Deeper Insight: Co-Creating with Community
The Imperative for Co-Creating with Community: Because the neighborhoods and communities in which organizations work are critical ingredients in the recipe for high impact, nonprofits must appreciate and employ the strengths and solutions of their communities.
High-impact nonprofit organizations are embedded in their communities, sharing leadership and knowledge, leveraging each other’s assets, co- owning the missions, and mobilizing together around emerging challenges. Organizations understand their communities’ histories, cultures, and strengths, and they use that knowledge to inform all of their work.
High-impact organizations recognize that the challenges, opportunities, assets, and demographics of communities are constantly changing, so they use ongoing outreach and engagement processes to continually collect and synthesize information. Organizations use this information to inform strategy, improve operations, and match community challenges and opportunities with local and organizational assets and advocacy efforts.
By being nimble and interconnected with their communities, high-impact organizations are uniquely positioned to identify and efficiently mobilize around emerging challenges, even if the work goes outside of the scope of contracts and funding commitments. High-impact organizations recognize this distinct identity of community- based nonprofits and are regarded as agents of advocacy with and by their communities.
High-impact organizations become adept at seeking out, maximizing the contributions of, and mobilizing diverse groups of youth, older adults, and other individuals. Their hiring and board recruitment and development policies support diverse workforces and board directors. All of these efforts are complemented by the organizations’ delivery of high-quality, culturally and linguistically competent services and supports that are built with input from the community.
Communities view organizations as vital institutions and economic engines. The organization’s physical space is viewed positively and perceived as a community resource and welcoming place by residents because it reflects a shared legacy with the community.
In 2003 and 2004, the Near Eastside of Indianapolis had the highest rate of home foreclosures in the U.S.—then the housing crisis hit. This was the tippingpoint for this tight-knit community, and it decided it was time to invest back into the community; time for change and growth.
The first, most critical, step was to assemble neighborhood residents and stakeholders, individuals who live and work within the Near Eastside community, to strategically develop a plan. The John H. Boner Community Center, founded by neighborhood residents in 1971, and other partner organizations facilitated a resident-led process based upon an asset-based framework to help the neighborhood align its priorities. The product of this process came to be known as the “Near Eastside Quality of Life Plan,” a roadmap designed to assist the neighborhood as a whole to become a thriving, healthy, and vibrant community. To date, this plan leverages over $175 million in improvements, programs, and investments in the neighborhood.
The Center is driven by the plan that was created by the neighborhood, for the neighborhood and includes items such as financial stability, affordable housing, education, health and wellness, and enhancing the quality of life for older adults. Neighborhood residents continue to have quarterly summits and continue to adopt new ideas, address challenges, and seize upon opportunities. The neighborhood directs not only the Center’s mission and vision, but also programs and services as it continues to provide the tools needed for change and growth for an improved quality of life.
Key Alliance Resource for Co-Creating with Community
The Alliance’s Center for Engagement and Community Building offers a collection of reports that address civic engagement including the Mission-Based Advocacy Toolkit. This toolkit offers ready-to-use resources nonprofit human-serving organizations can use to better advance the goals of their communities through advocacy and civic engagement.
Resource Collection for Co-Creating with Community
Staff of Alliance member organizations may request the electronic collection of resources on Co-Creating with Community curated by Severson Center librarians.