September is neighborhoods month here in Raleigh, what a more appropriate way to celebrate neighborhoods month than with a city-wide Neighborhood Exchange. This is the fourth annual Raleigh Neighborhood Exchange and it was held at NC State’s McKimmon Center of September 14th and 15th, 2007.
On Friday evening September 14, 2007, Jim Diers was the keynote speaker at the RNE dinner. Jim Diers teaches courses about community-driven development at the University of Washington in Seattle. He also has a book, “Neighbor Power: Building Community the Seattle Way” which comes highly recommended and has gotten great reviews.
Diers spoke with us this evening about Asses-Based community development and brought numerous examples of grassroots community organizations. He is passionate about his work in the community and is very motivating.
Attendees of the Neighborhood Exchange got a special treat on Saturday afternoon, September 15, 2007. Jim Diers provided a special presentation which he labeled as the nuts and bolts, 5 Ways to Expanding Community Engagements. The high level ways are:
- Have Fun
- Start Where the People Are
- Don’t Sit on your Assets
- Celebrate Success and Recognize Caring Neighbors
- Share Stories
But honestly, Diers adds such color and provides real, neighborhood examples that bring these topics to life. For example, when he talks about starting where the people are, he mentions starting with their block, their networks, their language & culture, their call, and/or their passions.
When Diers spoke about sitting on Assets, he makes several great points. Every community has an abundance of resources. Every individual has a gift. A gift of smarts (subject matter experts), a gift or passion, or a gift with their hands. He talked about the labels that people tend to give people: renters, immigrants, teenagers, homeless, disables, unemployed, elderly, etc. These labels add negativity and deter neighborhood development. So if you are reading this, what asset can you provide to your community? Maybe your neighborhood leaders don’t know how to ask or didn’t think that you were interested. You can add value and I am interested in hearing what you can bring to the community.
My biggest takeaway is that it’s not all about meetings. I already new this, but Diers really drove the point home. Looking back at asset-based community development, each person has something different to add to their community. I know for a fact that the Pleasant Ridge & Ramsgate Community Watch program has been trying to achieve this. We provide numerous activities for people to participate, besides the 4 meetings that we hold throughout the year. We have our annual Street Sweep event, Yard Sale, Shredding Event volunteer opportunities, Cookie Exchange, and we are looking to provide other ways to participate. PRR-Watch has a goal is to provide a variety of ways for our neighbors to participate, contribute, and lead in our neighborhood.
The RNE Friday Keynote by Jim Diers was a great use of my time and I found a ton of value in the special presentation from Diers on Saturday afternoon. I hope that the neighbors from our area that attended found the same value.