An open letter from Bill Berkowitz of Community Tool Box Re: “Taking Action in Your Neighborhood”

in About Our Blocks

I got this note from UMass Professor Emeritus Bill Berkowitz earlier this week, and with his permission have posted it here so you can share your own thoughts and suggestions. Dr. Berkowitz is a writer, editor, and core team member of the Community Tool Box, the most extensive web site on community health and development on the planet (which we featured here). His books deal with skills, ideas, personal qualities, and stories relating to community organization and improvement. Bill is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association and a recipient of its award for Distinguished Contributions to Practice in Community Psychology.

I’d forwarded this email to some of my contacts in the neighborhoods movement, and with their permission will be posting excerpts from their responses here as well.

Hi, Leo – Thanks very much for your April 12 note. It’s so easy to be impressed by it – both by your statement of purpose and by the people you’ve been gathering around your ideas. I surely hope your work gains momentum, takes off, and soars.

In this note, I’m sending along a concept of our own, titled “Taking Action in Your Neighborhood,” which perhaps you might reflect and comment upon.

In some ways, it’s a variation and extension of Our Blocks. Some differences are that it’s more explicitly action-oriented, and more explicitly participatory. It also structures the content by topic, rather than have the user do it via tagging. And it centralizes and gives a specific focus for much of the needed neighborhood work.

What’s here could be a rather big idea, probably calling for both synthesis of existing content and creation of some new content as well. The potential payoff, though, could be very large.

So take a look if you can, and see what you think; we’ll be very grateful to learn of your own reactions, others’ as well, whatever they may be.

We’re also very comfortable with your sharing any or all of this with your other neighborhood contacts – actually we’d encourage this, since more feedback may both help strengthen this concept, as well as Our Blocks itself, and potentially lead to mutually-beneficial collaborations.

Thanks very much again, Leo, and be talking to you.

~~ Bill

* * * * *

In response to your note and request for feedback, I’m writing to sketch out some neighborhood thoughts, and more specifically around developing a centralized “Taking Action in Your Neighborhood” resource that I’d mentioned before.

We’d certainly be interested in any of your own thoughts you might have on this, especially (if the idea has merit) for moving this idea forward. I’m also copying Jay here, since this relates pretty closely to some work he has done.

Here’s the rationale: There’s a lot of neighborhood-related stuff in print and in cyberspace, which may not be very surprising. Much of what exists is both good and useful. A lot of it can be found on Our Blocks. Some of it is on the Community Tool Box, and I’m sure also on many other sites as well.

But a real downside is that it’s scattered all over the map – so if someone is interested in a particular neighborhood topic or issue, they might find themselves looking in a lot of places, and having to patch together what they need from a bunch of different sources. This is both time-consuming and often not all that effective.


Community Tool Box announces partnership with Our Blocks

in About Our Blocks

Very grateful to have Christina Holt and Jami Jones join the Blockheads. They do great work at the Community Tool Box, where I volunteer, and it’s inspiring to be able to work with them here as well. As more such stellar people and organizations join us in our efforts to bring you field-tested ideas and tools to make a difference in your neighborhoods, we hope to be able to serve you even weller (no that’s not a real word, I don’t think). Here’s CTB’s announcement:

Our Blocks

Collaboration is a key idea we at the Community Tool Box teach; Chapter 24, Section 3 to be exact.  We emphasize the importance of networking, coordination, cooperation and collaboration as possible relationships that can exist between organizations.

The Community Tool Box was recently introduced to Our Blocks, an online collaborative site connecting people who want to work together to make a difference in the places they live, work and play.

Purple Line

How does it work?

Their writers summarize materials online into concise, easy to read articles, filled with important tags, links and information.  They provide real-life examples of the work occurring in neighborhoods through their community stories.  Additionally, there is an extensive online library with lists of resources available for anyone interested in grassroots community building.

Capturing important topics, such as community engagement, grassroots organizing, and placemaking, the writers for Our Blocks summarize the work being done by coalitions, non-profits and individuals, highlighting their stories, the resources they provide to the greater global community and examples of real-life application of these concepts.

Their site serves primarily as a blog, with extensive links for their libraries, case examples and partners/featured collaborators, however they also use Twitter and other social media tools to network with the community at large.

Our Blocks is entirely supported by the efforts of volunteers. The co-editors are a collective group of individuals working in positions to support community health and development by advocating for improvement and change in their local communities.

Are you interested in learning more and even contributing to the efforts of Our Blocks?  Visit their site:

We at the Community Tool Box are grateful for partnerships with organizations such as Our Blocks, as it brings to light our resources and allows us to share with the global community the tools we offer.  Our Blocks did an amazing write-up about us, which you can read here.