Out of the Box Prize

in Asset-Based Community Development, community engagement, Place-based communities, Resident Associations, Resources


The Community Tool Box is hosting an inaugural global prize contest for community innovations. The 2010 “Out of the Box” prize will recognize and honor promising initiatives from around the world that improve community development and community health. 

The Grand Prize will be $5,000 in cash, plus a free customized Workstation (interactive website that supports collaboration).  A second prize will be $2,000 in cash and a free WorkStation. 

We invite you to enter the innovations contest, and encourage you to share contest information with others doing innovative work to improve life in their communities. 

Your group’s innovation may involve activities to improve community health, education, urban or rural development, poverty, the environment, social justice, or other related issues of importance to communities. 

To learn more and to download an application form, please visit http://ctb.ku.edu/en/out_of_the_box.aspx. Or, for Spanish, visit http://ctb.ku.edu/es/out_of_the_box_es.aspx

The opening date for applications is August 1, with a closing date of October 31. An international panel of judges will select Finalists. Award Finalists and their innovative projects will be posted on the home page of the Community Tool Box. Public voting will then help determine the two top “Out of the Box” prize winners; voting will close on January 31, 2011. 

Many of you are already familiar with the Community Tool Box, which has been creating and disseminating practical guidance about community health and development online since 1995. For those of you who have not viewed our site recently, we invite you to visit us at http://ctb.ku.edu, where you will find over 300 how-to-do-it instructional modules and many tools for bringing about community change and improvement. 

If you have any questions concerning the Out of the Box Prize, please direct them to Christina Holt at cholt@ku.edu

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

in Asset-Based Community Development, community engagement, Place-based communities, Resident Associations, Resources

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 Asset-Based Community Development, community engagement, Place-based communities, Resident Associations, Resources

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: http://ourblocks.net

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.

Neighborhood-based community building handbooks recommended by Jim Diers

in Asset-Based Community Development, community engagement, Place-based communities, Resident Associations, Resources

“Few people in this country know as much about community building as Jim Diers,” said  Fred Kent, President of Project for Public Spaces (PPS). From 1988 to 2002, Jim led Seattle’s Department of Neighborhoods which is “widely known as the most innovative effort in the U.S. to empower local residents” (John P. Kretzmann, Co-director or the Asset-Based Community Development Institute).

Jim’s been dragged all over the world by people and orgs keen to learn from his real-world experience as a community builder. He’s currently on a tour through Ireland, England, Australia, New Zealand, India, Canada, and the US. (It’s not really a book tour, but a lot of the discussions revolve around the ideas and practices detailed in his must-read book Neighbor Power.) Yet he somehow found time to answer my request.

In my own experience as a community organizer, I’ve found that it’s so much easier to get things moving when people don’t have to first invent the wheel. So I like workbooks. Our Blocks recently featured one workbook,which I thought was the best I’d seen so far. I asked Jim if others came to mind. He said he’d give it more thought when he had more time, but off the top of his head:

  1. The Organizer’s Workbook, published by the Indianapolis Neighborhood Resource Center -  a roadmap to discovering, organizing and engaging your neighborhood. (This is the workbook we’d previously featured, as noted above. Incidentally, I corresponded this week with INRC Executive Director Anne-Marie Taylor, who said she’d “love to hear how folks outside of Indianapolis are utilizing this Workbook”.)
  2. The Great Neighborhood Book, by Jay Walljasper, published by PPS. (In the Great Minds Think Alike category, this book was also recommended to us by UMass Professor Emeritus Bill Berkowitz, Development Partner at the Community Tool Box.)

Not a workbook, but something Jim brought up in relation to my plans to do community-building work in the Philippines: From Clients to Citizens – Deepening the Practice of Asset-Based and Citizen-Led Development (pdf) – Conversations from the ABCD Forum, July 8 – 10, 2009. Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada. Edited by Alison Mathie and Deborah Puntenney. December 2009. The Coady International Institute published this under a CC-ANSA license, very nice of them.

Thanks for your recommendations Jim.

Other recent articles on Jim Diers by friends of Our Blocks: Jim Diers on citizen action by Kevin Harris at Neighborhoods; Getting back to Government Is Us at Socialreporter (which includes a beer-powered interview by David Wilcox). You can also find Jim’s talks on The Youtubes, three of which (so far) we’ve added to our Videos collection. Not recent but still fresh, this hour-long conversation on KUOW (note: turns out there’s a difference between mating calls and meeting calls).