Bringing Community Leaders Together – A Step-by-Step Guide on LikeMinded

in community engagement, Organizing, Place-based communities

One of the huge benefits of adopting “community building” as a hobby is that from time to time, you get to volunteer to work with real organizers. Early this year, I started to help the Council of Acorn Residents on a project they hoped would bring leaders and orgs in West Oakland more closely together. Dubbed “Solutions Salons”, the idea was to get community leaders together – with food, drink, music, and conversation – and hope something good would come of that. Like the salons of the Enlightenment, but without the hoopskirts. Initial results have been encouraging (see Oakland Local article reprinted with permission below).

The residents wanted to document the process we’re going through, so if you’d want to try it in your own neighborhood, you’d have a model you can use and improve upon. We created a project on LikeMinded called (very modestly) “Bringing Community Leaders Together – A Step-by-Step Guide“. It includes a timeline, and sample invitations, evaluations, surveys, and other docs that can give you a head start. This process has just begun, and we welcome your ideas on how to move it forward.

If you haven’t heard of LikeMinded, it’s the new platform Craigslist Foundation and the Knight Foundation launched last month, where people can share stories about what’s working to help improve communities. You can read more press reports about it here.

We’ll get into this in more detail during our “Someone’s Done That Already: the Best Practice of Using Best Practices” session of the June 2 Craigslist Foundation Boot Camp on Empowering Communities at UCSF.

Community groups make connection in West Oakland

by Jennifer Inez Ward (@oaklandscene), Oakland Local (@oaklandlocal)

Residents, community organizations and business owners gathered at the Acorn Town Center and Courtyards late last week to discuss better ways of networking and communicating as part of the Solutions Salon for West Oakland Leaders.

The event was sponsored by the Council of Acorn Residents and was the second meeting held to specifically look at new ways West Oaklanders can come together. Organizers said they wanted participants to have an opportunity to brainstorm ideas about events or projects that can foster stronger ties in the community (photos).

BRIDGE Housing and The John Stewart Company also co-sponsored the salon, which featured a wide array of West Oakland groups. Participants at the meeting included members of The Crucible, People’s Grocery and the Alameda County Youth Development office. Educators also were at the gathering including the head of the soon to open charter school, Vincent Academy.

Many organization representatives and business owners said one of the biggest challenges (more…)

“Solutions Salon” Brings West Oakland Community Together

in community engagement, Organizing, Place-based communities

OAKLAND, CA, March 11, 2011 – Lyn Hikida – More than 40 people participated in a solutions-oriented community meeting hosted in West Oakland last Thursday by the Acorn Residents Council, BRIDGE Housing, and The John Stewart Company.

The “Solutions Salon” attracted representatives from 20 nonprofit organizations and the Oakland City Council, Oakland Housing Authority, the Oakland Police Department and the Oakland Unified School District. Attendees divided into small groups to discuss 2011 plans, the challenges they face, and ways they can work together to overcome those challenges.

“The response was fantastic,” said Janet Patterson, Chairman of the Acorn Residents Council. “People networked, shared resources and began to build better connections within the community.”

Many of the conversations centered on a theme of encouraging and maintaining stronger involvement by people who live in West Oakland, including the residents of the Town Center & Courtyards at Acorn.

Participant and longtime West Oakland resident Nakia Linzie-Shavers is a volunteer for Court Appointed Special Advocates, which serves foster children in Alameda County. “It was useful to learn about the range of services in the area,” she said.

“For me, the event opened up more avenues for other types of programs that we can support for residents,” added Damita Barbee, President of St. Paul Economic Empowerment Development Corp., “which, hopefully, will result in increasing the number of lives we can empower and enrich.”

Shaun Tai, Executive Director of Oakland Digital Arts & Literacy Center, was struck by the diversity of participants, leadership and resources. “What I gained was a sense of hope that with more events like the Solutions Salon, there will be things that we can act upon together as a cohesive community,” he said. “We can’t just keep talking; there needs to be action.”

One of the next steps, according to Patterson, will be the creation of a resource directory to facilitate access to programs and strengthen connections between the organizations that provide services.

To view photos from the event, visit:

The Spirit of Coalition: Lessons from the Field

in community engagement, Organizing, Place-based communities

From The Spirit of Coalition, by Bill Berkowitz and Tom Wolff © 2000 American Public Health Association. Dr. Berkowitz has been involved in creating, directing, and writing about community programs for over 35 years. His previous books, Community Impact, Community Dreams, and Local Heroes deal with the skills, ideas, and personal qualities involved in successful community development. Dr. Wolff is an internationally recognized expert in coalition building and community development, who consults to and trains coalition practitioners in diverse settings across the world. He is the author most recently of The Power of Collaborative Solutions.

Challenges to coalition building, and tested strategies to meet them

1. Engaging citizens

  • Learn about citizens groups and associations
  • Develop contacts and relationships with these groups
  • Keep on the lookout for potential new recruits
  • Make personal contacts with prospective citizen members
  • Suggest giving the coalition a try (a small commitment)
  • Provide an incentive (e.g., status, a small stipend, a name on a letterhead)
  • Offer a range of ways people can help

2. Building citizen participation

  • Hold meetings at convenient times and locations
  • Provide time for informal interaction
  • Let people share their goals, expectations, and feelings
  • Make sure citizens have an equal voice
  • Hire agency staff from within the community
  • Allow time for trust to develop

3. Giving up control

  • Solicit and encourage ideas and issues from everyone
  • Listen to and validate those ideas and issues
  • Provide specific procedures and clear ground rules
  • Believe in your own members’ abilities
  • Accept that mistakes may occur
  • Consider that disagreements may be healthy
  • Don’t feel you have to do everything

4. Giving up territory

  • Be aware of past history and past territorial issues
  • Openly acknowledge that territorial concerns may exist
  • Understand current territorial definitions
  • Respect members’ self-interests and their need to hold on to some “territory” of their own
  • Find ways to cooperate that don’t involve territory
  • Be gentle, persistent, and patient around these issues
  • Keep coalition members focused on the greater good

5. Taking meaningful action

  • Discuss and clarify the overall goals of the coalition
  • Create a coalition plan based on those goals
  • In the plan, include clear objectives with actions and timelines
  • Agree upon small, feasible, easily realized actions
  • Give members advance notice of decisions that need to be made (e.g., on coalition agendas)
  • Follow up on decisions made and actions needing to be taken
  • If needed, discuss in a meeting why decision making and action seem to be difficult

6. Exerting your leadership

  • Make sure your leadership represents the full coalition
  • Clarify work expectations together with coalition members
  • Make sure that taking some responsibility is part of the membership expectation
  • Find those members most willing to accept responsibility
  • Delegate responsibility, with agreed-upon limits
  • Follow up on responsibility delegated
  • Offer leadership training for prospective new leaders

7. Balancing your life

  • Find a balance that works for you personally
  • Review that balance from time to time
  • Set aside personal time and personal days for yourself
  • Lead a healthy lifestyle, making time for rest and vacations
  • Find some interests beyond the coalition
  • Find supportive people you can talk to when needed

8. Keeping the flame alive

  • Plan future directions together with coalition members
  • Move at a pace consistent with members needs
  • Groom a new leadership
  • Take on winnable activities, and develop a track record of success
  • Reward members for accomplishments
  • Build in some celebration and fun times for the coalition

9. Keeping the faith

Faith is found in many places. We can’t tell you how or where to find it. It is a personal matter. But we do know that faith in the coalition and in its success is essential – and we hope that you can find a way of maintaining and sustaining it for yourself.

Online Videos for Community & Administrative Practice (updated)

in community engagement, Organizing, Place-based communities

This is a list compiled by Professor Dick Schoech of the School of Social Work, University of Texas Arlington. He received these suggestions from members of COMM-ORG and ACOSA. Ten of these videos are available on YouTube, and I’ve organized them into this a playlist, which you can play (in the order listed) by clicking on the video below, or by viewing the series on youtube . Other videos which are available online, but not on YouTube, are also linked below. Several recommended videos are not available online. They may be available in stores, or at a library near you, so I’ve linked to WorldCat entries, when I could find them there. There’s a longer list of videos here and in this playlist of videos on community & engagement.

Shinichi Murota Doshisha University, Japan

  • Make the Road NY is probably the most active and powerful grassroots organization in NYC today.
  • Time’s Up is a bicycle rider’s organization whose activity is basically a public ride to advocate for greener streets and riders friendly urban planning.
  • Common Ground is a famous community development project for homeless. Their approach is not quite “social work” per say, but they have made some impacts in the community.

Ben MacConnell, Direct Action & Research Training Center

  • DART just posted a new video on community organizing. It also serves as decent intro for a new observer, so I thought it may be of use to you.

David William Rothwell

Rich Wood – Lots of resources via PICO website as well, some written some video, see:

Dick Schoech, UT Arlington

  • Online Volunteering
  • Building Enduring Communities: Development, property management, and residence- and community-based human services, nonprofit affordable housing social services.
  • The Charlie Rose show has great interviews with current thinkers and doers. For example, this conversation with Michael Milken & Muhammad Yunus about World poverty.
  • Tracy J. Browns explains the Nine Essential Internal Controls that every Faith Based or Community Organization must have.
  • Circles of Caring
  • The Secret to Getting Things Right (audio) How did the humblest tool for organizing data reduce complications in surgical practice, streamline restaurant operations, and minimize the risks of venture capital? An hour with Harvard Medical School professor Atul Gawande, author of “The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right”. I found the discussion very relevant since human services folks routinely handle a lot of complex situations. Almost all the conclusions on the failure to prevent child abuse by CPS come to a failure to do things due to fatigue, lack of training, etc. We could use more checklists in our field to insure we get things right.

Videos Not Online

Elizabeth Beck

  • I use something called Holding Ground about Dudley Street or Streets of Hope to show Rothman’s three approaches,
  • I use Bill Moyers interview with Myles Horton (vol 2) to show community participation, adult education and pedagogy of the oppressed
  • I use a Philip Randolph which is 90 minutes called something like Jobs and Freedom to show among others things coalition building.

Christina Erickson

Nicole Nicotera, Associate Professor, Graduate School of Social Work, University of Denver

  • I like to use Holding Ground about the Dudley Street neighborhood initiative near Boston MA.
  • There is also a book about their process called, Streets of Hope by Medoff and Sklar (1994) South End Press.
  • Another DVD that may be useful, but I have not used in class myself is called “I am a Promise.”

Karen Gray, Asst Professor, OU-Tulsa School of Social Work, Tulsa, OK 74135

Dick Schoech, UT Arlington

Others mentioned

Block parties

in community engagement, Organizing, Place-based communities

Sources: Block Party Guide, Oakland CA and Block Party Planning Tips from Block Party NYC. These resources include forms and other tools. For local restrictions and guides, try searching the term “block party permit” and the name of your city/town. Click on this, for example.

10 Reasons To Have a Block Party

  1. To have fun – no excuse or reason to celebrate!
  2. To meet your neighbors.
  3. To increase the sense of belonging in your neighborhood.
  4. To organize a city-sponsored group such as Neighborhood Watch.
  5. To make connections within the community. When you know people, you can exchange skills or resources and perhaps organize a book club, baby-sitting co-op, share walking to school duties, or find new friends for your children.
  6. To plan a campaign for traffic slowdown, get better lighting, or address other interests.
  7. To “use” the street for one day, for example to roller blade, set up a kids jump house or to practice bike safety skills.
  8. To meet some of the old-time residents in the neighborhood and learn about its history.
  9. To have a neighborhood clean-up day, play some good music and barbecue once all the work is done.
  10. To start a tradition of getting together at least once a year.


How to start organizing

  • Gather a few neighbors and divide up the tasks. A block party is too big a production for even the most highly-skilled organizer to accomplish alone. If you don’t already know you neighbors, reach out to them by organizing an introductory meeting and planning session.
  • Decide on a possible theme, activities, etc. Decide what to do about food.
  • Start knocking on doors to find out if there is enough interest and, if so, which day would be the best for the most people
  • Pick a date and time (mid-afternoon to evening works best). Respect neighborhood quietness after 9:00pm. Think of an alternate plan in case of poor weather.
  • Go door to door. Hand out invitations. If you plan to close off the street, you’ll probably need to complete Block Party application form.
  • Recruit volunteers to help with the planning.
  • Decide if this will be a block party restricted to those on the street/block or will people be able to invite friends/relatives
  • Post signs the day before reminding everyone to remove cars and that the street will be closed.


  • Invite a city council member, school principal, or city staff member.
  • Call the Police Department, Fire Department, Environmental Services or other city departments to obtain literature, give-aways, or to request a presentation.
  • Make a record of everyone who attends and everyone you contacted; after all, the idea of a block party is to connect neighbors.
  • Identify special talents your neighbors might have – you may be living next to a magician, singer, dancer, artist, radio host or prize winning cook.
  • Plan lots of activities for children.
  • Food: if you’re looking for the least fuss, work, and cleanup, the hot dog is for you. The standard charcoal grill is a cheap, easy, portable way to go. Someone on your block probably owns one if you don’t.
  • Lots of block parties have great luck getting food donated from local grocery stores or supermarkets.
  • Have an environmentally friendly party. Ask everyone to bring their own reusable plates, cups and cutlery to limit paper garbage and litter.
  • Include activities that encourage people to meet each other. Use nametags and include children by asking them to create the tags.
  • Make sure that people with disabilities can participate in the activities and include their attendants (those with seeing eye dogs or in wheelchairs).
  • Institute a bathroom policy “Everyone to use their own” so that home security is maintained.
  • Trash: have at least one trash can at every table/location where food is being served. It’s also a good idea to have several elsewhere on the block.
  • Inspire clean up after every party by rewarding children with a prize for packing up garbage.
  • Have a block/street clean up as part of the party. Also, neighbors may want to contribute towards the cost of a truckload to the dump and use this to clean out gardens, garbage or alleys.
  • Distribute an evaluation form to participants (to get a good response, number the forms and have door prizes for returned entries).

Getting to know your neighbors

  • Identify any special people that lived in your area such as the longest resident, politician, artist, eccentric, hero, etc. Have partygoers guess who, what, where through charades and other games.
  • Have everyone bring his or her favorite family dish.
  • Use a map to indicate where everyone originally came from.

Family-friendly activities

  • Water balloon or egg toss
  • Hide and seek
  • Face painting
  • Organize a kids talent show or parade
  • Sidewalk chalk
  • Pictionary or charades
  • Musical chairs
  • Invite a clown, balloon artist or magician
  • Rent a popcorn or snow cone machine

Neighborhood action

  • Discuss what issues/concerns people may have (keep this to a predetermined time: remember, a block party should be fun).
  • Establish teams to explore how to resolve the concerns.
  • Have a clean-up time.
  • Build a bench, plant a garden, and paint street numbers, etc. as part of the block party activities.

Typical restrictions

  • Alcohol is only permitted on private property, not on city streets or in parks.
  • Residents should observe security precautions, for example lock back doors to houses and keep equipment in sight.
  • Food cannot be sold on city streets unless the proper permits have been obtained. Give the food away (and there’s nothing to stop you from putting a “suggested donation” sign on the table).
  • Loud amplification of music is prohibited.
  • If you set up tables and chairs on the street, leave room for emergency vehicles.

Other resources:

Introducing Neighbor Chalk!

in community engagement, Organizing, Place-based communities

Fellow Neighborhood Organizers,

It’s Joseph Porcelli, I’m the Chief Executive Neighbors at and I’m also one of the editors here on Our Blocks.

It’s summer time and one the pleasures of summer is making sidewalk chalk. So today, is launching Neighbor Chalk and we’re inviting you to join us and help spread the word.

Neighbor Chalk is an international public art project that encourages people to create sidewalk chalk art in front of their homes and around their neighborhood to create a welcoming environment for their neighbors and passers by.

  1. Create an event at
  2. Invite your neighbors to join you or create their own event
  3. Create sidewalk chalk art, have fun and meet your neighbors
  4. Take pictures and upload them our facebook page to flickr and tag them with “NeighborChalk”
  5. Tweet about your event using the hastag #NeighborChalk
  6. Follow @NeighborChalk
  7. “Like” us on Facebook
  8. Interested in becoming a Partner? Please fill out our Partner Inquiry Form

Chalk it up! | Promote Your Page Too

The Craigslist Foundation San Francisco Gathering, Part 2

in community engagement, Organizing, Place-based communities

Toward the end of 2009, the Craigslist Foundation began a series of discussions around their plans to focus the foundation’s efforts on strengthening communities, with some emphasis on neighborhood-based communities. This began with a meeting at The Case Foundation in Washington DC, which included Michael Smith, Kari Dunn, Cindy Gallop, Jessica Kirkwood, Marsha Semmel, Michael Karpman, Rhonda Taylor, Ron Carlee, and Siobhan Canty. They “chatted about the need of organizations with libraries of unpublished case studies and ideas, connecting local changemakers with the big picture of systemic change, bringing essential info to people at exactly the time they need it most, and using storytellers to communicate long (or boring) case studies in more entertaining and inspiring ways.” (see How Can We Build On One Another’s Successes?)

In the second meeting, at end of January 2010, they gathered twelve more friends in San Francisco “for a different take on the conversation: Beth Kanter, Chris Gates, Craig Newmark, Frank Schulenburg, Gwyneth Borden, John Lyman, Kate Stahnke, Matt Garcia, Pamela Wheelock, Peggy Duvette, Rob Miller, and making it all amazingly fun was our facilitator Allen Gunn. Here, we talked a lot about the importance of people over information, how to reach those who aren’t online, what motivates people to tell their success stories, which organizations have already been doing work in this area, and what audiences might be most in need of improved information flow.”

A week later, they posted their “theory of change”: that “that place-based communities and neighborhoods must be strengthened if our society is to flourish and our democracy advance — and that Craigslist Foundation can play a catalytic role in assembling the talents of key partners and collaborators capable of offering people in communities the tools and resources they need to take greater responsibility for where they live, work, and play.” (see Catalyst for Community Vitality)

In this article, they also said “this translates into a role for us in convening successful organizations and people across all sectors — nonprofit, government, business, philanthropy — to work intentionally and together toward building stronger local communities and economies.” A month later, on  March 9, Craigslist Foundation announced that it was going on the road to learn more about “how people build stronger neighborhoods and what prevents others from joining in the fun.” They hosted small group discussions in Washington DC, New York, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Austin, San Francisco, and Portland, Oregon in March and April.

I was part of the seventh and last of these meetings, posted photos of participants and their ideas, and transcribed their post-it notes below. Also in this meeting: Aaron Goodman, Ali Williams, Amelia Kolokihakaufisi , Anne Marie Engel, Bruce Richard, Clint Mitchell, Ka Yun Cheng, Karen Kwok, Kathie Lowry, Kristarae Flynn, Terri Forman, Maura Mccarthy, Nick McClintock,  Patrick Flanagan, Peggy Simmons, Toby Leavitt, and Winston Dong.

To keep track of the discussions and to create “a place to listen to the community, share some of our ideas, highlight cool projects we encounter, and generally keep the community up to date as our programs are developed”, CLF created the lab at craigslist foundation, and a uservoice forum that asks people to submit and vote on answers to the questions: What stops you from impacting your community? What has worked well for you?

Things I know that I wish I could share with leaders in other communities

Can't read the one on the top left

  • I didn’t get a good snap of this, sorry (see pic), so the way it reads to me is this: How do you break down barriers to regorible thaking? (i.e. minimize appepridics of competrif nit & cissided resources)
  • Illegible/illegible mentoring
  • I don’t wish, I share
  • The adventure of education abroad
  • How many options there are for raising money
  • How to create concepts that are large scale, inventive, and sizzling in getting people in cohesion faster
  • I know good ways of getting people of very different backgrounds together, as equals, so everyone walks away changed
  • How to facilitate community action/impact of people averse to talking to institutions and developers (more…)