Neighbors Together: Transforming communities from the inside out
By Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership, Inc.
Families thrive in safe, affordable neighborhoods with access to key amenities such as well-performing schools, healthy foods, employment, transit options, and activated spaces. But communities rarely achieve this level of sustainability without informed and engaged residents. Such residents are increasingly important for South Metro neighborhoods struggling with high levels of negative equity, an imbalance of rental and homeownership housing, and a host of issues related to post-foreclosure crisis conditions.
An increasing number of residents in these impacted communities are coming together in Neighborhood Watch meetings, homeowners’ associations, and small groups of concerned citizens to make their neighborhoods whole again. To support residents engaged in the work of neighborhood stabilization, ANDP created the Neighbors Together program.
Neighbors Together was born out of NeighborWorks® America’s NeighborWorks Week and has evolved to a year-long leadership development program for a small group of leaders who help plan and execute an annual training event for approximately 100 attendees. The goal of the training event is to arm residents with the information and tools needed to strengthen communities from the inside out.
“Now starting its fifth year, Neighbors Together has provided 400 metro neighborhood leaders with training on topics including public safety; neighborhood branding and marketing; property law and code enforcement; strengthening relationships with law enforcement; connecting school and community; neighborhood advocacy with elected officials; and foreclosure mitigation programs,” explained Susan Adams, ANDP Senior Director for Policy & Community Engagement.
The 2019 training event currently being planned by ANDP and the Neighbors Together team of Nadira Rahman of Atlanta, Sonia Delbridge of Clayton County, Robbin West of Cobb County, Victoria Anglin and Ellen Peek of South DeKalb County, Archie Polk of East Point, and Gwendolyn Davis of South Fulton County.
To bolster their understanding of trends and techniques in community engagement, the team recently attended NeighborWorks America’s annual National Community Leadership Institute (CLI), held in Houston, Texas.
The CLI is the cornerstone of the work NeighborWorks America does to strengthen communities. Over the years, thousands of participants have come together to learn new skills, explore tools and techniques, and work with their neighbors to bring about positive change. The CLI experience includes workshops led by experienced practitioners, networking with people from around the country who are addressing similar issues, tours that highlight the host city’s resident-led efforts, and sessions that offer inspiration and hope—and grant funding to carry out a local project.
After attending the national CLI event, Neighbors Together team members begin researching their specific neighborhood issues and underlying causes; identifying community stakeholders to engage, and developing their plan of action. Identified issues in common, and their solutions, serve as the base for the annual Neighbors Together training event for metro Atlanta neighborhood leaders.
“With an average residency of 20 years in their neighborhoods, each Neighbors Together team member is already a great leader in their own right. It is inspiring to witness these committed and engaged residents taking their activism and leadership to the next level,” said Adams.
Since the program launched in Summer 2015:
- 25 metro residents have attended NeighborWorks America’s CLI and joined the Neighbors Together team.
- More than 400 engaged neighborhood leaders have attended Neighbors Together training events.
- Several Neighbors Together team members have taken their engagement to the next level by running for elected office or participating in additional leadership training programs.
- Several program participants have learned to apply for and received funding for their neighborhood-based programs.
To learn more about ANDP’s Neighbors Together program visit www.andpi.org/nt.