We’re all about helping you make lasting change. In holistic neighborhood development, this change means working with a neighborhood to restore flourishing. This kind of deep transformation only happens when we pay attention to impact, whether on a large scale or a small one. Community needs and the purpose of programs are at the forefront.
The concept of Community Impact offers a framework for thinking about how to keep the community’s desires at the forefront while we collaborate to revitalize our neighborhoods.
What do we mean by Community impact?
Community Impact is the lasting change that a group of people are able to make. It’s structural, not temporary. Rather than treating the symptoms of inequality, community impact refers to the tangible change to systems-level issues.
Community Impact seeks to have a holistic approach in addressing inequality and injustices. While this may take years or decades to see the results, it’s important to remember long-term change requires long-term commitment.
Activity versus Impact
Impact doesn’t happen if you don’t do anything. Activities are essential to making change. But the key is to make sure you’re doing the right activities in the right sequence and in the right way to achieve the impact your neighborhood wants. The problem is that activity is often easier to measure than impact. It requires more intentionality and power-sharing.
Overall, activity alone is a low measurement of impact. Busying bodies or quantities of businesses and people do not indicate long-term sustainment. It’s simply one metric. Without integration into the neighborhood or a holistic approach, it’s easy to slip into temporary relief work.
The forces that create material poverty are complex. That means that impact – measurable, sustainable changes in the very fabric of a place – is multi-faceted, too. In order to make that kind of complex transformation, we need to be deeply integrated with our neighbors, aligned, and clear about what sustainable changes we want to have. We have to focus on solutions.
When we work with clients, our goal is often to move from activity to impact!
How to tell if you’re having an impact
It can be tricky to know how to measure impact and how to ensure you’re moving towards lasting change. That’s one of the reasons we created the SPIRE Assessment. Our organization, FCS, wanted a consistent and flexible way to measure our own impact in Atlanta. Soon, we realized it could be a great tool for people like you.
The SPIRE Assessment looks at 5 areas that undergird our philosophy of Holistic Neighborhood Development. Here is a brief summary of each:
- Solution Focused – does our work include measurable outcomes that focuses on solving inequality, not providing relief?
- Community Participation – how involved are our community members? We look at engagement and participation among staff and neighbors.
- Neighborhood Integration – are we taking a place-based approach and learning to delve deeper into the fabric of our neighborhood? We want to make sure our programs address the unique context of the neighborhood.
- Authentic Relationships – are we offering meaningful opportunities to build mutual relationships? This is one area where we look for trust and power-sharing between the organization and the neighborhood.
- Program Execution – do our program mechanics align with the impact we’re trying to have through a specific program? We take a look at how individual programs are functioning and whether the activities will lead to the desired result.
Assessing our programs and overall approach using these 5 areas and questions has helped a lot over the years! To learn more about how to assess Community Development, click here.
Navigating the transition from activity to impact can be daunting. You might want to ensure you’re doing the right thing every step of the way. Don’t worry – that’s impossible. You are on a journey of learning alongside your neighbors as you pursue holistic flourishing.
You’ve already taken the first step to making lasting change: understanding what community impact is. If you are ready to go even deeper, we encourage you to take a look at our short course: The Impact Quadrant. You’ll learn all about what makes a high-impact program and organization.