Neighborhood Transformation: How long does it take?

Jay Van Groningen – Executive Director

When I meet with business leaders it is almost guaranteed that I will get a question early in the conversation that goes something like: “How do you measure success”? OR “How do you know you are being successful”?, OR “Define transformation – what does it look like”?

These are really great question. I used to talk about the Seven Dimensions of transformation (see below) and almost immediately I can tell I am losing their interest. (I really hate that – I get anxious when I feel like I am losing them – They don’t have time for “loosey-goosey”, “soft” measurements.) Anything that requires explanation is not stated clearly enough as an indicator of progress. You attain what you measure and if it isn’t clear, the results will be highly suspect.

Non Profit organizations that manage progress with good plans and clear results have a skill and a discipline in short supply.

CFA has been measuring our success in a variety of ways, and this is an invitation to all who read this to help us improve on our practices:

We measure the number of neighborhoods where Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) principles and practices are being implemented. (Now over 450)

We rate the progress of each neighborhood transformation on a 1 – 7 scale with one being requests training/coaching, and 7 being able to evaluate and self-direct neighborhood progress. We have learned along the way that there are 7 stages of development that are very consistent markers of progress. It seems more important to me to measure the capacity of a community to self direct than to look for common program outcomes across communities.

We measure the number of leaders being trained and coached in principles and practices of ABCD.  We rate them on a  1- 6 progress scale with each step requiring evidence of certain types of new behaviors and actions. We know that when leaders do the right things, the people will be engaging in their own story of transformation.

So, how do you know when a neighborhood is being transformed?

  1. When there is an active and systematic community listening process
  2. When the listening produces a shared agenda for change
  3. When Community action groups are formed to act on that agenda (using what they have)
  4. When the community action groups supplement their gifts and energies with external gifts and energies
  5. When activities and programs are being evaluated for results
  6. When Action and Reflection (evaluation) lead to continuous learning
  7. When a community sustains its listening, organizing, acting and evaluation process itself.

We can do more together…

In CFA’s experience, it takes a minimum of 5 years to move from stage 1 through stage 7.  Few are making it in that time frame, but a few are – those with the most active community action teams.

CFA has to learn more together about how to shrink the time frames…

What do you think?


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About communitiesfirstassociation
Using Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) methods, CFA transforms a growing number of communities and engages Christians and Churches in their community.

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