Tags Posts tagged with "community"


In the late Summer of 2012, a group of communityleaders came together in the Outer Sunset, also known as “La Playa”, neighborhood.  Comprised of a diverse group of folks such as merchants, neighborhood emergency response team members, neighborhood watch members, environmental and transportation advocates, the group determined that while the neighborhood has seen many improvements over time, there was still a for a stronger sense of community amongst the many diverse communities which reside in the area.

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The group determined that the best way to bring folks together was to identify a project that would appeal to the largest portion of residents despite their social background.  The group ultimately selected the challenge of beautifying the area best known as the N Judah Turnaround.

Thus the N Judah Turnaround Beautification Project was born and a diverse stakeholders from both within and outside the community was convened to support, and participate, in a results oriented conversation regarding ways to enhance the physical, and cultural, environment in and around the N Judah Turnaround.  The program team ultimately included:

  • The La Playa Neighborhood Association
  • The La Playa Neighborhood Watch
  • The Judah Merchant Association
  • The Outer Sunset NERT
  • The Office of Supervisor Carmen Chu
  • The City Administrator’s Office
  • The Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services
  • The San Francisco Planning Department
  • The Department of Public Works
  • The Metropolitan Transportation Administration
  • The City Hall Fellows
  • Neighborland and Crowdbrite
The phases of the outreach plan were:

  1. Raise Awareness of the Program
  2. Generate Ideas and Prioritize
  3. Convene in a Structured Process to Finalize Action Plan
  4. Implement

1. Awareness Phase – The project team partnered with local ideation company Neighborland to publicize the conversation going on regarding the beautification of the N Judah and the need for everyone’s input.  Posters were displayed strategically throughout the community educating residents about the upcoming idea capture event at the local coffee shop as well as about the opportunity to text in their ideas directly to Neighborland at any time.  The project team also created a website that became the online hub for the program.

2. Ideas and Prioritization Phase – On a Saturday, November 18th the project team and Neighborland convened in front of the Java Beach Coffee Shop and set up a large billboard that allowed people to answer the question “I want BLANK at the N Judah Turnaround”.  For four hours residents gathered around the billboard and shared their ideas, goals and dreams for an area long considered a let down by the people who visited there every day.  The Neighborhood Empowerment Network media team captured the activities on video.

The ideas captured in person were then transcribed up on the Neighborland site dedicated to this project and residents have been voting on which ones they feel are the most important.


3. Convene in a Structured Process to Finalize Action Plan – The next phase of the project occurred on Saturday, December 15th where residents convened at a local elementary school auditorium and conduct a traditional neighborhood planning session using the innovative methods of Crowdbrite, a locally owned company which is revolutionizing how communities discuss land use opportunities.

4. Implement – Once the community planning and prioritization process has ended the projects will be evaluated for possible funding and implementation by the agencies responsible for that project area.

As of the drafting of this blog, the project was entering into phase three of its engagement plan.  The community has been thrilled by its experience to date and is eager to move to the next step in the process and find out what the final strategy will be for the Turnaround.  We encourage all Outer Sunset community members to attend the Community-Led Workshop in Saturday, December 15th at 10am at the Francis Scott Key Elementary Auditorium located at 1530 43rd Ave. at Kirkham.

For more information – visit www.njudahproject .org


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The reasons an individual might take a permaculture course varies widely, but one thing most people have in common when coming into this realm is the desire to help in some way. It may be that they want to help with environmental issues or that they want to help build a stronger and more resilient community, or it might be they want to help their immediate family meet their needs more sustainably and abundantly. Beyond the individual’s initial intent, the whole systems approach of permaculture adds resilience and meaningful inter-connections to any community by a factor of the number of designers residing there.

One of the aspects of resiliency that is brought forth through an Urban PDC (permaculture design course) is an awareness and understanding of the myriad of skills, strategies and techniques surrounding sustainable living. The themes explored are many and cover the entire spectrum of day to day living and how we assemble our urban environment. Topics including highly productive food systems in dense urban spaces, waste cycling and closed-loop design, community-scale renewable energy, greywater and rainwater systems, transportation and village design, community organizing, and natural building are just a few examples. The skills learned and practiced today become eminently valuable when a disaster strikes. When resources become limited or even unavailable for an extended period of time (such as we have witnessed in disasters), it becomes critical to shift the way we meet our daily needs; to survive and thrive, a community is wise to implement systems of conservation and renewal.

Building resilience today in anticipation of a shift or change in culture is essentially what Permaculture Design seeks to enable.  We see the opportunities to help all around us and it is the whole systems perspective that helps us to see where our actions can be the most effective. In the training offered by the Urban Permaculture Institute here in San Francisco, we highlight the many effective city sponsored programs as well as community programs already available.

  1. For gardens, orchards and other outdoor community space we have the SF Street Parks Program, Pavement to Parks and sidewalk landscaping.
  2. For community organizing we explore ways to engage such as block parties, neighborhood sharing circles or resource libraries.
  3. NERT of Neighborhood Emergency Response Team is a great way to meet people in your neighborhood and prepare for the first 72 hours of a major disaster.
  4. Grant opportunities such as the Community Challenge Grant , the Urban Watershed Stewardship Grant, and the Water Efficiency for Community Gardens Grant.

Weaving together the various pieces into an integrated whole is the work before us today. We learn skills to compose with the people in each community to come up with strategies for resilience that prepare us for disaster while also building the interpersonal connections that are so vital. Of all the resources we have available in this beautiful city, the most abundant, challenging, filled-with-hope and enjoyable to work with is its people.

Our summer session begins July 27th at the Urban Permaculture Institute.

We invite you to join us for this valuable training which we offer four times per year right here in San Francisco.There is still room to sign up, or you can keep an eye out for our fall dates which will be announced sometime this month.

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Introducing the Urban Permaculture Institute of San Francisco; Bringing design skills for resilient, healthy life in the city.


The NEN is excited to announce a new partnership with the Urban Permaculture Institute of San Francisco who has provided training in resiliency design and specific techniques and strategies for sustainable living for over 300 residents all over the city for the last 5 years and continues to offer training around town to those interested in developing such skills and learning about critical resources for their neighborhood.

Permaculture, though sometimes misunderstood as a style of gardening, is a design system for meeting all of human needs in a way that enhances all life. So, imagine meeting our needs for food, water shelter, community, even fun – in ways that benefit the environment and people to create healthy, safe, resilient neighborhoods. People use permaculture design to develop food systems, water systems, energy systems even economic systems and more. Common techniques and strategies used in permaculture design might include perennial, polyculture food gardens, rainwater harvesting, greywater systems, natural building, appropriate technology, even compost toilets and community currencies. More than a collection of alternative, healthy techniques and strategies, permaculture is a methodology and system for arranging such techniques in an appropriate way that considers the context.

In the 85 hour training provided by UPISF, trainees learn both specific techniques and strategies related to growing and preparing food, harvesting, cleaning and reusing water, managing waste, conserving energy, building with natural materials, convening governance groups for effective collective decision-making, developing local resilient economies, communicating effectively with others especially where there might be conflict, researching and analyzing data about a place or problem, manageing microclimates and more, and, methods of design for composing with the conditions of any moment or site to make an effective plan for implementing strategies on a hyper local level in such a way that feedback can be monitored and used to make a system more effective.

Some people take a permaculture training to develop professional skills and get valuable education to enhance their current career or prepare them for their next venture. Some people take the training just to share the experience with an enthusiastic group of like-minded community and meet new friends. Some people take a permaculture training because they are deeply concerned about their neighborhood and how to prepare for an emergency and how to act appropriately for an effective recovery after the first 72 hours of a disaster. UPISF is evolving its training offerings with the help of the NEN leadership to enhance the neighborhood empowerment aspects of the training. Expect to hear more about these new plans soon!

Through a mix of classroom discussion time, small group work and hands-on activities, UPISF explores methods of designing and establishing regenerative communities and economies. UPISF visits and participates at several permaculture projects here in San Francisco and the Bay Area, observing and interacting with Permaculture principles in practice. In the forthcoming weeks and months UPISF will share some designs and content developed by past trainees to share resiliency (and fun) strategies that we can potentially explore to make our neighborhoods more abundant, prosperous and joyful!

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Sara Brissenden-Smith, Regional Outreach Coordinator, ITVS Community Cinema

Media is such a huge part of our lives today. You can stream live video of events happening on the other side of the world from your office, watch TV episodes on your iPod as you ride Muni, upload your political perspective and your interpretation of Beyonce’s latest video on youTube… tweet about the meal you just had and break up with your boyfriend via Facebook… all on your way to the BART station. Access to media has definitely changed.

As a young woman of color, I grew up with some very narrow definitions of my community presented in the media.  One-dimensional snapshots of my community have often left me feeling disconnected from representations of ‘my experience’.  Truthfully, I have a love/hate relationship with media.

I don’t think I really understood how powerful media was until I had the chance to go to Ghana, West Africa about 10 years ago.  I met young African boys who were dressed like American rap artists and African girls who strived to look like young women in our music videos.  I had always assumed that the challenges I faced looking for diversity and depth to images of my community was an American struggle, one that primarily existed in our inner cities and urban areas.  The idea that an 8 year old African girl in a small village in Ghana could be affected by the same images I encountered was unsettling for me.  That trip changed my perspective in a lot of ways.  It made me aware of the need for communities to come together and dialogue about social issues and I realized that while media can be damaging, it has the potential be a great tool as well.

About a year and a half ago, I had the chance to start working with Independent Television Service (ITVS). ITVS funds, presents, and promotes award-winning documentaries and dramas on public television and cable, innovative new media projects on the Web, and the Emmy Award-winning weekly series Independent Lens Tuesday nights at 10:00 PM on PBS.  The program I work with – the Community Cinema Program – is a groundbreaking public education and civic engagement initiative featuring free monthly screenings of films from the Emmy Award-winning series Independent Lens. Community Cinema is on location in more than 60 cities nationally, bringing together leading organizations, community members and public television stations to learn, discuss, and get involved in key social issues of our time.  I have the chance to produce free screening events of documentaries by independent filmmakers who tell stories that are unique, diverse and rarely seen. 

Organizing screenings in the Bay Area (both in San Francisco and Oakland), I have to say the level of community involvement and engagement has been amazing.  Each month hundreds of people come out to see films and community partners share their work and knowledge.  Some people come because they don’t know anything about the subject- others because the film tells the story of their lives.  I have seen mothers bring their children to learn about tree planting (Taking Root), a grandfather coming to learn about autism to deal with his grandson’s recent diagnosis (The Horse Boy), teachers bringing students to learn about recycling efforts in Egypt (Garbage Dreams), and youth DJs come to learn about the history of sampling in hip-hop (Copyright Criminals).  Every month is something different but the formula is consistent, communities share space for a couple hours and leave with questions, ideas and often a greater understanding of the issues and how we are all connected.

For me, working with Community Cinema has really reinforced the importance of telling the stories that are important to you, whether you went to film school, or just learned how to use a video camera.  While the experience can be empowering and liberating for the filmmaker and the film subjects, the scope extends far beyond the participants and can have a ripple effect, impacting audiences, communities and the world at large.

I feel fortunate to be able to witness community members as they participate in this process.  Many audience members return month after month, bringing family members, friends, co-workers and neighbors.  The conversations that happen are dynamic, sometimes charged and always transformative.  People leave screenings knowing more about how huge societal issues are being addressed by organizations down the street from where they live and many are encouraged to learn more and participate, whether that means they learn to compost, or volunteer at a school.  As I am encouraged every month, my appreciation for the power and true purpose of media grows, one documentary at a time.

Sara Brissenden-Smith is Outreach Coordinator of ITVS Community Cinema, which funds, presents, and promotes award-winning documentaries and dramas on public television and cable, new media projects online, and the Emmy Award-winning weekly PBS series Independent Lens.


Most San Franciscans will probably make it through the next Bay Area earthquake. But will residents stick around afterward or leave permanently, repeating the New Orleans story?

In this first part of a presentation on the Disaster Recovery Phase, NEN Director Daniel Homsey explains why the Recovery Phase after a major disaster is so important and the challenge of getting people to think now about this phase. Check back soon for Part 2 of this presentation, where Daniel outlines practical solutions to preparing in advance for the Disaster Recovery Phase.

[Also viewable on Youtube here.]

Gathering spaces are vital in community-building, but in San Francisco finding somewhere can be tricky. How can groups find spaces and what happens in great community centers? Joseph Smooke, Executive Director of Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center, shares his thoughts with NENfm.

Download this episode (right click and save)

Show Information

Guest: Joseph Smooke
Neighborhood: Bernal Heights, San Francisco
Related Organization: Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center
Adam Greenfield
Additional Credits:
Moontan (music)


As a proud native San Franciscan, I always take the time to ask folks who have visited our great City what was their favorite part of their visit.  Of course some mention seeing the Golden Gate Bridge and riding a Cable Car, but consistently they say that our amazing collection of unique neighborhoods was what they’ll always remember.

For many of us in the community space, we’re not surprised by this answer.  It’s not hard to see why someone visiting the city wouldn’t marvel at how they can go from being in a classic Italian neighborhood one minute and suddenly be surrounded by authentic Chinese markets the next.

These great neighborhoods don’t just happen, they take years of work and dedication by residents who invest their valuable time to make these communities a success.  It’s that effort that many of us call The Work. The Work is a vast collection of skills which involves everything from coalition building to expertise as to how City Hall operates.

While San Francisco is blessed with dozens of successful neighborhoods, there is an equal number that struggle everyday to meet the quality of life goals that they have for their residents.

The Neighborhood Empowerment Network (NEN) is dedicated to helping these emerging communities achieve their goals. By developing a suite of tools, resources, and strategic partnerships for neighborhood stakeholders to leverage as they create safe, clean, healthy communities to live and work, the NEN hopes re-invent how we as a City collectively build and support sustainable communities.

Please visit the About Us page and learn more about our initiative and what we’re developing to help our partners achieve their goals.

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