Lisa begins by sharing about Ohio City Power, a Neighborhood Connections grantee, and its growing capacity to serve the homeless and jobless of Cleveland, Ohio by building connectivity between resources, opportunity, and those in need.
As Neighborhood Connections Program Director, Tom O’Brien has had the opportunity to observe, support and learn from a diverse community of local project leaders.
In our conversation, Tom shares seven success factors he’s noticed that aid in generating successful, dynamic, thriving projects for community and economic development.
7 Success Factors for Dynamic Community Development Projects
Conversation transcription: With Lisa Braun, Executive Director, Ohio City Power and Thomas O’Brien, Program Director, Neighborhood Connections at The Cleveland Foundation in Cleveland, Ohio, September 5, 2014.
Lisa Braun: Hi, my name is Lisa Braun. I am Executive Director of Ohio City Power, a non profit program based out of Ohio City. We serve the homeless and jobless of Cleveland, Ohio.
We’re very grateful to Neighborhood Connections for being the stepping stone for us to advance.
Lisa Braun: Tom, could you share with us please some of the successful projects you’ve seen springboard from Neighborhood Connections?
#1 Success Factor: Passionate Leadership
Tom O’Brien: Yes, I think that the ones that really work are where people are really passionate about and care about what they do. That’s number one. So, that they really have it in their heart that this is something that they care about and they’re going to put time and effort in. So, the champion or champions of a project, like you are with Ohio City Power.
#2 Success Factor: Creative, Resilient Collaborative Community
And then I think that the other is that the person leading it, is open to trying new things, being creative, inviting new people in, willing to fail, and then learn, and then come back again. I think there’s quite a bit of resilience in those who are really leading some of the projects because those have been some of the most successful. It’s not an easy thing, and it’s not a straight line. It’s like you go down one path and it may hit a dead end and you may go down another and it may work. So, it takes some persistence and some trying to figure things out. And being provisional, like just trying to figure out, “Well, this didn’t work, so what do we do next?” I think all of that’s important.
#3 Success Factor: An Affirming, Hospitable Environment
Another key thing, I think, is the groups that have that sense of hospitality. Of caring about people and people caring about them. So this is about hope. Hope in the sense that really good things can happen in life. And it’s not always focusing on the negative stuff and the problems. So that includes the environment, the space where things are held and how those are set up and the gatherings where people come together and how the conversations are held, where everybody has a chance to speak, and feels heard, and feels needed. I think those are some of the things that really work.
#4 Success Factor: Individual Sense of Co-Ownership
And the last thing I would say is where the people who are involved have a sense of co-ownership of the project. Not one person isolating and saying, “This is my project.” But that they are inviting other people in and they have opportunities to really contribute and to get something back from it. So it’s that reciprocity, so you can give and you can get. And I think that’s really important. Whoever participates in making it happen can get something, but also can give their gifts and so I think that really creates a sense of co-ownership and co-creation, which is at the heart of it.
#5 Success Factor: Develop Opportunities to Serve the Public
And I guess the last is, is there demand for it? Do people want it? And what we say is, don’t do what people don’t want. So, I had a grantee come to me a few years ago, and she said, “Nobody’s coming to my clean up anymore. People stopped coming. It’s just me doing this.” And I said, “Well, just stop doing it then. Nobody wants to do it. Or you’ve got to change it somehow.” Right? What is the demand? What do people want and what is important to them? Maybe it’s not a clean up. Maybe it’s something else, maybe that’s where you need to focus.
#6 Success Factor: Invest in Trusting, Caring Relationships
Because the biggest thing, out of all of this, of all the projects, is really about building these trusting relationships. Where people can then go to each other and support each other. And care about each other. That’s at the heart of it, to create a more fairer society and a place where people feel part of something bigger and supported in a lot of different ways. So, those are the ones that really work.
#7 Success Factor: Be Resilient
As you’ve described before and from what I’ve heard from other grantees, is being really resilient. It’s so important. Saying, “You know what? That one hurt, that one was a tough loss but we’re going to get back out there and do something a little different.”
So, that’s what I would say.
Lisa Braun: Thank you.
Neighbor Up! Network Night
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