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Vibrant Neighborhoods Forum—Addressing Social and Economic Disadvantage in Neighborhoods Segregated by Race/Ethnicity and/or Income through Civic Engagement
Funded by the Kresge Foundation, the Vibrant Neighborhoods Forum (VNF) brings together six cities—Memphis, New Orleans, and Detroit from the U.S. and Brussels, Torino, and Cologne from Europe—to explore the role of civic engagement (i.e., public participation) in policy making and planning processes as a means to address social and economic disadvantage in neighborhoods segregated by race/ethnicity and/or income. This includes exploring how community residents, groups and partners leverage their voice to access resources, shape decisions and work across groups, institutions and sectors in a way that is meaningful and beneficial to the neighborhood. The ability to engage in the public domain is essential everywhere and perhaps especially so in neighborhoods that have been disinvested or purposefully excluded from public decision making processes—decisions that in turn affect the wellbeing and quality of life of neighborhood residents. Civic engagement is critical to ensure that residents are equipped with the relationships, knowledge and resources to effectively shape their future and ensure benefits to both existing residents as well as newcomers.
This Forum will therefore explore, on the one hand, what role civic engagement currently plays in community revitalization decision making processes for each of the six neighborhoods represented. This includes exploring the link between neighborhood-level engagement (i.e., residents coming together to address neighborhood-level issues and concerns) with community stakeholders’ ability to incorporate residents’ concerns, needs, and desires into city government-level decision making processes. This means thinking about each city-cohort’s governance structure and where community representation fits as an indicator of capacity and responsiveness to neighborhood concerns and needs. Indeed, to what degree (and how) has civic engagement actually driven the policy, planning and resource allocation process at the city level for each cohort? On the other hand, while the Forum will document the roles local people play in regenerating and improving their communities, it will also seek to understand why these efforts sometimes fail. Thus VNF will provide a space to exchange best practices, including the challenges and struggles, with creating pathways for engagement from the perspective of the different stakeholders present (i.e., city government and community stakeholders).
VNF will start by discussing the historical and cultural precedents for engaging residents in a given city/community. For neighborhoods segregated by race/ethnicity and/or income, has resident engagement been used as a tool to address social and economic disadvantage and if so, how? Given past precedent and current experience, how should cities leverage community engagement to address social and economic disadvantage in ethnically and racially segregated neighborhoods going forward? What are the models of success and what can we learn from the challenges?
Each city cohort representing a specific neighborhood will come to VNF with a problem/issue that the neighborhood is seeking to address through civic engagement. The problem/issue will be the starting point for the city cohort participants. The problem/issue could center on health, housing, safety, unemployment, and/or blight. Themes discussed, challenges presented, and solutions found will be centered on a city’s strategy as exemplified through the specific problem/issue. The ultimate objective is to then incorporate and apply what is learned at VNF into the city’s neighborhood engagement strategy.
Benefits of participating and Anticipated Outcomes
The benefits of participating include access to government and community stakeholders working on neighborhood revitalization and growth through community engagement across transatlantic cities. Participants will receive targeted programming to support and supplement local knowledge with relevant national and international examples—whether policies, programs, tools, or technologies. The anticipated outcome is the successful application and transfer of innovative strategies and tools to the local context. When applied, these strategies and tools will assist participating neighborhoods develop solutions to complex problems.
Forum I: Detroit, Michigan
Sunday September 24-Wednesday September 27, 2017
Forum II: Brussels, Belgium
Sunday March 4-Wednesday March 7, 2018