all heard the tragic story: Camden, New Jersey, a metropolis overrun with crime; the poster child of postindustrial decline; the most dangerous city in America.  A case hackneyed by partisan arguments about violence, welfare, and industry, it sadly has not seen much in the way of solutions-based discussion, let alone viable action.  Until now, that is.
 
This year, the Alliance’s Neighborhood Revitalization Conference will feature a workshop entitled “A Shared Approach: Communicating, Collaborating, and Coordinating to Revitalize New Jersey Neighborhoods.”  Facilitated by Lois W. Greco of the Wells Fargo Regional Foundation and Community Development Corporation, Bradley Harrington of the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, Meishka Mitchell of the Coopers Ferry Partnership, and Staci Berger of the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey, the workshop demonstrates that it really is possible for residents, local stakeholders, corporations, and funders to work together toward a shared agenda.
 
The combination of public and private funding and the collaborative approach to revitalization implemented by these organizations have created physical, social and human capital programs, catalyzing measurable improvements in twenty six low-income New Jersey communities.  For instance, in the initiative’s Neighborhood Revitalization Tax Credit program, every dollar invested leveraged over seven dollars in additional resources toward jobs and affordable housing.  The cooperative public/private approach to uplifting New Jersey’s neighborhoods received the 2013 HUD Secretary’s Award for Philanthropic-Public Partnerships.
 
The workshop, held on July 24, the first day of the Neighborhood Revitalization Conference, will use the case study of Camden to discuss the real costs and benefits of such a large-scale effort and to demonstrate how other neighborhoods can implement similar public/private initiatives.
 
Early bird registration for the Neighborhood Revitalization Conference is available online until June 24.  For the latest details about the conference and these presenters, stay tuned on Twitter.  Follow the Alliance’s Center for Engagement and Neighborhood Building and keep up with conference news using the hashtag #NRC14.  You can also follow panelist Staci Berger for updates on her continued work toward a better New Jersey.

Guest Blogger: An Ideal Theater: My Dear Miss Addams

The following post was written by Faye Price, co-Artistic Director of Pillsbury House + Theatre, one of 5 neighborhood centers of Alliance member organization Pillsbury United Communities, a 21st century successor to the vision of Hull House founder Jane Addams. The publisher of an Ideal Theater: Founding Visions for New American Art by Todd London solicited this article as a contemporary response to an excerpt from Ms. Addams’ Twenty Years of Hull-House, specifically about the Hull House Players. This artistic activity is often credited by London and others with inspiring not only the neighborhood but the entire American Little Theatre movement.
 
My Dear Miss Addams,
 
Thank you for your enormous vision. Your humanitarian instincts and thoughtful determination are responsible for a not-so-minor revolution in the American theatre. I know your work was meant to help new immigrants make their way in this country, to fight inequality and end the deplorable living conditions of the poor, but thank you for recognizing that theater could be a powerful tool in your fight for social justice. You systematically insured that theatrical performance was not only available but also accessible and participatory for a population that was new to this country and struggling to thrive amid vast inequities. As a result of your work at Hull-House and the establishment of the Hull-House Players, hundreds of settlement houses across the country incorporated the arts into their programming by 1914. You were also a vocal pacifist, impassioned labor reformer, and crusading suffragette. It’s no wonder J Edgar Hoover called you “The most dangerous woman in America.”
 
There are still a few of us following your vision today, Miss Addams. In New York both Henry Street Settlement and University Settlement have vibrant stages that present and produce community-based art programming. Karamu House in Cleveland continues its long-standing production of African American Theatre. And in Minneapolis, Pillsbury House, a settlement that was established in 1905, continues the tradition of using the arts to improve the lives of individuals and strengthen the health of our communities. The tenements may look a little different these days. The languages have also changed; we are hearing more Spanish, Hmong and Somali languages here in Minnesota as opposed to the Polish, Italian and Greek parlance of Chicago in the early 20th century. And our traditional Settlement services have been updated to provide more culturally specific services to new Americans. But settlement houses are indeed alive, slightly reconfigured and unfortunately still necessary in this country as the economic, educational and racial disparities in this country grow wider each day.
 
Here in Minneapolis at Pillsbury House +Theatre, we see every day the profound effect that art has not only on individuals but on our surrounding community as well. It’s not unusual for a young adult in college to return to the center, for example, expressing great gratitude for the confidence and leadership skills that our youth theatre mentoring program, the Chicago Avenue Project, instilled in them.
 
Pillsbury House Theatre was established in 1992 as a professional theatre housed in a community center (Pillsbury House Neighborhood Center), committed to the Settlement House tradition of creating art in collaboration with community. In 2009, the community center and the theatre made a bold move to integrate their programs and operations under the theatre’s artistic leadership to create Pillsbury House + Theatre, an ideal living 21st century example of the principles that animated you.
 
Our vision is of a new kind of arts organization, a center for creativity and community that is both professional and community-driven, that is known for artistic excellence and broad accessibility, and that engages a diverse constituency which benefits individually and collectively from participation. We are integrating arts content throughout our human services programming like HIV outreach and truancy prevention, animating programs like day care and after school activities through arts learning, experience and practice. We have four Resident Teaching Artists that work alongside human service staff to develop and implement curricula that use arts activities as a core part of their programs. Days here are infused with theatre, dance, puppetry, music, painting, collage, and other art forms. Art is used not merely to complement other programming, but to support and enhance program outcomes. You probably won’t be surprised to hear that this approach makes outcomes easier to achieve. People are more excited to participate and, through the practice of creativity, they grow their own capacity to succeed.
 
One of the other elements that make PHT particular in the world of the Settlement House arts tradition is that we are an award-winning professional theatre using Equity actors, housed in a neighborhood center, located in an urban neighborhood that intimidates some. We do community-driven work, but we also produce and commission provocative new work by some of the American Theater’s brightest playwrights. For the past 10 years, PHT has had at least one production mentioned in the “Best of the Year” lists in the local theatre media. Our work is rooted in the belief that the highest quality art is an essential part of every community.
 
Yet because we are situated in a neighborhood that has a bad reputation, we battle the notion that we produce amateur, lesser-quality theatre—as if choosing to be in a community equates to lower standards. Or that the privilege of paying to park your car means that your arts experience will be of the highest caliber. Or if you don’t own a car, you certainly can’t appreciate great art. We have been referred to as Pillsbury Playhouse or Pillsbury Puppet Theater by perfectly well meaning folks whose words are still condescending and diminishing.
 
So while your work has had massive repercussions, some things have not changed, Miss Addams. The arts are still often presented as an experience to be consumed by those with cultivated taste. While the regional theater movement that came later in the century decentralized theatre away from New York and provided training and employment to local residents, I’m afraid there was a loss of your original ideas about the value of art in the local community. This regional push for professionalism helped to stimulate the economy but also somehow has made it more difficult to see your children or your neighbors onstage in your own community. Indigenous stories once performed so proudly by the newly arrived immigrants at Hull-House have been co-opted by the non-profit American theatre and produced in a building far, far from home.
 
At PH+T, we are going to continue to push your ideas forward, Miss Addams, testing how much a Settlement House animated by creativity can democratize the arts and strengthen an underserved community.  Inside of our theatre, the demographics of our audience certainly show that people diverse in age, income level and ethnicity can share arts experiences. We see women from shelters sitting beside well-to-do lawyers from the suburbs and Somali teenagers sitting next to Caucasian senior citizens. As we look outward, we are beginning to work with a consortium of community partners on a shared Creative Community Development plan for our community, to develop the creative assets of the four neighborhoods surrounding the theatre and increase attachment, access, engagement and upward mobility among residents. I’d like to think that we are doing you proud, investing in people, investing in neighborhoods, by restoring theatre “to its rightful place in the community”.
 
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by Dr. Radut