Building Neighborhood Networks
“I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the way our world is made. No individual or nation can stand out boasting of being independent. We are interdependent.”
- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The unique and specific focus of IMPACT’s work is community-based network-building. Community-based networks are made up of diverse people from neighborhoods, organizations, and other social groups who are intentionally organized by sets of relationships and meaningful value exchanges. Communities that are strongly networked offer people opportunities for social connection and exchange that lead to stronger and healthier individuals, families, and entire neighborhoods.
A Network Approach brings positive change by:
• Breaking through fear, isolation and division.
• Improving the quantity and quality of relationships based on trust.
• Activating the unique gifts, skills, and assets of everyone in the community.
• Mobilizing more leadership.
• Increasing civic participation.
• Generating economic opportunities.
• Catalyzing more actions that lead to innovations and breakthroughs.
Since 2009, through a partnership with the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) IMPACT’s focus has been in the neighborhoods of Gaithersburg, Wheaton, and Long Branch – extremely diverse areas with high concentrations of low-income residents. More recently, IMPACT expanded its geographic focus to include two more neighborhoods in the Greater Silver Spring area: Bel Pre and Briggs Chaney.
In each of these neighborhoods, IMPACT’s unique work is to strengthen social capital – the people-to-people ties among individuals who live and work in a particular place. Evidence from our work and that of others across the country shows that when people and neighborhoods have strong, deep, and resource-rich social networks, they are healthier, more economically stable, and are more engaged in civic participation.
In the neighborhoods where IMPACT works, the diversity of residents who come from many different racial, ethnic, and socio-economic backgrounds creates an added challenge in the effort to strengthen social cohesion. While many residents live side by side in the same neighborhoods with people from different backgrounds, and their children attend the same schools - there is little opportunity to connect across lines of difference, build relationships and trust, support each other, and work on change efforts together. In the face of this current reality and context, IMPACT’s network-building approach seeks to foster connection and inter-dependence - by creating the spaces and opportunities for people to meaningfully connect across lines of racial, ethnic, and socio-economic difference.
IMPACT’s core strategies include:
• Creating DOORWAYS for people to enter the Network like block parties and neighborhood clean-up days.
• Creating aspirational SPACES and ROOMS where people can connect, exchange value, and build mutually supportive and beneficial relationships to improve their quality of life and achieve the common good. IMPACT Circles are an example of this strategy.
• Intentionally connecting people in different rooms to each other and to new people and resources through MARKETPLACE moments, enabling people to cross lines of difference, exchange information and favors, spark and support circles, and have fun together. Network Nights are an example of this strategy.
• Cultivating residents to share in the stewardship of the network through TRAININGS AND TECHNICAL SUPPORT.