Community Action Toolkit and other resources from The Young Foundation

in Best practices in community empowerment

Annisa Muchtar works on Communications at The Young Foundation (@the_young_fdn), and is an Analyst at  Market Sentinel. The Young Foundation’s work covers health, ageing, education, communities and housing, justice, youth leadership, creative uses of the web, and wellbeing. They address issues by carrying out research, launching collaboratives, creating new ventures, and advising national and local governments and other public agencies, in the UK and internationally. They collaborate with a wide range of organizations – from charities and businesses to governments and local authorities – using a comprehensive set of tools and approaches. You can also find the foundation on Facebook. Annisa’s notes:

The Young Foundation/Community action toolkit – There are already hundreds of places around the country where local authorities are working to empower and support communities, and where communities are taking the lead on local issues: running community buildings, setting up action groups, delivering local services and championing the need for better public services. However, there are as many places just starting to explore how to engage and empower local people.

This is challenging for many local authorities and public agencies. Devolution and empowerment create new risks for local authorities to manage and demand that agencies change the way they view and work with communities and service users.

Much is already known about how to successfully empower communities. This community action toolkit brings together knowledge, practical tools and stories about community empowerment for organisations who want to shift power and influence to local people and for communities that want to take up those opportunities. It is based on five years’ work the Young Foundation has undertaken with communities, local groups, councillors, local authorities, housing associations, public agencies and central government.

Learning Locally: What can three community initiatives teach us about promoting localism in Devon, by Carmel O’Sullivan, Catherine Russell, Vicki Sellick – This short report explores the lessons from three very different approaches to community engagement in Devon – a grass roots community forum, a parish council cluster and a community plan for an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. We explore the impact each structure has had on community engagement, scrutiny of local services and promoting resident responsibility.

Growing social ventures by Cynthia Shanmugalingam, Geoff Mulgan, Jack Graham, Simon Tucker – Britain’s history is full of examples of forward-thinking co-ops, charities, mutuals as well as profitable businesses that have pioneered innovative ways to tackle social needs. From the rich activity of socially oriented businesses and charities in the 19th century, to forerunners of the ethical business movement like the Body Shop, and an estimated £24bn social enterprise industry, the UK has a diverse ecology of entrepreneurial activity aimed at meeting social goals.

With strong government support and interest in the field, and growing interest from London’s financial services sector, the UK has come to be seen as a global leader in the emerging fields of social enterprise, social finance and social entrepreneurship. Over the past fifteen years, at least £350 million of public money has gone into funds for social entrepreneurship, charity capacity building and other support for social ventures, alongside significant philanthropic funding and some private investment – although accurate aggregate figures remain elusive. Tax incentives have also been introduced, as well as legal reforms to encourage investment.

A new industry is steadily taking shape. This industry has many names: social investment, social finance, and the social economy. It fuses together two relative strengths of the UK – skill in finance and skill in civic action, organisation and delivery.

This report, produced by the Young Foundation and published by NESTA, is the first comprehensive survey of the state of the institutions that support a dynamic and emerging sector of social ventures.

More on the Young Foundation’s work.

Recommended resources from our Community Empowerment survey

in Best practices in community empowerment

Recap of our Best practices in Community Empowerment series.

We created a page to list those resources that were recommended to us by these friends of Our Blocks who helped us prepare for the “Someone’s Done That Already: the Best Practice of Using Best Practices” session of the Craigslist Foundation Boot Camp on Empowering Communities.

Thanks again to Kevin Harris, Richard Layman, Diane Dyson, Matt Singh, Christina Holt, Colin Gallagher, Lisa Palmer, Julian Dobson, Kevin Harris again, Mat Dryhurst, David Crowley, Barbara Pantuso, Paul Lamb, Rebecca Sanborn Stone, and Brian Fier.

Click on the image to see the full Recommended Resources page.

Bringing people together to make things better

in Best practices in community empowerment

15th in our Best practices in Community Empowerment series.

Brian Fier is involved in community building and development. He is interested in information dissemination, collaboration, and improving communities. Additionally, he is developing tools for connecting people to each other and to information with the intention of helping improve communities and people’s lives. One such project is Campus Dakota (@CampusDakota) where he is the President and Community Developer. Brian has a master’s and bachelor’s degree from North Dakota State University; his coursework was focused on the social sciences. He is also a Firefighter and Paramedic Specialist with Bettendorf Fire Rescue, and Flotilla Staff Officer in the US Coast Guard Auxiliary.

[Brian is the latest Blockhead to sign up to run this site, and this is his first post. Welcome aboard, Officer Fier. - Eds]

Do you want to bring people together to make things better, but don’t know how to go about it? The Community Tool Box offers detailed resources related to creating and maintaining coalitions and partnerships. The resource is divided into the six areas listed below. Each section provides easy to follow information and tools for getting started on tackling an issue.

Outline for Creating and Maintaining Coalitions and Partnerships

This section provides a broad overview on creating and maintaining coalitions and partnerships. It provides questions to consider, steps to take, ideas to ponder, and more. If you do not know where to start, start with this section and continue from there.

Outline with links to tools

Expanding beyond the outline from the previous section, this section provides many links to other resources that will help you consider different things as you work to build and maintain coalitions and partnerships.

How-to Information on Creating and Maintaining Coalitions and Partnerships

If you are looking for a direct how-to this is the place for you.

Examples of Creating and Maintaining Coalitions and Partnerships

Take a look at the following four examples of how real people and organizations went about building and maintaining coalitions and partnerships:

Quick Tips and Tools for doing this work

Do you want some quick tips and tools? Check out:

Links to other online resources for Creating and Maintaining Coalitions and Partnerships

Want more resources? Check out these links.

Resources for building & empowering communities – Rebecca Sanborn Stone

in Best practices in community empowerment

14th in our Best practices in Community Empowerment series.

Rebecca Sanborn Stone is Senior Associate for Communications at Orton Family Foundation and CommunityMatters. She holds a BA in Biology and English from Williams College, where she helped found the Williams Social Choice Fund for socially responsible investing. She got her MESc from Yale. You can also find Rebecca on Twitter (@rsstone) and Facebook.

On the practice of hoarding or sharing best practices, Rebecca says: I’ve historically seen a fair bit of hoarding, including in my own organization, though not always intentionally. I think a lot of organizations intend to share and collaborate and grow a common set of best practices, but it breaks down because we all want control over what our case studies and resources look like, how we build and share them. I think I see a shift in that trend, though – I’ve recently learned of a number of newer organizations (mostly either run by millennials or at least operating with a millennial mindset) that are bucking this trend and abandoning the ego in favor of true collaboration. It makes organizations like mine stop and take notice and, I hope, will be enough to help us change our ways.

These are Rebecca’s recommended resources:

Changemakers Competitions – Community empowerment for me always starts with inspiration and examples, and I can’t think of a better resource for that than Changemakers. Their competition winners offer so many inspiring stories of people taking control of their communities and coming up with innovative solutions to both local and global challenges. The competition entrants who don’t win are perhaps an even richer resource – the site doubles as a database of creative ideas for community change.

CommunityMatters blog – CommunityMatters helps local leaders and changemakers find collaborative, innovative grassroots solutions to community challenges. The CommunityMatters blog includes information-rich posts and podcasts of conference calls on topics ranging from local foods to placemaking to economic development.

NCDD Resource Center – The NCDD Resource Center is home to more than 2,500 resources for dialogue and deliberation, including dialogue guides, case studies, tools, and evaluation methods. Dialogue and democratic participation are at the heart of all community empowerment, and NCDD is at the heart of this movement.

Cause Communications Toolkit – Cause Communications publishes a Non-profit Communications Toolkit, as well as other resources related to networks, online outreach tools, and print and presentation design. It might seem only peripherally related to community empowerment, but we find that so many community initiatives stall because they fail to communicate with or reach citizens. The Cause Communications guides are some of the best resources around for improving effectiveness in communications.

Deep Economy (Bill McKibben) – It’s not free, and not an obvious choice, but I have to list it. I see so many aspects of community empowerment leading back to the “local” movement today – buy local / grow local / eat local / work local / etc. Bill McKibben’s book was at the forefront of the local movement, and is one of the best articulation’s I’ve seen for why local economies and community empowerment have to go hand in hand. [Check a library near you]

Building community in neighborhoods

The following resources on Rebecca’s list are more focused on building community in neighborhoods. As Rebecca notes: There are several great databases and resources out there with examples of community initiatives, and instructions on how to do it, but I wouldn’t limit myself to the neighborhood level. Lessons from small town and rural planning would apply very well to neighborhood community building, and the resources I’d recommend would point people in that direction. – The Community Planning Handbook by Nick Wates is one of the best publications, with ideas for planning-related tools to engage citizens, identify what matters to communities, and plan for the future – especially in an international context. is a free online database listing most of the resources from his book.

Planning Tool Exchange – The Planning Tool Exchange is an online hub for tools, resources, and organizations in community planning and civic engagement. We invite all users to find and contribute resources and help grow an information bank for communities.

Heart & Soul Community Planning Handbook – The Heart & Soul Community Planning Handbook helps communities engage citizens and take control of their future. Chapters include network analysis and stakeholder identification, outreach and communications, storytelling, and engaging youth. I recommend this because it’s at the heart of our work and it’s one of the resources I know best; neighborhoods looking to engage citizens would learn a lot from the small town planning examples included here.

Animating Democracy database – This database focuses on projects that use the arts to build dialogue, engage citizens, and work through difficult civic issues. Many of the projects are replicable, but even if they’re not a perfect fit for other communities and neighborhoods, they inspire creative thinking about unorthodox community tools.

PPS Placemaking 101 Articles – PPS’s resource collection includes how-tos, articles, principles, tools, and just about everything else a community would need to understand how placemaking can help and how to get started.

Social Enterprise Resources from Paul Lamb

in Best practices in community empowerment

13th in our Best practices in Community Empowerment series.

Paul Lamb is Principal at Man on A Mission Consulting, a firm specializing in “Management Consulting for Social Change.” He is an author and social entrepreneur, and runs a “Technology & Spiritual Practice” program assisting faith based communities to leverage social media and emerging technology tools. Paul is the co-author with wife Debbie of the Be A Better Partner Handbook for Couples. In a previous life he worked as a nonprofit executive and youth counselor. Paul compiled this comprehensive list of Social Enterprise Resources on ZeroDivide, which includes most everything you’d need to start and sustain a social enterprise. He also authored this Social Enterprise 101 presentation for budding social entrepreneurs:

View more presentations from plamb

Paul recommends that you check these other resources out:

Social Enterprise Alliance - Website of the Social Enterprise Alliance – the largest membership org for nonprofit social enterprise in the US.

Social Entrepreneur, Social Enterprise and Social Innovation Sources of Funding - A list of 200+ social entrepreneur, social enterprise and social innovation funding sources on Ned, global online co-working space for early stage social entrepreneurs and collaborative social ventures.

130 Ways to Fund Your Social Venture, published in SocialEarth, a collaborative blog that focuses on businesses that are doing good through their work.

On sharing/hoarding best practices, Paul says: “Sharing is in, hoarding is out. Coopetition is in, competition is out!”

Next up: Rebecca Sanborn Stone of the Orton Family Foundation and CommunityMatters.

How to be an urban change agent – Favorite guides of Shareable readers

in Resources

by Kelly McCartney, reposted from How to Be an Urban Change Agent, Shareable Style, published 05.18.11 by Shareable 

Subscribe to Kelly’s blog, thekelword, and to the Shareable rss feed. See more links below.

There’s a movement – or two, or many – under foot. It goes by myriad names and comes in an array colors. The common thread, though, involves citizens stepping up to better their surroundings, to create safer, more livable, and more environmentally sound urban environments. According to the folks at Pattern Cities, some popular monikers include “guerilla urbanism,” “pop-up urbanism,” “new urbanism,” “changescaping,” or “D.I.Y. urbanism.” They, however, prefer the “tactical urbanism” approach which is defined with five specific criteria:

  • A deliberate, phased approach to instigating change;
  • The offering of local solutions for local planning challenges;
  • Short-term commitment and realistic expectations;
  • Low-risks, with a possibly a high reward; and
  • The development of social capital between citizens and the building of organizational capacity between public-private institutions, non-profits, and their constituents.

Such a strategy employs an incremental approach in order to test real-world solutions to real-world problems in the urban environment. Like any good incubator project, small-scale experimentation demands fewer resources, be they time, funds, or man hours. The hope here is that positive results are scalable. The definition of true tactical urbanism hinges on the institutional involvement and long-term vision.

In contrast, so-called D.I.Y. or guerilla urbanism affects temporary change in a more localized setting and is instigated from the bottom up without, necessarily, an eye toward the bigger picture. These actions amount to social interventions in the name of bettering a community or furthering a cause.

In a shareable world, there is room for both of these divergent, albeit similar, strategies, and everything in between. Indeed, intiatives from many camps are proving successful in cities around the world. Here at Shareable, we’ve written numerous guides for shaping your urban environment and community. Below are our readers’ favorite ideas.

How to Be an Urban Change Agent

A good first step to begin your urban experiments is to start a neighborhood work group to get your community’s support, input, and resources from which to draw. After that, the sky is really the limit for what a group of committed people can do.


Building community and improving neighborhoods, by Barbara Pantuso

in Best practices in community empowerment

12th in our Best practices in Community Empowerment series.

Barbara Pantuso (@barbarapantuso) is Founder and CEO of Hey, Neighbor!, a location-based website and mobile app that connects neighbors, and creates a new marketplace for neighborly sharing of “MicroFavors”. Rachel Botsman called it “a great example of how technology creates both the efficiency and the social glue for trust to form between strangers”. Barbara follows many blogs and articles that focus on community building and improving neighborhoods. Many of the resources she shares below are about how & why neighbors connect. Topics include the social, safety, government, civic, public space, and environmental aspects of a community.

Yes! Magazine – Search for keyword “Neighborhood“. Many great articles and real world examples of neighborhood building stories. Also practical “how to” tips. Like their tagline says “Powerful ideas, practical actions”

Citizens Handbook - Practical Assistance for Those Who Want to Make  a Difference – An online handbook  published by the Vancouver Community Network (VCN), a non-profit Internet service provider that provides free services to assist individuals, community groups and non-profit organizations in accessing and utilizing the Internet to its fullest ability.

Hey, Neighbor! - Hey, Neighbor! is a network for trusted neighbor connections and collaboration. It’s like a local Facebook meets a safer Craigslist for your neighborhood.

Many people still don’t know their neighbors. But now more than ever, people want a sense of community. For many, a knock on the door can be inconvenient or intimidating. That’s where Hey, Neighbor! comes in. It provides a virtual knock on the door and a simple way for neighbors to exchange favors, information, goods and services.

Hey, Neighbor! challenges the notion that “good fences make good neighbors.” By reaching across the virtual fence, Hey, Neighbor! connects neighbors in ways that helps them feel happier and more secure, and that helps neighborhoods thrive.

Michael Wood-Lewis/Ghost of Midnight – Great Blog by the Founder of Front Porch Forum in VT – a well used site and leader in online neighbor networks.

Kevin Harris/Neighbourhoods – UK Blog about neighborhoods – very active blogger. Lots of great real-world examples and stories.

Next up: Paul Lamb

Your turn to share resources for building community in neighborhoods

in Best practices in community empowerment

Intermission in our Best practices in Community Empowerment series.

We’re gobsmacked by how much we’d already learned through this three-week experiment:

  1. There’s A BUNCH (technical term) of great stuff out there that we didn’t even know existed. And to think we thought we’d been paying attention.
  2. When you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s good to seek help from people who do.
  3. Good people who know stuff will share stuff they know.
  4. When people we trust give us advice, we pay attention.

So we’ve decided to take this experiment a little bit further. We’ve asked our friends to ask their friends. And we’re asking you, dear reader (Hi Mom!):

If someone came up to you and said: “I’d like to throw a block party (or launch a local website, or build a community garden, or start a social enterprise, or improve safety, or make an asset map, or whatever) what are the best 3 to 5 resources I should check out?”

What would you say?

To make it easier for you to make recommendations (and for us to publish them), we’ve developed this simple form (see the image below; you can either read it sideways, or click on it to go to the survey).


Next up: Kevin Harris of Neighbourhoods

Resources for Social Capitalists, from David Crowley

in Best practices in community empowerment

Tenth in our Best practices in Community Empowerment series.

David Crowley is President & Founder of Social Capital Inc, which strengthens communities by connecting diverse individuals and organizations through civic engagement initiatives. SCI envisions a nation where individuals are strongly connected to their neighbors, and play an active role in shaping the destiny of their communities. This ‘social capital’ will result in communities that are safer, healthier and more vital. SCI is currently working in ten Massachusetts locations. Prior to founding SCI, David worked in the nonprofit sector for over fifteen years. Among other things, he started and directed the Kentucky Community Service Commission, responsible for AmeriCorps and other service programs. David is also Dad & Chief Cook at The Homefront. These are his top 5 must-reads for everyone who wants to build social capital in their neighborhoods.

150 Things you can do to build social capital/Saguaro Seminar for Civic Engagement in America – Good list of simple things anyone can do to build social capital in their community.

Social Capitalist Values & Competencies/Social Capital Inc. – This is an overview of the values and competencies that frame our work and training curriculum.  Had to include one of our own items!

Nonprofit Social Media Decision Guide(pdf)/Trellon – Clearly social media is important for community builders to understand.  I’ve read lots of good articles on the subject but this seems to be a good overview of the subject.

2010 Civic Health Index/NCOC – Good source of current data on civic engagement.  Other helpful articles on the site too.

Civic Engagement Organizations on Twitter – Organizations and individuals I’ve found with a focus on civic engagement.  Follow this stream for steady flow of ideas and resources! Let me know if I’m missing any.

Next up: YOU (yes, you)