How We Do It

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How do we put the ‘neighbor’ back in neighborhood?

Putting the ‘neighbor’ back in neighborhood isn’t about external programs or initiatives. It’s about connecting people and rebuilding a sense of trust and mutually shared purpose. When this happens, anything is possible. We use several strategies to bring people together to make their community better.

Community cohesion and collective efficacy are the goals of putting the neighbor back in neighborhood. Community cohesion is residents combining resources by sharing time, sharing ideas, and sharing the willingness to invest to make those ideas a reality. Collective efficacy refers to the positive outcomes that enhance the quality of life as the community unites in our efforts.

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Things We Do Differently

We didn’t take on the city of Birmingham.

Our community engagement has been laser-focused on four Ensley neighborhoods: Ensley, Ensley Highlands, Tuxedo and Wylam. This approach allows us to saturate these areas with resources and maximize our service provision for the greatest impact.

We aggressively pursue clients.

Rather than waiting for clients to come to us, we go straight to them. We put boots on the ground — employing canvassers to go out into the community to knock on doors and speak directly with residents.

In addition, our team hosts yard parties and other community engagement events to welcome residents and allow them to engage with each other to build rapport. All of the activities we sponsor provide us with opportunities to reach new clients and recruit volunteers.

We don't give away services.

Simply giving things to people has proven not to be an effective strategy for building the self-determination that leads to culture change. Therefore, we require that clients invest some of their own sweat equity, intellectual capital, and personal resources as a condition of receiving our services.

We use a bartering system that asks clients to provide five hours of volunteer service in exchange for every $100 we spend on services for them. We’ve found this system is highly-effective in building self-determination in clients as they actively invest in their own revitalization.

New Neighbor Integration

When new neighbors move in, our team welcomes them to the community.

We help them with little things like getting garbage cans and accessing local services. We’re the modern-day version of the Welcome Wagon. Because that makes people feel they are part of a community and builds powerful connections.

Existing Neighbor Engagement

We hold neighborhood events that bring people together.

In the past year, we’ve held yard parties and dinners that have been well attended. We have created a database of neighbors and will continue to bring them together, which builds trust and pride and fuels self-determination.

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Youth Engagement

Young people are the future of our communities.

They need to be engaged and involved. The good news is that kids these days want to be involved. They care deeply and have ideas about the future. They just need to be acknowledged, invited to participate, listened to, and given opportunities to contribute. Renew Birmingham does a weekend youth mentoring program with the intent to create opportunities for young people to grow together and connect with other community members. Youth are intentionally being connected with seniors to bridge the generation gap.

Proximity Investment

Wealthier communities are always investing in themselves.

Healthy communities buy up blighted properties and homes and provide resources for the redevelopment of those homes. This creates an opportunity for the residents to provide housing needs as they arise and gives significant influence over who and how they live in the community. They are connected, they communicate, and work together to solve problems. So can we. There are resources we can tap into that will give us the same ability to address blighted or dangerous properties in our communities and transform them into something positive.