Encouraging Advocacy and Action at the Grassroots
We work one-on-one and in groups with residents to help them leverage the power of their voice, participate fully in public life, and cultivate the skills they need to positively impact their community.
To begin, we hold community meetings and celebrations, inviting everyone to the table. As residents turn out, we encourage them to discuss their wishes and visions for the future and join in neighborhood action teams, organized around areas of interest and concern. These teams provide a training ground for practicing the skills of civic engagement. Here, residents learn about project management, meeting facilitation, and effective communication, including conflict resolution and consensus building. Teams are coached and guided by Avenue coordinators based on principles we have developed alongside neighborhood leaders over time:
- shared leadership,
- relationships first,
- consensus building,
- inclusion, and
Our approach builds confidence and camaraderie. We aim to improve residents’ effectiveness to challenge, and change, the systems that are falling short.
The neighborhood action teams serve as "alternative civic institutions” and incubators that can evolve in exciting ways to serve the community. In the Near Northside we have seen them grow to serve more specific functions such as new civic associations (such as the Historic Near Northside Civic Association), registered nonprofit organizations (Northside Dawgs), and successful legislative initiatives (Safe Walk Home, Texas Senate Bill 195) as residents take more and more civic matters into their own hands.
Leadership training is also provided through workshops offered through the LISC Houston, NeighborWorks America, and the new Avenue Leadership Academy (ALA), which launched in Spring 2017. The ALA translates eight years of leadership development into a replicable model that helps neighborhoods build capacity for advocacy and action. Interactive workshops are held once each quarter and are open to the public. Resident leaders design the curriculum and teach the workshop, passing on their knowledge and skills to their neighbors, while also honing their public speaking and shared leadership skills.