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Reflections on Community Organizing and Resident Engagement in the Rebuilding Communities Initiative

The Rebuilding Communities Initiative (RCI), an early comprehensive community development effort, was a seven-year, $15 million commitment from the Annie E. Casey Foundation to support five grantee communities in Boston, Detroit, Denver, Philadelphia and Washington, DC.

In addition to defining the essential capacities for effective community organizing, Traynor also outlines four major barriers to effective organizing and resident engagement that a community- based organization may encounter:

Reflections

1.    CBOs must overcome the “caretaker” culture that dominates most agencies.
2.   CBOs must learn to share power and decision-making authority with the community.
3.   Collaborative governance can be difficult, tiresome, labor intensive and time consuming.
4.   CBOs must learn to please two masters (their grassroots constituency and their funding base.)

“From the beginning,” Traynor says, “RCI has assumed that community development approaches and effective organizing and engagement work are not mutually exclusive, and that they can be integrated and should be integrated for the greatest impact. However, community organizing skills are among the most difficult capacities for CBOs to acquire and maintain. In community organizing and resident engagement, talk is cheap. Most actors in the field know and use the lexicon of empowerment, but there is a great distance between ‘talking the talk’ and ‘walking the walk.’”

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Posted in Comprehensive Community Development: An Intro, Engaging

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