The next step was to facilitate the working groups’ projects, to follow through and make sure they go well. But it’s not the final step. This four-step Civic Design Process – identify, develop, create, facilitate – is a circular process.
“Each of the three Southside issues has gone through that cycle at least once,” says Lea. “We continually go back to the neighbors at each step in the process to ask: What do you think?”
Step by step, RVA Thrives is still trying to figure out how hands on to be. Nelson lays out the challenge: “If the ball gets dropped, do you just let whatever happens happen? Or do you pick it up and push it further along? We’ve been more hands on facilitating the neighborhood safety issue because we can help them make useful connections through the networks we developed to support capacity building. While on the jobs issue, other initiatives are already underway and so we have played more of an advisory and advocacy role around them.”
RVA Thrives’ advisory role will grow as community members become self-sustaining in their ability to facilitate their own projects.
The key is to start with listening to the community. “The philanthropic side was amazed at what we were hearing and learning,” Lea recalls. “When neighborhood beautification came out near the top of the priority list, the funders said: What?! Yet the first clean up day, 200 people show up. That educated them on how important the listening piece is. Projects are more successful when the community decides what gets funded instead of the nonprofit.”
It’s a lesson Robins has long taken to heart. ►