Based on what they’d heard during the listening process, RVA Thrives began researching best practices in other places similar to Southside. They began developing networks, looking for partners they could pull in.
That’s what makes RVA Thrives stand out. “While other groups do engage in listening processes, they may not have all connections to government officials, businesses, academics, and philanthropies that are needed for capacity building,” explains Nelson, the project manager.
Meanwhile, RVA Thrives also developed a steering committee of local stakeholders to guide and advise. The committee included people from 10 Route 1 neighborhoods, plus community partners such as business owners, nonprofits operating on the corridor, elected officials, and public officials from agencies like parks and rec.
The steering committee analyzed the 11 original issues, narrowing them down to three top priorities to take on:
- Jobs & unemployment
- Neighborhood safety
- Neighborhood beautification
While that third choice surprised some outsiders, 40% said it was their number one priority. It was the first of many unexpected results. In this case, it wasn’t just about neighborhood identity and pride. Their reasoning was pragmatic: “If it looks trashy, new businesses will not come and no one will want to live here.”
A working group was recruited to focus on each of the three issues. Each group created a problem statement to identify an aspect of the issue that they could actually do something about.
For example, the jobs working group asked corridor employers why they weren’t hiring from the corridor. That produced another unexpected result. Employers simply didn’t know how. They knew how to utilize resources like Monster.com to post a job opening. But they didn’t know how to get the word out in their own neighborhood, where the working group knew more than 1,000 people were looking for that job.
To find a solution, the working group conducted a survey to learn how people in Southside were finding work. Eighty percent said they’d found a job through a family member or friend. So the working group began developing networks of neighbors who have gotten somewhere that people want to go, then connected them with other neighbors who want to get there, too. To avoid reinventing the wheel, the jobs working group turned to other nonprofits that were already doing this well. They invited Goodwill to come offer their resources in Southside.
Meanwhile, the neighborhood safety working group was creating some surprising results of its own. ►