Powderhorn Park Neighborhood Association

Report date
November 2015

What has been most instrumental to your progress?

One significant component of our project early on was for the Arts on Chicago Leadership Team and Artist Cohort to engage in a series of deep dive learning sessions about Development. This series of 5 trainings laid a foundation for deeper knowledge of the world of development, existing systems and how they operate broadly, and how community voice can be effectively inserted into these larger ongoing processes. They also provided insight into how and where citizens, community based organizations, and community partnered efforts can potentially impact these broader systems and/or policies.
During Phase 2 of our innovation project we expanded the core group to include a 24 member Community Advisory Committee which diversified the network of stakeholders and representative perspectives in the process. This group in particular expanded the discussion and advocacy for what issues are particularly relevant for our communities. This also deepened the conversations and challenged the process and dialogue to be more inclusive and accountable to stakeholders positions.
Our project is also running parallel to several related initiatives in our immediate neighborhood. We are working to find synergy or alignment with these parallel initiatives led by Ward 8 Council Member Glidden and Ward 9 Council member Cano around future development of E. 38th Street and the development of E. Lake Street.

Key lessons learned

We found that the structure of the Community Advisory Committee sessions need to be reworked. Feedback from participants was that information was dense and not fully digestible, more work needs to be done to intentionally provide ways the CAC members can meaningfully engage the process and conversations, more work and attention is required to continually contextualize and communicate the purpose-goals-journey so members have clear understanding of roles and the process.

Reflections on inclusive, collaborative or resourceful problem-solving

The Community Advisory Committee process has served to open our larger process to a more representative and active constituency. This has also surfaced difficult questions and challenged (positively) our current working structure, definitions, and processes. It has been a process of grappling with finding balance between an open, fluid convening process where all participants have access and agency on a journey to create a cumulative vision for equitable development verses the impulse to predefine and enforce definitions for the group as a point of departure.

Other key elements of Community Innovation

There are ongoing external forces at play all of the time that require thoughtful consideration. The constant and looming pressure of pending development has fostered a need and urgency for the Leadership Team to internally define or reexamine what our current and future roles might be in relation to our ongoing work. We are evaluating our individual or organizational roles, assessing expanded roles verses working to focus future efforts within the strengths and capacities we currently have. Some of the important alignments have been in the more intentional partnering with parallel ongoing efforts by the surrounding neighborhood organizations and the work of the two council offices of Ward 8 and Ward 9.

Understanding the problem

The process has created space for group visioning in where a lot of very creative ideas have been shared. The Community Advisory Committee process has revealed deep emotions about development, how it happens, whom is involved locally, and whom it currently benefits. All which reinforces the need for a community engaged process that opens these questions and places them in a center while visioning and designing solutions. Innovations need to take this into account.

If you could do it all over again...

We see a benefit to more time spent with all participants learning about “development” – how to structure the learning process so all members have the ability to dive deep into the very layered and complex systems and processes of Development. – more critical work around uncovering practical ways in which community members can have direct, tangible, actionable impact/voice on development in our communities (although I think we are driving at that along the way…). We recognize that from the beginning there was a need to frame the process and history, and then to repeat it over and over for all participants.
Our 4th CAC Institute session would have been better suited to serve as our 2nd session as it further connected the people to the process in ways we had struggled to do early on.

One last thought

It’s complicated, messy, challenging work. We have convened a powerful, passionate, and representatively diverse group of people. It is a difficult task to consider creating a process and plan that is inclusive. The significant needs of all
people/communities/perspectives (the challenge of “being all things to all people” and narrowing down to what is within our collective capacity to impact and change).