The opportunity for a good life starts with our families, schools, and jobs; and it begins in our neighborhoods. We believe that place, or where we live, matters. Whatever country, state, city, or neighborhood we live in, each area presents us with a set of unique opportunities and challenges in our lives.
Over the years, United Way’s strategic partnerships and investments in solutions that address our community’s most pressing issues, have positively influenced the areas of Education, Financial Stability, Health and Basic Needs. However, not every neighborhood in Winston-Salem has always benefited from this success. In fact, from 2000 through 2010 poverty grew by more than 70% in Winston-Salem.
Furthermore, poverty is becoming increasingly concentrated within certain neighborhoods creating even more complex challenges. This negatively affects the whole community. The truth is that our entire community can only be successful when each of its neighborhoods is healthy and thriving.
Through a new initiative called Place Matters, United Way of Forsyth County is working collaboratively with a local grassroots community organizing agency, Neighbors for Better Neighborhoods, and residents in thirteen neighborhoods in the northeast part of Winston-Salem to strengthen these areas. The work that is taking place in the area is called CiVIC, which stands for Community Voices Impacting Community, and is based on the principle of resident ownership of the process and outcomes.
The thirteen neighborhoods consist of a mix of priority areas (Ladera Crest, Bowen Park and Dreamland), along with more stable and established areas. In all cases, the neighborhoods have significant assets upon which to build. We are using an Asset-Based Community Development model (ABCD) which identifies all of a community’s existing assets – residents and their gifts, skills, and talents; formal and informal associations; the area’s history; and physical or natural spaces – and leverages them to build a stronger and healthier community. We are doing this “with” rather than“for” residents.
CiVIC is a fitting name for this area and for this work because resident leadership and ownership is the lifeblood of the Place Matters initiative. We understand that no one knows a neighborhood better than the residents who live there. That is why we are engaging with residents in order to better understand all of the existing assets, presenting challenges, and most importantly, the residents’ vision for their neighborhoods.
United Way will be working in new ways by creating relationships with new collaborative partners, while also maintaining opportunities for Partner Agencies to collaborate in this work. We believe that our Partners’ expertise and capacity in conjunction with the knowledge and experience of residents and grassroots organizations will allow for greater creativity and, consequently, longer lasting and more impactful results. We are committed to supporting work that makes a positive impact in these neighborhoods.
We are excited by the prospects that Place Matters offers, and there will be a number of activities and opportunities to support this work in the coming months. Residents of CiVIC neighborhoods have already begun participating on an Impact Council and have been hard at work shaping the priorities and desired outcomes of this work. They have been meeting at “Neighbor Nights” to discuss common interests and issues and strengthening personal relationships. In the coming months, we will be hosting “Network Nights” where anyone, not just CiVIC residents, is invited to meet and share their gifts, skills and talents to help address neighborhood issues. We will also host “Community Conversations” that will provide opportunities to foster relationships amongst local residents, grassroots or faith-based organizations, businesses, and nonprofits with the goal of deepening conversations around community challenges and creative solutions.
Please be on the lookout for invitations to some of these exciting opportunities. We encourage you to get involved and look forward to seeing you there. In the meantime, if you would like more information or have any questions about Place Matters and CiVIC, please contact Alana James at firstname.lastname@example.org or Bret Marchant at email@example.com.
Written by: Alana James
Director, Community Based Collaborations