Innovation Grant Leads to Community Revitalization Partnerships

May 23, 2022
by Kaitlin Dastugue, Former Executive Director at Rebuilding Together Nashville

Developing Community Revitalization Partnerships takes time. We must listen to and learn from neighbors and community leaders to ensure our work aligns with the community development goals already established by the neighborhood. When Rebuilding Together Nashville received a Lowe’s Building a Healthy Neighborhood Innovation Grant, we had just begun to embark on our first Community Revitalization Partnership initiative.

Rebuilding Together Nashville chose the Bordeaux community after a thorough analysis and selection process. Through our previous work with neighbors in Bordeaux, we had a basic understanding of the community and its needs but very few connections to neighborhood organizations and institutions. We knew we had to spend significant time and resources learning from and listening to the community, establishing partnerships and building trust before officially beginning workOur work providing no-cost home repairs can sometimes appear “too good to be true,” with many residents viewing it with rightful skepticism and suspicion. We’ve learned this comes from several experiences, including older neighbors who have been wronged by real estate schemes and predatory contractors or the history of our city government taking and/or devaluing homes in neighborhoods of historically underrepresented groups.

The funding from Lowe’s supported our Community Revitalization Partnership goals by allowing us to hire a full-time Outreach Coordinator who worked primarily on community outreach activities in Bordeaux. Our team held more than two dozen meetings with potential community partners, leaders and elected officials, worked with several neighborhood associations and attended numerous community events.

We developed and advertised a community survey, asking neighbors to weigh in on the strengths and needs of Bordeaux, specifically around housing and community development. We also held ‘office hours’ for neighbors to come in-person to ask questions about our program and help them fill out homeowner interest forms. We were thrilled when it came time to plan and execute an official “launch” event where community members, press and partners gathered to share about our program and have neighbors apply for our services.

We also established a Community Advisory Committee (CAC), made up of six self-nominated or community-leader nominated members who help advise us on our home repair and community revitalization work. So far, the CAC has helped identify community spaces that could be good candidates for community revitalization projects, gave feedback on a community space application and helped connect us further with community and neighborhood organizations.Thanks to funding from Lowe’s, the Building a Healthy Neighborhood Innovation Grant allowed us to take the time we needed to build relationships in Bordeaux before beginning our home repair and community revitalization work. The most important lesson that we’ve learned through this process is the importance of thoughtful, patient and proactive community engagement. Our approach to taking the time to have in-depth conversations with community leaders and neighbors has proven to be time well spent. When working towards establishing Community Revitalization Partnerships, one of our city council members summed it up perfectly saying, “It is wise to move at the pace of trust.”