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GKC LISC Initiates Neighborhood Quality of Life Program

The Greater Kansas City LISC (Local Initiatives Support Corporation) has started a new program to expand Governing for Results (Advanced Practice 4 of the Effective Community Governance Model) beyond housing and economic development to include additional quality of life issues determined by neighborhood residents. The new program, "NeighborhoodsNOW," is designed to build collaborations of multiple community service organizations that agree to work as partners to improve specific neighborhoods. The collaborations can include community development corporations (CDCs), local government agencies, as well as a range of non-profit and even for profit organizations. In consultation with local residents, Greater Kansas City LISC is selecting a lead organization for each neighborhood. This lead agency will not necessarily be a CDC as it has been in past programs. By not focusing primarily on one type of organization as the driver of change, NeighborhoodsNOW opens up the process to allow the organization best suited to each neighborhood to take the lead, which should expand opportunities to improve neighborhood quality of life in diverse ways.

Building on Past Success

NeighborhoodsNOW builds on Greater Kansas LISC's experience with citizen-influenced, results-based community development. As reported here in "The Model in Action" their CD2000 program was a nonprofit-managed example of Governing for Results. Greater Kansas City LISC  reported impressive CD2000 results in housing production and repair, home mortgages, commercial development, reduced crime, and increased housing values in the neighborhoods served.

Strategic Focus on Fewer Neighborhoods, All "On the Cusp"

To use funders' investments more strategically, Greater Kansas City LISC will focus on only 10 neighborhoods in the bi-state metro region, not the 15 to 17 they did during CD2000, so each neighborhood can benefit from a larger, more concentrated investment. Greater Kansas City LISC commissioned a study to identify ten neighborhoods "on the cusp." These neighborhoods (seven in Missouri and three in Kansas) are considered not quite strong enough to develop without help, but they have key ingredients for success in place. Those ingredients include at least one strong grassroots partner, such as a well-functioning neighborhood association, that has already organized residents to achieve community goals.

Grassroots Citizen Engagement is Still Key

NeighborhoodsNOW is a grassroots program, consistent with past Greater Kansas City LISC efforts such as CD2000. But with its expanded scope, NeighborhoodsNOW expands resident influence by engaging residents from the start in deciding what neighborhood conditions the program will address. Residents, through their neighborhood associations, are directly involved in developing a Quality-of-Life Plan for their neighborhood. All the Quality-of-Life Plans are likely to have multiple elements, with a different emphasis from one neighborhood to another: some may emphasize education most; others, public safety; still others, physical improvements to the neighborhood. With residents having such fundamental influence on the direction of change in each neighborhood, citizen engagement is really the backbone of NeighborhoodsNOW.

Multi-Dimensional Performance Feedback

Performance feedback for learning, improvement, and accountability is a crucial element of NeighborhoodsNOW. Like CD2000, there will be multiple ways for Greater Kansas City LISC, its collaborators, and investors to assess program performance. But the focus will be less on individual CDCs or lead organizations and more on the success of the broader collaborations in each neighborhood. While not all of the measurement tools have been worked out, Greater Kansas City LISC expects to include indicators of neighborhood quality of life, with some indicators being common to all ten neighborhoods, and others that vary by neighborhood based on the emphasis in each Quality-of-Life Plan. The working assumption is that a successful NeighborhoodsNOW collaboration should lead to significant, measurable change in targeted quality of life indicators every two to three years. They also plan to design and use a measurement tool to assess the functioning and capacity of each neighborhood collaboration, similar to the CD2000 metric used to assess the performance and capacity of individual CDCs along several performance dimensions. Monitoring of the implementation process in each neighborhood will also be done to identify and solve problems that develop, remove obstacles that arise, and find ways to strengthen neighborhood partnerships further to assure that eventually the desired quality-of-life improvements will be achieved.

About Greater Kansas City LISC

LISC, a national organization with local program offices serving cities and rural areas across the country, is dedicated to helping transform distressed communities and neighborhoods into healthy, sustainable communities of choice and opportunity -- good places to work, do business and raise children. Greater Kansas City LISC supports redevelopment in more than 100 square miles of Kansas City metro area neighborhoods. Since 1990, their efforts have translated into more than 5,500 new and rehabbed houses and apartments; the development of 1.4 million square feet of retail and commercial space; and increased the capital of CDCs by more than $34 million.