Community Development was an innovation.
Now, we are innovating even further by implementing. Holistic Neighborhood Development. Over 40 years ago, Bob Lupton and his team at Focused Community Strategies questioned the standard nonprofit model. In particular, they envisioned a way to bring lasting change that didn’t rely on one-way giving or reactive approaches to material poverty. These ideas gave way to on-the-ground practices. Soon, they began seeing dramatic change through hands-on partnership with Atlanta’s neighborhoods. They had moved from charity to Community Development.
But like the practice of community development, its philosophy is iterative, too. At the Lupton Center, we have seen the most effective, lasting change come from something new. We call it Holistic Neighborhood Development (HND).
Like all good Community Development, HND focuses on mutuality and partnership. Transactional relationships get avoided. It measures success by impact, not activity. It pursues long-term flourishing of entire neighborhoods. These foundations come straight from our Community Development forebears. We are forever indebted to them!
Holistic Neighborhood Development Raises the Stakes
HND takes these pillars and digs them deeper. Community Development says to focus on a geographic area. HND implores you to move into that area. In the best instances of HND, staff are living in the neighborhood where they serve. The office is there, too. It takes the idea of place-based work and turns it into place-based life in the neighborhood. HND is all about an organization integrating into the very fabric of a place. To do so, it needs to have a holistic approach – addressing myriad strengths and challenges at once.
Where Community Development seeks collaboration, HND relentlessly pursues relational equity. What this means is that we don’t just seek the opinions of neighbors. We also have mechanisms that make us directly accountable to these neighbors. The work of HND must disrupt power inequities by design. Professionals in HND must answer to people they “serve” and vice versa as mutual partners.
Even more deeply, HND runs on relationships, even friendships. When an organization weaves itself into the fabric of a place, the line between who is being “served” and who is “serving” nearly dissolves. Typical roles of who is an “expert” blur. What emerges are neighbors bound together in a common destiny. The HND activities begin to mirror the components of daily life among neighbors. This is how truly holistic work grows.
Together, we will continue to build on the foundations of Community Development. And in 20 years, we are sure we’ll have tailored Holistic Neighborhood Development to make it even more effective for lasting change.