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Defining Community Capacity: A Framework and Implications from a Comprehensive Community Initiative

During the 1990s, many comprehensive community initiatives (CCIs) focused in particular on community building as both a neighborhood transformation strategy and an outcome. This research paper analyzes the practice of building community capacity, which can come from many different neighborhood sources, and how to use that concept as a way to measure progress.

After a preliminary assessment of the community’s assets – individuals, neighborhood groups, and local institutions – the goal should be to engage these parties in a process of connection. Building community capacity with a comprehensive approach means orchestrating instrumental links among these different types of assets in addition to supporting these assets directly.

After reviewing two case studies in The Ford Foundation’s he Neighborhood and Family Initiative, the following conclusions were drawn:

“Within the same broad initiative structure, collaboratives in two different neighborhoods took fundamentally different paths as their principal strategic thrusts, and each has generated different kinds of outcomes.

"In Milwaukee, the focus on organizational development and organizational collaborations has facilitated the leveraging of resources and of activity toward business development, job training and placement, and physical development of commercial and industrial properties in (or on the border of) the neighborhood, and has fostered job provision and entrepreneurial opportunity for neighborhood residents.

"In Hartford, the focus on associational action has led to a degree of resident mobilization around planning, has supported resident advocacy around quality-of-life issues, and has begun to link the neighborhood with other north-end neighborhoods, again largely for planning and advocacy purposes.

"In both cases, the concerted effort at community building represented by the initiative has helped catalyze other activity in the neighborhood and a greater focus on neighborhood issues by local government.”

Download the full report here.

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Posted in Comprehensive Community Development: An Intro

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