While the City of San Francisco’s local economy is rebounding after several years of budget cuts and high unemployment, the economic crisis that swept the globe has had a lasting impact on the City’s residents, organizations and communities. While this period has been stressful for many of our neighborhoods, and the institutions that serve them, it has created an opportunity to develop new and more effective working relationships that will improve the quality of life for residents in their communities
In 2007, the City initiated a program in partnership with residents of San Francisco that offers a new approach for addressing issues at the community level. With an emphasis on collaboration, capacity building, information sharing and community led stewardship; the Neighborhood Empowerment Network (NEN) was launched and in 2009 it released the Empowered Communities Program (ECP).
Today, through the ECP, the NEN is developing new tools and programs that both increase capacity of neighborhood organizations to work together solving problems while at the same time generating essential social capital that can be invaluable during times of stress.
To coordinate the deployment of the resources and expertise of the member organizations of the Neighborhood Empowerment Network in support of a community’s efforts to generate higher levels of resilience.
ECP Program Overview
The NEN advances that at the center of a resilient community is collaborative problem solving. By bringing diverse local stakeholders to the table to work together on challenges and opportunities, the resulting social capital offers the essential “glue” that holds the community together in times of stress.
Empowered Communities Program (ECP) builds stronger more resilient communities by:
- Developing a toolkit of resources which help communities increase their capacity to address challenges on a sustained basis
- Streamlining community’s access to organizations, programs and resources which they can leverage to draft and implement a community action
- Coordinating the deployment of resources from agencies to support the implementation of the neighborhood’s action plan
The goal of ECP is to support a community as it advances towards a more resilient condition. This condition can be defined by following functional areas:
- Leadership / Governance – Increase the capacity of residents to lead their community under any circumstance in an inclusive manner
- Problem Solving – Increase the level of day-to-day cross sector coordination amongst local and external stakeholder organizations to manage short and long planning processes
- Communication – Increase the ability of the community to communicate both internally and externally
- Organizing – Provide neighborhood leaders with the skills to effectively engage and organize their residents on a sustained basis
- Fundraising and Financial Management – Train communities to be able to generate funds to advance their goals as well as the capacity to manage the money effectively in order to ensure long term partnerships with funders.
The goal of the EPC is to advance this condition at all levels of a community, specifically at the individual, organizational and community levels.
|Resilience Functional Areas
| Capacity Areas
In order to achieve the ECP’s goals, the members of NEN set forth the following objectives;
- Identify and partner with communities that are willing to enter into a sustained community building program that will help them achieve the capacity goals of the ECP
- Encourage the development of a locally managed community action plan which addresses issues of local importance
- Align citywide stakeholder organizations to support locally managed action plans by deploying their resources in a more coordinated and organized fashion
- Create new tools and programs that neighborhoods can easily leverage to support community building processes
- Create systems to measure the progress of the community as it works to achieve resilience
ECP Potential Challenges
The composition of San Francisco’s neighborhoods, both at the structural and demographic level, offer substantive challenges in achieving and sustaining the goals set forth by the policy framework surrounding the ECP.
- Approximately 66% of the City’s housing stock is rental – twice that of the national average for cities*
- Since 1992, over 55% of San Franciscans have moved out*
- Over 65% of San Franciscans were born outside of California (39% outside of the US)*
- 48% of San Franciscans do not speak English at home*
- There are over 100 individual neighborhoods identified in the City
* Egan, Ted and Lester, Bill. ICF Consulting. San Francisco Economic Strategy Analysis Report
“San Francisco’s Economic Performance: Outcomes, Markets, Workforce, and Small Business.” 2006.
The combination of these factors creates communities in which generating and sustaining strong social capital amongst residents and locally managed organizations is extremely difficult and ultimately undermines a neighborhood’s ability to steward itself during times of stress.
ECP Benefits Summary
The ECP is that it is designed to hold value for every neighborhood stakeholder regardless if they directly participate in program activities.
Community Members (People who reside or work in a community)
- Residing in a community where the ECP has been leveraged should result in a higher quality of life as a result of the sustained problem solving on issues of local importance (i.e. public safety, economic development and health).
For Local Organizations (Non-profits, Faith Based, Merchant, Neighborhood, Affinity)
- Increased access to programs, processes and resources that will help them achieve their missions
- Increased connectivity with peer organizations that can yield higher levels of coordination and improved service delivery for their clients
- Increased awareness of the mission and goals of other local organizations in their community outside of their sector (i.e. Faith Based Orgs connecting with Merchant Associations)
- The opportunity to be engaged in processes addressing issues which they have not traditionally been invited to participate (i.e. non profits involved in land use or transportation issues)
For External Organizations (Government Agencies, City Wide Non Profits, Foundations, Academic Institutions)
- Streamlined access to local organizations and stakeholders to engage about programming and services
- The ability to develop long term working relationships based that can be leveraged to design and implement customized strategies
- Increased level of interoperability with other external stakeholder organizations from different operational sectors. (i.e. City Attorney’s Office working with Friends of the Urban Forest to address blight in a neighborhood.)
The ECP Resilient Neighborhood Methods
The ECP supports communities in primarily three ways:
- Self-initiated Participation
- Advanced Community Resilience
- Enterprise Community Development
The NEN members have created a suite of tools that neighborhoods can use on their own with little or no technical support to advance their resilience goals. They include:
- The Neighborfest Block Party Toolkit
- The Resilientville Exercise
- SF Find.info
By balancing its investment in both on demand and programmatic delivery assets, the NEN can support and reach more communities throughout the City regardless of their level of capacity.
Advanced Community Resilience
In this program, high functioning neighborhoods can address very specific elements of their resilience (i.e. public safety, environmental, transportation) by leveraging their existing capacity to partner with NEN member organizations to craft and action plan and implement it.
The NEN has recently launched the Advanced Community Disaster Resilience Program which is designed to support communities as they advance their capacity to succeed in times of stress. Learn more here
Enterprise Community Development
This program is the most comprehensive and intensive of the three methods. It offers a community an opportunity to advance from a disenfranchised condition to one of true resilience and sustainability. It requires a multiyear commitment on behalf of the community leadership and the NEN members who choose to participate. Below is a detailed overview of the program and a snapshot of a successful pilot.
The ECP’s Enterprise Community Development Program achieves its goals by collaborating with communities that are positioned for organizational growth. Ideally they are rich in organizations and emerging leadership but lack a convening platform that they can leverage to advance to a higher level of resilience.
Step One – Align Appropriate and Key Assets
ECP uses an asset based organizing model to draw out and engage a wide variety local stakeholders. Specifically the ECP uses:
• Financial Assets
• Programmatic Assets
• Institutional Assets
• Political Assets
A unique asset that can be leveraged during the launch phase of an ECP area is provided by the academic partners of NEN University (NENu). The Engaged Learning Zone (ELZ) aligns the expertise of University staff, professors and their students to not only provide traditional service learning opportunities, but also dedicated technical support which provides communities with much needed resources during the critical launch phase.
Step Two – Identify Key Stakeholders
Within most communities are key individuals and organizations that have the political/social capital to convene early adopters to evaluate the ECP model and decide whether or not to participate. It is important to engage and recruit representatives from all sectors such as the Faith Based and Non Profit communities.
Step Three – Convene a Workgroup / Steering Committee
Once key stakeholders have been identified and introduced to the potential benefits of the ECP, the project team convenes a working group that will eventually expand to comprise a cohort (referred to as a Resiliency Council for the balance of this document)
Step Four – Establish Early Goals for Group
In order to move quickly towards the creation of the Resiliency Council, the steering committee can emphasize the following:
- Recruiting more members to the workgroup
- Identifying projects and initiatives that will attract more stakeholders to the group and establish the group as being meaningful, effective and results oriented
- Supporting a listening exercise (i.e. stakeholder interviews and/or community summit) to ensure that the workgroup is perceived as a conduit for the broader community’s goals
- Engage in an audit of the community’s current capacity areas (i.e. communication, outreach / organizing, governance, fundraising and research and analysis).
Step Five – Launching the Resiliency Council
Once a Council has officially been convened, the group should:
- Craft a documented governance model amongst its members to define vision, mission, leadership and membership criteria
- Create a branding and communication strategy that will position the “Council” as being the community supported platform for dialogue and deliberation around local and regional issues
Visual model of the process
ECP Program Summary
Since the deployment of the Empowered Communities Program, the members of the Neighborhood Empowerment Network have made great strides in coordinating the use of their resources to support partner communities in achieving a higher level of resilience. By leveraging the tools, resources and expertise of the NEN, neighborhoods are empowering themselves with the capacity and the social capital to advance on any challenge, or opportunity, that may come before them.
ECP Policy Drivers
Since the inception of NEN, it has leveraged leading research and best practices around building resilient communities to shape and refine its mission and goals. Below are four key policy driver documents which provide a policy framework for the Empowered Communities Program.
- FEMA’s The Whole Community Approach
- Harvard Kennedy School’s Acting in Time Initiative / Lessons of Katrina
- Building Community Resilience to Disasters: A Practical Guide for the Emergency Management Sector
- Fixing Recovery: Social Capital in Post-Crisis Resilience