Small Is Beautiful: Investing in Community Driven Projects
By Austin Tadlock, Park Pride’s Program Associate
In Atlanta, a city of rapid growth and change, there is an emerging trend that redefines how we measure impact. In contrast to the major headlines and large-scale projects, there are efforts happening which seek to highlight the capacities within communities and propel the notion that small changes (spurred by small investments) can be a beautiful thing. Specifically, in the realm of parks and greenspace, Park Pride is employing small, grassroots strategies to make incremental improvements within neighborhood parks that are producing large-scale impact.
This “small is beautiful” concept is easy to miss, but its impact is transformational. Consider the graphs below, that show three years worth of data from three Park Pride programs that support community led priorities. When combined, each individual act of volunteerism, every dollar donated to a Friends of the Park group, every small grant to install a park bench or help fund a playground, represents a significant investment that creates noticeable changes in the makeup of our city.
Within the last three years, community members have dedicated nearly 57,000 hours of work to neighborhood parks with a comparable value of over $1.3 million dollars.
The Fiscal Partners Program lifts the administrative burden from Friends of the Parks groups seeking to engage in grassroots fundraising, allowing groups to focus their efforts on accomplishing their community park improvement projects. Since 2015, Friends of the Park groups have raised over $840,000 for their neighborhood parks from community donations.
Park Pride’s grantmaking programs help groups build momentum from incremental improvements. Communities gain experience and build capacity as they implement small scale projects (Small Change Grants), preparing them to take on increasingly larger efforts (Community Building and Legacy Grants). In total, over $2.9 million has been awarded for park improvements through 67 grants in the last three years, each leveraging at least 1:1 in matching funds from the community. These grants have been made possible through the generous support of the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation and The Home Depot Foundation.
Taken together, these three programs have leveraged over $5 million in support for local neighborhood park priorities! These examples illustrate how small changes can combine to produce significant impact in our community.
Park Pride’s model offers an opportunity to dig deeper and emphasizes community engagement. This community-driven focus helps build capacity from the ground up, setting the stage for future growth that happens “with” the community, not “to” the community. The product is the culmination of a series of changes that are intertwined with capacity building opportunities that reflect the goals and vision of those involved.
Small is surprisingly powerful. It is authentic, inclusive, inspirational and empowering. Small is beautiful.
Would you like to help your community leverage the big power of small change? Here are some ideas to help get you started:
- Give a bit of your energy — check out the Park Pride calendar and sign up to join us for a volunteer project.
- Give a bit of your time – wear green and join us in Council Chambers at City Hall on May 23rd at 1 p.m. to show the Atlanta City Council how important parks are to Atlanta residents as they consider the budget.
- Give a small monthly gift to Park Pride – a little each month makes a huge difference for the greener good!
Austin Tadlock is a Program Associate with Park Pride, concentrating on strategic planning efforts and the grants and Fiscal Partners programs. Austin has his Master’s in Social Work from Georgia State University with an emphasis in community partnerships and macro level social work. When not at Park Pride, you can find him exploring parks and greenspaces in Decatur and throughout the greater Atlanta area or out supporting Atlanta United FC, the local professional soccer team.
PS. This column was inspired, at least in part, from an article featuring Park Pride that appeared in Inside Philanthropy (January 29, 2018) entitled, Small is Beautiful: A Grant Program Fixes up Neighborhood Parks.
Featured photo: Vine City Park playground