Neighborhood Problem Solver, from Colin Gallagher

in Best practices in community empowerment

Sixth in our Best practices in Community Empowerment series.

Colin Gallagher served in the U.S. Peace Corps in El Salvador from 1998 to 2000. Since then he’d completed several local government assignments, including a civic engagement program for the City of Salinas in California. He founded the Civic Engagement and Dialogue Practitioners group on LinkedIn. A martial arts expert, he sometimes takes Community Empowerment literally. Colin writes:

Recommended resource: Neighborhood Problem Solver – Collaboratively authored by neighborhood groups, Anna Velazquez, Wayne Green, Jorge Rifa, Colin Gallagher, and Jesse Juarez, with the assistance of various staff of the City of Salinas, and the support of the Mayor and City Council of the City of Salinas, the Neighborhood Problem Solver provides a means for people in neighborhoods to address problems on their own, or jointly with their neighbors or with members of their local government. It shares key steps and guidance on how to organize and publicize, and gives easy access to local resources.

It is published on the City of Salinas website and was originally designed to be made available for a limited time in CD and print form, with training provided by City Neighborhood Services Coordinators. The current version is in need of an update, but it remains an excellent resource and is available in English and Spanish. While it is designed for people who live in Salinas, the basic format of the Problem Solver can be retooled and used for any city or locale if there is a dedicated group of citizens and and local government employees who are willing to author such a document and make it available to the public. Should you decide to develop your own Problem Solver, it is best that you engage local government and members of the public to collaborate on it, and to have it posted on a local government website. The act of working on you Problem Solver will itself enhance collaboration between local government and the public.

It’s notable that in the City of Salinas, a new Neighborhood Leadership Academy is in development, which involves the members of the public collaboratively co-creating their own curriculum and then implementing it to develop local neighborhood projects or ideas for the community that would become a reality. This sort of concept, in which the public develops curriculum, projects, ideas, programs, etc., and provides them to the local government or simply notifies the local government of what they are doing, as opposed to the other way around, is a very positive development in terms of participation and community involvement and is a classic example of where people can use something like the Neighborhood Problem Solver to help organize efforts for projects that flow out of a Neighborhood Leadership Academy.

Next up: Lisa Palmer of KaBOOM!

One Comment

  1. Cool. Thanks. I’ll add this as a link.

    Interestingly, there is an ESL textbook that is sort of like this. It’s very unusual, it uses civic engagement as a way to teach english. This is from an old blog entry:

    Communicating Effectively in English (1992), by Patricia A. Porter and Margaret Grant, then of San Francisco State University.

    I don’t envy the non-native English speakers who are assigned this text. It’s a great book (see below) but it’s written at the high school level, or beyond. The preface is written for teachers, not students.This textbook looks like a basic text in citizenship-involvement–it teaches communications skills through participation in civil society. It’s really quite interesting and amazing and worth your looking up.

    The units are:

    1. Understanding your audience and being understood
    2. Getting Information: Interviews and Conferences
    3. Providing Information: Instructions and Demonstrations
    4. Providing Information: Group Discussions and Presentations
    5. Proposing Changes: Solving a Problem
    6. Persuading Others: Taking a Position.

    From the preface: “In the first three units, students work with information that is known to them or learned through interviews. In the last three units, students must work with information from more challenging outside sources, such as articles and reference materials in the library. The first four units focus on informative presentations, while the last two include expanded guidelines and practice in argumentation.”

    Now if we could only get native speakers of “American” to learn this methodology…


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