Six months has flown by. To think that August 1 was a warm, summer day and I was seeing Taylor Swift after my first day on the job… Here I am in pure bliss with Miss Tay Tay herself. 🙂
Being a community builder is not easy. How the heck does one build a community? There is no formula and every single town, city and neighborhood are unique. Every community has its own assets, problems, people and culture. This is beautiful and this is equally challenging.
When I got the position as a “Neighborhood Engagement Coordinator,” I was handed an empty plate. Initially, I thought I was going to be combating poverty and creating programs. Nope…well, not exactly.
My goal in the first six months of employment was (and still is) to learn what our corporation’s roles, our nonprofit’s roles and our city’s roles are in Des Moines. Being a community builder means understanding how to leverage what is already being done and connecting people to resources (people, programs, places, etc.).
So now that I know what’s happening in the city and who’s doing what, where does that leave me? Well, here’s the scoop.
All three neighborhoods are undergoing neighborhood planning with The City of Des Moines. All three of them are formalized around April-ish. Each plan has some overlap with other neighborhoods and some strong distinctions. Here’s what our company is bringing to the table with the hope of creating a model we can (somewhat) duplicate in the ten other urban core neighborhoods in Des Moines:
- Housing: rehab/resale of homes. Our hope is to bring in people of all income levels, adding multi-housing, demolishing condemned homes, getting slumlords out of the neighborhoods and so on.
- Community Building: building social capital. Empowering residents and getting them involved in their neighborhood. This involves engagement and knowing your neighbors. Example one: turning this (enormous) garden into something epic that feeds neighbors and is used for educational purposes. I get to learn how to garden!
- Marketing: promoting the neighborhoods both internally and externally. We need to build neighborhood pride as well as share with the public that these neighborhoods are great places to live for people of all ages and incomes.
I think I have the best job in the world. I will stay here until my company tells me it’s time to move on. There is a love I have for this city and the individuality of neighborhoods that has sucked me in. It takes a lot of patience to see the kind of change we desire (healthier people, higher graduation rates, more volunteerism, cleaner neighborhoods, condemned houses demolished or fixed, etc.), but I believe we will receive the resources, the volunteers and the power to make these neighborhoods desirable and resilient.