Sixth in our Best practices in Community Empowerment series.
Colin Gallagher served in the U.S. Peace Corps in El Salvador from 1998 to 2000. Since then he’d completed several local government assignments, including a civic engagement program for the City of Salinas in California. He founded the Civic Engagement and Dialogue Practitioners group on LinkedIn. A martial arts expert, he sometimes takes Community Empowerment literally. Colin writes:
Recommended resource: Neighborhood Problem Solver – Collaboratively authored by neighborhood groups, Anna Velazquez, Wayne Green, Jorge Rifa, Colin Gallagher, and Jesse Juarez, with the assistance of various staff of the City of Salinas, and the support of the Mayor and City Council of the City of Salinas, the Neighborhood Problem Solver provides a means for people in neighborhoods to address problems on their own, or jointly with their neighbors or with members of their local government. It shares key steps and guidance on how to organize and publicize, and gives easy access to local resources.
It is published on the City of Salinas website and was originally designed to be made available for a limited time in CD and print form, with training provided by City Neighborhood Services Coordinators. The current version is in need of an update, but it remains an excellent resource and is available in English and Spanish. While it is designed for people who live in Salinas, the basic format of the Problem Solver can be retooled and used for any city or locale if there is a dedicated group of citizens and and local government employees who are willing to author such a document and make it available to the public. Should you decide to develop your own Problem Solver, it is best that you engage local government and members of the public to collaborate on it, and to have it posted on a local government website. The act of working on you Problem Solver will itself enhance collaboration between local government and the public.
It’s notable that in the City of Salinas, a new Neighborhood Leadership Academy is in development, which involves the members of the public collaboratively co-creating their own curriculum and then implementing it to develop local neighborhood projects or ideas for the community that would become a reality. This sort of concept, in which the public develops curriculum, projects, ideas, programs, etc., and provides them to the local government or simply notifies the local government of what they are doing, as opposed to the other way around, is a very positive development in terms of participation and community involvement and is a classic example of where people can use something like the Neighborhood Problem Solver to help organize efforts for projects that flow out of a Neighborhood Leadership Academy.
Next up: Lisa Palmer of KaBOOM!