It Takes a Neighborhood
Strategies to Prevent Urban Decline
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The Neighborhood Preservation Initiative, a comprehensive community building program in ten neighborhoods from nine mostly mid-sized cities, is examined in It Takes a Neighborhood. Wright shows what was learned through NPI about the value of focusing on working-class neighborhoods, as well as how to think about and structure community building efforts generally. The lessons gained from NPI about engaging established, networked community organizations in deliberate action-oriented strategies, fueled by flexible funding, and linked to systems of local support, are shown to be applicable to a wide spectrum of community building initiatives.
The Pew Charitable Trusts created the NPI, targeting it toward working-class neighborhoods threatened but not yet affected deeply by decline, a significant departure from previous community development efforts. The neighborhoods possessed important assets such as strong community organizations, talented volunteers, and neighborhood strategies that could be capitalized upon, neighborhood strengths that could be reinforced through relatively small investments as a way to prevent decline. Along with generating attention to working-class neighborhoods and public policy on their behalf, the goal of NPI was to help residents to improve their quality of life and learn how to sustain long-term community stability and vitality.
David J. Wright is Director of Urban and Metropolitan Studies at the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government.