By Dawn Larzelere. As a follow up to the Ohio Housing Conference, NeighborWorks and the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland co-sponsored a one-day workshop on strategies and best practices around neighborhood stabilization. I was asked to lead a discussion group on how community development organizations can navigate the new political landscape that we will be working in next year. Several suggestions were discussed that I thought you might find of interest as well:
- Consider reframing the need for strong community development programs in light of the new political realities. We need to show how community development directly impacts economic development. We need to showcase and openly discuss why business should care about strong neighborhoods and healthy communities. Also, whenever possible, we should bring business on board to help push for the policy changes we are advocating.
- Remain open to engaging new partners regardless of past stances on issues or partisan politics. Winning political battles requires diverse and sometimes unexpected partnerships and when you look past old issues you will often find alignment in overall goals.
- Show how your work impacts individual legislative districts. In fact consider pulling together an annual report customized to individual state and federal legislators showing the amount of government funding received, the return on that investment as showcased by the amount of private development it leveraged and finally the number of constituents you impacted.
- Invite legislators to groundbreakings, ribbon cuttings and open houses regardless of their political stances. These events allow legislators to feel good about the investments that have been made in the community.
- Continually cultivate relationships with your major neighborhood, city and state players and keep abreast of political issues affecting your organization and the constituency base you serve. Understanding the motivations and being able to capitalize on relationships at the appropriate time is key to success in an political issue.