Last Revised: February 25, 2021
On this page, we introduce both community improvement projects that we recommend and descriptions of their own efforts from our visitors. Many who read our pages are deeply involved in community improvement projects. Some of you are consultants who want to tout a successful community betterment undertaking, and others are simply passionate about your particular success, hope, or instructive failure of a neighborhood, block, or citywide initiative.
Most of the stories of what works and what fails in community development are lost to others who are trying to address a similar issue or opportunity. A few stories are told over and over, but as wonderful as the Harlem Children's Zone may be, for example, the context in other cities makes it impossible for everyone to replicate one positive example.
That is why it would be so helpful for those who work in neighborhood organizations, block units, community development corporations, or in city planning, economic development, or sustainability consulting to get busy in giving us more case studies and short anecdotes about what is happening in community building around the world.
Check out the following topics. The first five below also include submissions and stories from visitors to our site; you could contribute your own and be published on this site. As you can see, projects range from small to the latter two very large projects, which nonetheless could be spearheaded by one neighborhood.
These tips will seem obvious, but it is surprising how often people forget or ignore these simple truths.
1. Address something that enough people see as a need. Too many requests for help will generate volunteer burnout if there are only a few helpers who reliably participate in your community improvement projects. Many needs might not be obvious to most residents, especially if it is a social need or something that pertains to a hidden corner of the neighborhood or powerless part of the population. The test is whether people are eager to help when the issue is explained in just a sentence or two. If not, reframe the problem statement, move on to a different topic, or prepare to create change all by yourself. If you see something as a clear need, and your community does not respond, perhaps you need to create an educational campaign as a starting point.
You can safely violate this tip only when your community organization is so strong and vital that it can adopt more than one major project at a time. In that case, one or more initiatives that are less obvious to average community members can be undertaken.
2. Take the time to plan a community betterment course of action that is likely to lead to success. Wishful thinking is the enemy of accomplishment in neighborhood activity. For example, to want a grocery store does not make it viable to have one. While convenient places to buy healthy food is important to a community for many reasons, working toward an intermediate step will result in greater momentum and optimism within your community than stubbornly sticking to a goal that is unlikely to be attained. In this example, a farmer's market, mobile grocery truck, produce stand, or delivery service can be a much more practical goal than a full-service grocery store.
Organizations that are strong enough to mount more than one major project at a time can feel free to violate this rule of thumb, as long as their list of attainable goals is strong.
3. For one-time community improvement projects, usually you must only answer test 1 above. However, if the idea will require sustained effort, take the time to build a formal or informal organization, committee, or small group that will dedicate itself to the task. Usually your progress will not be linear, which means making community progress in a straight line. People need enough passion to stay with you if you do not meet with immediate success and if things don't go exactly as planned.
If you don't have experiences to share with others yet, and you need more inspiration about possible projects, head over to our community development ideas page where we describe 19 potential projects.
Learning is contagious. You do not have to be a brilliant writer or
even know what conclusions to draw. In fact it would be helpful to others to tell your story in
mid-stream because in community work, most sagas do not have a tidy
beginning, middle, and end. Just relaying the history and facts as you
know and see them will help other people.
On our home page we talked about how much fun community development and community improvement projects can be. That little note of optimism is important there, but it is equally true that working on your community can be frustrating, slow, and tedious.
Often it feels as though you take one step ahead and then some other problem pops up. It is a fortunate neighborhood indeed where there is only one subject that needs attention, and where people have both the will, legal permission and mechanisms, and the money to fix it promptly. By the way, those fortunate few are most welcome to contribute here as well.
Commonly the cleanups and the special events to promote your town and your businesses need to continue on a periodic basis, with no end in sight. Learning how to plan and execute those events as smoothly as possible is an effective use of your time.
Among other things, creativity comes about when two disparate ideas come together, sparking something new for you. Below you will find a form where you can write about your community improvement project and even send us photos. If you submit something understandable at all, we will publish it as a separate page on our website. We hope that through your contributions, we actually add to the knowledge base about how to make community improvement projects ever more successful and interesting.
The pages that you can generate quickly and easily by telling us about your community development experiences will help others think about their own neighborhood issues more objectively, and you can enjoy bragging a little about your great crew.
Think how proud they will be to show up on the web. At least we hope so!
Use the form below to enter your thought or experience on community improvement projects. Thanks for helping out other neighborhood volunteers and even professionals who are having trouble coming up with a great idea.
Please let us know what worked and what didn't work as a betterment project. Understand that a project might be a task easily accomplished in a morning or a years-long activity. You can also write about opportunities, issues, and policy propsals to your heart's content! The result is a web page, with comments possible.
Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page.
"Rocky" Small Rural Town Makes Big Splash and Brands Weldon NC
By Michael Smith (Rural Ethnography Solutions Website) As a independent Qualitative Ethnography Researcher, I've watched the small rural community cleanup, …
Creating Impactful Public Fountains Not rated yet
Visitor Submission and Question: I've been wondering about how our large suburban neighborhood adjacent to a major city could maximize a major donation …
Amphitheaters As Exciting Gathering Spaces Not rated yet
Visitor Submits: I just wanted to point out that many communities could make a splash by changing some forsaken slope or low spot into an amphitheater. …
Kennedy Gardens Neighborhood in Action Not rated yet
The neighborhood involvement and participation for the past several years has been outstanding. Editors Reply: Wow, Javier, thanks for sending us …
Street Closures for Parks and Parklets Not rated yet
I noticed on a recent trip to New York that street closures had been implemented in a few places and that pea-sized gravel underfoot had been provided …
With So Much Vacant Land, Maybe It's Time for an Urban Forest Not rated yet
Vacant land where there used to be industry, foreclosed houses, or old city neighborhoods seems to be in big supply now. There's a lot of hand-wringing …
Entrepreneurs Can Use the HUB Zone in Urban Core Areas Not rated yet
Visitor Comment: A really cool tool for businesses in the 'hood is the HUB zone program, which the U.S. Small Business Administration runs. Unlike …
Unbanked People Feed the Payday Loan Store Problem Not rated yet
Many people in our community have lost their bank accounts because of one bounced check. Other older people just don't trust banks, either because their …
Innovative New City Hall Complex Re-Uses Agricultural Buildings Not rated yet
The new Hutto, Texas, City Hall will recycle a former cotton gin and grain silos in a green design that will accommodate community needs in a fast-growing …
Noise Ordinance Not rated yet
Visitor Question: We are thinking about having a noise ordinance, because we are tired of boom boxes, marital arguments that take place outdoors, people …
Involvement Is Still Everything Not rated yet
We blogged, we texted, we e-mailed, we animated on our Web site. Still we had 9 people show up at our meeting about an outrageous and unnecessary rezoning …
What's Up with Choice Neighborhoods? Not rated yet
Editor's Note: Obviously this question is a few years old, but the information in our answer is still pertinent. Visitor Question: The Obama administration …