How we got our start
Late last year, I attended a community meeting where the neighborhood association president and long time Charlotte resident, asked me to take a look at a letter she received. From the face of the envelope, I could tell the letter was a City zoning notice. She handed the wrinkled, weathered and torn open envelope to me. I unfolded the letter inside. Near the top of the page, there was a small map with her street name and a few symbols, underneath was a short paragraph with one or two sentences on the types of land uses allowed in the area. She asked me what it all meant. This letter could possibly mean that she would lose her home to rezoning, it could mean that her neighborhood could see some major changes or it could mean that she’s getting cited for some violation. I took a look at it and was a foreign language even to me. How can a local government professional not have the ability to read this; why wouldn’t the neighborhood resident who’s been living in the community for years not be able to understand it?
At that moment, i knew I needed to find a way to make it easier for people to understand and take control of what’s going on in their backyards. A few short months, later, I had the ability to do that. Then in April 2018, I submitted an application to the Knight Foundation’s Emerging Cities Champions Grant Challenge. Additionally, we hosted a workshop to invite potential applicants and hear other people’s ideas, gather support and test some assumptions. We had the idea to divide the content into three parts:
Voice (getting your voice heard)
Representation (making your leadership more representative), and
Change (advocating for specific causes at the neighborhood level)
From ten years of working in local government, I know that there is a wealth of information available for residents. And I know that advocacy is the key to enhancing social capital, specifically fostering relationships between community members and their governments, strengthening opportunities to break the cycle of poverty in Charlotte.
Myself and 19 other applicants, were awarded a $5,000 grant and year-long fellowship in May 2018! We all attended the 880 Cities studio in Toronto, CA to explore placemaking best practices and to develop our projects. I returned home and created these toolkits and resources to contribute to the community change happening in Charlotte. Thanks for joining along for the ride!