Vibrant Neighborhoods Forum
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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, therefore, explores, 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).
The first Vibrant Neighborhoods Forum (VNF 1.0) brought together three U.S. and three European cities to explore how to address social disadvantage in neighborhoods segregated by race/ethnicity and/or income through civic engagement. VNF 1.0 has continuously fostered unique dialogue by bringing together three different stakeholders from each city—one city government official, one person who worked for a neighborhood intermediary and one active neighborhood resident.
This arrangement not only fostered exchange between cities but understanding and cooperation among and between stakeholder groups as well. Each city-cohort identified a neighborhood and corresponding problem or challenge in that neighborhood that the group represented, on the one hand, and formed the basis for discussion and action during and between the Detroit and Brussels convenings, on the other. The methods of and broader topics around civic engagement that were discussed at the two convenings were to be applied and used to help each city-cohort address their problem or challenge statement.
As evidenced by the positive feedback from participants, there is a pressing need to maintain VNF as a forum where city leaders can come together in a unique, transatlantic setting. The forum allows stakeholders from multiple cities and sectors to strategize on how community residents, groups, and partners can best leverage their voice to access resources, inform decisions, and shape neighborhoods that are accessible, livable, and inclusive—irrespective of income, race, age, skin color, religion, and ethnicity.
The second iteration of VNF will focus on creative placemaking as a tool of civic engagement to foster inclusion, dialogue, and integration and shift the dialogue from the costs of exclusion to the opportunity to create places of inclusion as a key component to building vibrant communities. Creative placemaking is the use of arts and culture to shape place, contributing to economic development and promoting social change. It is not only about using dialogue and engagement to facilitate a project but to create a civic commons that enables long-term civic engagement.
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. One of the anticipated outcomes 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 to develop solutions to complex problems.
Forum I: Torino, Italy
Sunday January 13 - Wednesday January 16, 2019
Forum II: New Orleans, Louisiana
Sunday September 29 -Wednesday October 2, 2019
Forum I: Detroit, Michigan
Sunday September 24-Wednesday September 27, 2017
Forum II: Brussels, Belgium
Sunday March 4-Wednesday March 7, 2018