The Keys to Community Revitalization
When I look at the work that Metis Associates is doing today around the revitalization of communities in cities such as Newark, Philadelphia, and New York, I am heartened to see that a holistic and interdisciplinary approach—one that Metis has long recommended—is taking hold. There are four elements that we at Metis believe are the keys to community revitalization, and they can be summed up as the four Ps:
Process: The community's table should be occupied by all key players, including neighborhood residents, businesses, and representatives from education, police, and other government entities. And, all of these participants must commit to sharing their data.
Practice: Initiatives should build on what works, yet amid the current imperative to employ evidence-based practices, they must remain skeptical of those tested elsewhere. Using evidence-based strategies alone can be limiting, since not all methods have been studied. Reformers can extend the reach of the tried-and-true by exploring promising strategies or taking pieces from evidence-based practices, piloting them, and carefully evaluating the results.
Precision: Data must be used throughout the life cycle of community-revitalization initiatives, from needs assessment to participant tracking to measuring impact. Therefore, groups may need to build the infrastructure to supply the required information. They also must develop methods of ongoing self-evaluation and, when appropriate, commit to rigorous assessment either through their own means or by a third party.
Patience: Community reformers must be patient for results and tolerant of missteps. This work is difficult, and they may stumble more often than they advance. Revitalizing communities cannot be done overnight.
Each of the projects that we are currently featuring in the In Focus section of our home page incorporates these principles. One of them, Sunset Park Promise Neighborhoods in Brooklyn is part of an effort launched by the Obama administration's Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative (NRI)—itself an interdisciplinary undertaking. NRI is an unprecedented collaboration funded by no less than the Domestic Policy Council of the White House, Office of Urban Affairs, and Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Education, Justice, Health and Human Services, and Treasury. It is a hopeful sign that, even in these belt-tightening, difficult times, the federal government sees it as valuable to invest in some of the most troubled parts of the country.
It is my hope that the current wave of community revitalization efforts will succeed in bringing the kinds of change that largely low-income communities with multiple needs so deserve. Because these projects are locally led, interdisciplinary, nimble, and informed by ongoing adherence to data and results, we are already starting to see positive results.
– Stanley Schneider, President