Community Development Consulting Builds on Your Neighborhood Strengths

curving concrete path in Watanabe Family Garden in Indianapolis

Are you facing a long winding path in your efforts to better your community?  Even if it's as pretty as this one in Indianapolis, sometimes the uncertainty is holding you back. Maybe we can help.

Early in building this website, people started asking whether we are available for community development consulting.  Two of the founders of the site have had considerable experience in the consulting world, so we said yes, providing the client is ready for the same no-nonsense approach that we take on this website.  Life is too short to write meaningless reports that will never be read a second time!

While we would consider anything you want to propose, after you've taken a brief look at our website, we think you will agree that our strengths lie in these areas:

  • Strategic planning retreats or single sessions for boards of community development corporations or other community-based organizations
  • Traditional community development topics, which include redevelopment, housing policy and innovation, and housing programs
  • Neighborhood planning and other types of small area plans, including transit oriented development strategies
  • Policy and strategy work, especially in the areas of vacant property, small city downtown redevelopment opportunities, regional sprawl, and overall city strategy on prioritizing neighborhoods or opportunity areas
  • Typical city planning implementation projects, including zoning overhauls or tweaking
  • Specialized community engagement, especially with disadvantaged groups

Keeping in mind the limited or non-existent organizational budgets for many people who would like some advice, we now offer the option of a 30-minute Zoom call consultation. You can even include up to three other people from your group on the video call. If you want to send us one or two pages of information, photos or maps in advance, we will take a look. The cost for this service is 49 U.S. dollars payable in advance.

To initiate the conversation about video or in-person consulting, you should simply send an e-mail to nancy at this domain name.  While Nancy has taken on most of the new work on the site, the other original authors of the site are well-equipped to handle some consulting assignments in their areas of expertise if their employers agree.

Sometimes we are asked when a community should employ a consultant.  One of the answers is that a consultant can help the community come together around a single plan of action.  Often board members and community activists will be on their best behavior when a consultant is involved, and the one-time spirit of cooperation can carry over into implementation long after the planning session is completed. When human behavior is involved, there aren't any guarantees, of course, but this tendency is real. If your group seems stuck, give it a try.

Criteria for Choosing a Community Development Consultant

When choosing a consultant, we think important criteria should be:

  • Similarity of the community development consulting organization's style to the desired end product. In other words, if your goal is a long, boring, formal plan or a slick marketing brochure, you shouldn't hire someone like us. If you want an honest, objective, and no-holds-barred opinion, followed up with practical ideas on implementation, we should be in the running. If you want a board retreat that gets to the heart of the matter quickly and helps everyone focus on real issues, we are a good fit.
  • Broad experience and expertise in the general topic area. By this we mean that the person or company you choose should understand more than one geography. If knowing your particular political system is critical, familiarity with that system should be one of your criteria, but we hope you can find someone that isn't bound by the groupthink of your area.  If you could solve your problem by imitating what is popular in your broader community, probably you would have done so already.
  • Availability of appropriate personnel to work directly on the project. Often the  consultant company's "sales" person you will encounter won't be the one who is assigned to do the work. Keep this in mind, and try to meet the individuals primarily responsible for working directly on your project. This is especially true if you plan to have public sessions and therefore need to understand the personality and style of the person who would be leading those meetings.
  • Your time frame and the capacity of the chosen community development consultant to meet appropriate deadlines.
  • Cost-effectiveness of the particular consultant.  Most consultants charge an hourly rate, and a maximum upper limit of the cost of the contract usually is specified. More experienced personnel understandably bill their hours at a higher rate, so you always have to balance your need for skill and experience with the total cost of the project. If you contract with someone out of town, you will have to pay travel expenses. Of course you can and should select the lodging and control most of the restaurant choices by eating with your consultant. 
  • Capacity of the consultant to listen to your perceived needs and preferences.  Some community development consulting work is carried out according to a rigid formula that may or may not work well in your community.

Just to finish the story, we've been hired five times now simply on the basis of the website, and we have loved every minute of it.  The customers seem happy too. 

If we can help you answer some persistent questions about your community development issues, settle internal conflicts, or take some pesky items off your plate, please let us know by using the contact form on this site.

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