While this is an eminently practical book, one full of hands-on strategies for transforming groups, organizations, and communities at large, it’s not a handbook. It’s really about how those of us who care about building and strengthening communities think about that challenge — the basic assumptions and conceptual models we bring to it. Community: The Structure of Belongingsays, in effect, don’t worry too much about formal structures and mechanisms of community and consider instead what it would mean to create change from the inside out — the sort rooted in an authentic sense of connectedness and belonging.
GENTRIFICATION VS. INCUMBENT UPGRADING
As reported in The Atlantic Cities, sociologists John Joe Schlichtman and Jason Patch recently criticized urbanists for a hypocritical stance on gentrification. Their polemical article in the International Journal of Urban and International Research (July 2013, 1-18), “Gentrifier? Who, Me? Interrogating the Gentrifier in the Mirror,” noted “an artiﬁcial distance in accounts of gentriﬁcation because researchers have not adequately examined their own relationship to the process.” This is certainly a provocative point worthy of debate. A self-reflective stance is helpful, but I also think that we as urbanists should be careful about defining our terms. All too often, any noticeable improvement in low- or even middle-class neighborhoods is derided as “gentrification.” That stance often seems overly simplistic and confines us to a theoretical blind alley without reasonable policy options.
In my view, if we consider gentrification to involve an upward change in the socioeconomic status of a neighborhood, the problem really is one of displacement of current residents. In fact, many communities struggling with high rates of residential and/or commercial vacancies would LIKE to experience what has been called "incumbent upgrading" — urban revitalization without the displacement. How to achieve this sort of balanced approach is a central problem of social policy. I think that it should involve locally oriented economic development with reasonable zoning restrictions on undesirable commercial uses, involvement of community development corporations, maintenance of residential rent-stabilization laws, and affordable housing provisions in new construction. Not that there are easy answers, but actively engaged communities can formulate innovative development plans to reconcile the interests at play.
An instructive case is the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, a nonprofit organization in the Roxbury/North Dorchester neighborhoods of Boston. Formed in 1984 in response to arson, disinvestment, redlining, and abandonment, the DSNI has advocated community planning and advocacy. In 1987 the group completed a comprehensive revitalization plan, subsequently updated in an urban village visioning process involving over 180 residents and organization representatives in 1996. Through a community land trust, the Dudley Neighbors Inc (DNI), an affordable housing program flourishes on 1,300 parcels of once-abandoned land assets. Boston even granted DNI the right of eminent domain on vacant land in a 60-acre area to ensure community land ownership, permanence and affordability. The film “Holding Ground: The Rebirth of Dudley Street” (New Day Films) recounts this story.
DNSI is not alone, of course. Many other community-based organizations do great work! Such groups as Sustainable South Bronx in NYC, Hudson River Housing in Poughkeepsie NY, the Mission Housing Development Corporation in San Francisco, and the East LA Community Corporation and East Yards Communities for Environmental Justice in Los Angeles represent similar ideals of community-based incumbent upgrading, although specific programs vary in each case. The process is complicated and often conflictual, as noted in a recent New York Times article on “gentefication” vs. “gentrification” in East LA. In the long run, however, this sort of community-based planning and advocacy may hold the greatest promise of incumbent upgrading, as opposed to the displacement associated with gentrification. Urban Geographies: Cities of People, Places, and Projects
Katy Hutchison, of British Columbia, Canada, lost her husband when he was brutally beaten to death by teenagers at a party in their neighborhood. Katy would later meet the young man who murdered her husband, and she now advocates and speaks about restorative justice.
Engaging Adolescents: Building Youth Participation
in the Arts, the result of the National Guild’s research
on effective practices, outlines a holistic approach
that integrates arts learning with principles of youth
development. It is designed to help staff and faculty
develop new programs and services for teens or to
rethink and strengthen programs they already offer.
Profiles of organizations in varying stages of
implementing this approach illustrate the concepts
this guide describes.
This brief is intended to guide you through the process of identifying appropriate outcomes
for your program, and, if possible, to help demystify the concept of ‘outcomes.’ Identifying
and measuring your program outcomes can help you speak clearly and confidently about
your program and its achievements and about your young people and their achievements