One of the core beliefs that Connecting Caring Communities works from is the idea that neighbors are the people who should be the driving force behind any community change. This is one of the myriad of reasons CCC values building relationships with neighbors so highly. Without getting to know folks in the communities in which we work, our organization would never be able to help catalyze the changes that our neighbors desire. With that in mind, I've been trying a new tactic over the last few weeks, and it has me very excited. I'm currently in the process of surveying the entire Alameda neighborhood, house by house and street by street. The survey I'm using isn't super scientific, but it has produced some fascinating results. Other than the address of the person I'm surveying, I ask three questions. If you're so inclined, I'd love for you to answer them for the community you live in or the neighborhood in which you work. (Feel free to leave us a comment with your answers. We love feedback!)
First off, what's the best thing about your neighborhood? Starting with this one often catches people off guard. My guess is that when people open the door to someone asking about the community, they are expecting to get questions about what's wrong with their neighborhood. Maybe some just have never thought about the positives about the place they live. Nevertheless, it's interesting to hear what folks think about their neighborhood, especially since Alameda is a community that has not been well thought of by some residents who don't live there in years past. The number one response to the question so far has been that the neighborhood is quiet/peaceful. What a blessing for those neighbors to feel that their community is a peaceful place!
Next up, what's a challenge that your neighborhood is facing? Every neighborhood faces some challenges, and CCC does not want to assume that we know which are affecting Alameda, or any of the communities with which we work. While we have by no means surveyed the whole neighborhood yet, it seems like many of the challenges named by Alameda residents fall under the umbrella of safety. There is concern for the children of the community, for those living near a busy street, and about some drug activity. Each are legitimate concerns, but none are insurmountable for a community that is working together to address its challenges.
Finally, I end with a multiple choice question. Some of the training that CCC has undergone listed eight major aspects of a healthy and flourishing community. These eight areas are neighborhood leadership, education, safety, having a culture of caring within the community, access to meaningful work, ability to find healthcare, good relationships between neighbors, and adequate housing. Because CCC believes that the residents have the best idea about which challenges should be addressed, I have been asking Alameda neighbors which of those eight aspects of community they think are most important to tackle first. While the answers often vary, and some neighbors suggest aspects that aren't on our list, it's been exciting to hear neighbors tell me what they think is most important for their community. Safety, education, and meaningful work look like the early leaders, but there are still plenty of households to survey before we have a clear view about what the neighborhood desires to address.
One of the biggest reasons this project encourages me is that it's going to put data and tools in my hand to help catalyze the kinds of change Alameda neighbors want for themselves. On the sweltering days when I'm collecting information, I am encouraged to keep going by picturing a gathering of concerned neighbors, brought together for the purpose of addressing the challenges each cares most about. I firmly believe that these neighbors can change their world. As Margaret Mead put it, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world: Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."