US Mayor Article

New Publication About Developing a Neighborhood-Focused Agenda: Tools for Cities Getting Started

July 17, 2000

In their efforts to improve the lives of children and families, city governments all across the country are increasingly taking a neighborhood-based approach to addressing the problems and opportunities facing U.S. cities.

For some cities, this is not a totally new approach. Throughout the 1990s there seemed to be a growing acceptance of the need for collaboration among governments and the many others outside government trying to improve conditions in the cities. For some other cities, the focus on neighborhoods may be a new, and logical, transition from a long period of successful big-ticket projects, like the building of major sports venues and convention centers, and other explosive downtown business development activities.

A new publication is a helpful "how-to" guide for city officials embarking on a neighborhood approach to improving conditions in their communities. Developing a Neighborhood-Focused Agenda: Tools for Cities Getting Started furnishes tools city officials will find useful in creating and implementing successful neighborhood-based strategies in their cities.

It was written by Grant Jones, a 1999 Children and Family Fellow with the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a national foundation working to promote the wellbeing of vulnerable children for the last 50 years. As part of the fellowship, Jones spent several months in the office of Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell when he first took office last fall. Jones worked with Mayor Purcell and his staff in developing a set of policy and practice considerations for his new Office of Neighborhoods.

"As in every big task, the first step is the hardest getting started," said Mayor Purcell, who wrote the foreword to the report. "I believe city officials will find this publication a beneficial tool in the development and implementation of a meaningful and productive neighborhood-focused agenda for their cities and the constituents they serve."

The report offers practical advice about the steps that are key to an effective neighborhood agenda, including how to solicit stakeholder input and involvement, and finding and using data about neighborhoods to set priorities.

Tools for Cities Getting Started also features a range of examples from cities nationwide that are creating new and groundbreaking collaborative strategies for urban change. For instance, it describes the Little City Halls in Seattle, the Neighborhood Services Department in Chattanooga, the Front Porch Alliance in Indianapolis, the Office of Neighborhood Involvement in Portland and Rapid Response Teams in Las Vegas, among many others.

The final section offers practical advice about putting ideas into action. It reviews considerations such as defining the role of the city, developing partnerships, targeting neighborhoods, building internal and external capacity, looking for funding, establishing timelines, developing a communications plan and monitoring progress.

The guide presents the information in easy-to-read tables, and also includes practical advice from city officials, a wealth of additional free resources and reference materials, and useful city contacts.

"Whatever the impetus, the emerging focus on neighborhoods as the strategy for community improvement invites new thinking and poses new challenges," according to Grant Jones. "Most especially it demands the engagement of citizens at a level that requires methods different from past work," said Jones, who is a program officer with The Piton Foundation in Denver and well-known for his work in community building, grass-roots leadership, faith-based initiatives and juvenile delinquency.

Copies of the guide are available at no charge and may be ordered by contacting Diane DiGiacomo Peck at The Piton Foundation: (303) 825-6246 or writing to 370 17th Street, Suite 5300, Denver, CO 80202.

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