Outline Neighborhood Academy

Monika Jaeckel

The Circles of Change Academy – Outline

Two Models (combinable, not necessarily either/or)

I. The Neighborhood Academy as a physical location and self organising force in the Neighborhood (de lerende wijk)

Goals and approach:
Creation of physical meeting space as well as mental reflection space as basis for bottom up participation in the neighbourhood. Approaching people as owners of knowledge and asking them to contribute their skills in community settings, where they maintain control of the framework, is a way to activate civil engagement as well as a way to link further learning to self empowerment.(Learning to take control over own life, learning to understand the environment to take control over the environment)

Function of the Academy:
The Academy would provide a way to organise a community led research to map the competences, resources and needs in the community as well as to engage in dialogs in the community on what their dreams, visions and plans are for the neighbourhood and in dialogues to tie in different institutions and stakeholders in implementing these ideas. Through a self managed Neighborhood Academy the neighbourhoods and the inhabitants steer the process.

All stakeholder receive first hand knowledge on how people want to live, raise their children, take care of the elders, have health care, improve their neighbourhoods, participate in the community, etc.
The process also creates methods and channels to integrate inhabitants as partners in developing and implementing the solutions in the neighbourhood.

  1. What happens in the Academy, what the Academy organises (for instance):
    • Peer as well as cross sectoral interviewing of neighbourhood inhabitants. (Women interview women, elders interview elders, youth interviews youth as well as women interview youth, youth interview elders etc)
    • Competence Audit Courses (CompetentieBalans)with individuals as well as groups of inhabitants(groepcompetentiebalans) to identify existing skills, develop self confidence of existing competences as well as plans of how to implement them in the neighbourhood
    • Vision workshops on all aspects of life in the neighborhoods
    • Community meetings on Community Development visions and plans
    • Skills trainings from basic skills to master courses based on needs assessment
    • Development of Income Generating Projects in Care Work, Community Work, Renovation, Family Services, Cultural projects etc.
    • Communication and Leadership Support Workshops
    • Dialog Workshops with institutions and local authorities
    • Process Documentation through youth media projects
  2. Realisation Steps:
    • Work out outline of idea, steps and time line, identify funder and submit proposal
    • Choice of location: which neighbourhood or neighbourhoods
    • Establish link with local partners
    • Formation of initiators group of residents
    • Choice of rooms (new rooms or in already established rooms)
    • Mapping (survey, interviews) of needs and capacities in the neighbourhood (together with initiator group)
    • Developing the programs, courses and first activities of the Academy
    • Developing the neighbourhood community development plan
    • Partnership building with other stakeholders to implement a neighbourhood
    • Community development plan
    • Implementation of the first neighbourhood community development plans
    • Document and evaluate the experiences

Selling the idea

Our approach is based on what is already happening, but fills in the gaps, we provide the missing pieces of the puzzle. What is lacking in the current approaches is the linking of different sectors and the leading involvement of the neighborhood inhabitants. We combine the three pillars of community development (physical, social and economical). All three pillars are approached in a dialog, learning and sharing way that creates and enhances social cohesion and bonding in the neighbourhood.

We go beyond sectoral approaches to a wholistic neighbourhood based approach that starts with how people experience their lives and see their solutions. Inhabitants are approached as a whole community (the Neighborhood Academy allows for everything to happen “under one roof”)
We do not only create new ways and jobs for care givers and care giving, we create a “caring neighbourhood”. Through creating structures that support self organisation and self empowerment of the neighbourhood the inhabitants improve their individual lives as well as the quality of their communities and the neighbourhoods develop and grow to their full potential as “learning communities”.

The Neighborhood Academy is a way to really get the neighbourhood inhabitants involved.  It give them ownership of the process as well as developing multi-stakeholder partnerships. The “One Loket approach” is extended from being the front office behind which there still exist different sectors targeting different “issues” and “target groups” to being a community process that integrates all aspects of peoples lives.

The Neighborhood Academy does not by pass other stakeholders already working on these issues, but it involves them at another stage and in another role. The project does not start with them. That is the difference. They are involved when the community has already developed their visions and plans. At that point they are involved as equal partners, which creates another kind of relationship with the inhabitants.

II. The Mobile Academy as an advocacy and networking force for a self help and bottom up approach happening in many different locations

Goals and Approach
Creating a larger base in society for understanding and implementing bottom up participation in civil society

Function of the Academy
Bringing together different stakeholders in society to look at issues concerned in creating bottom up participation from their own as well as each others perspectives.
Supporting self organisation and self help
Assessing the potential of informal knowledge and informal learning

Identifying interested groups and individuals
Sharing knowledge
Effecting attitude and program changes in various institutions and stakeholder groups
Building strategic partners and allies
Building up grassroots networks and advocacy groups
Bridging the gap between formal and informal knowledge

What happens in the Academy

  • Courses and trainings that enhance empowerment, initiative and leadership
  • Exchanges and peer learning of grassroots groups and projects
  • Courses that support self organisation and networking
  • Competencie bilans for individuals and groups (Identify and document (group) competencies & knowledge and put it into curriculum format)
  • Certification programs for informal knowledge
  • Training in economic awareness & independence (savings and credit, business start up
  • Courses/consultations: Update your project!
  • Listening to each other: Dialogs between grassroots groups and institutions
  • Courses and dialogues in partnership building
  • Discussions, events on current social policies and trends

Realisation Step

  • Work out outline of idea, program and time line, identify funders and submit proposals
  • Identify cooperation partners in regard to supply (trainers) and demand (learners)
  • Choice of locations (different cities, different organisations)
  • Organise trainings, courses, dialogs, events
  • Document and evaluate the experiences

Selling the idea
The Academy provides a structure to identify the success elements of projects working with and reaching the grassroots level, and to use this knowledge to reframe and reformulate policies from the perspective of what works on the ground. . It is a place for community leaders and movement builders to meet and exchange experience, in order to identify and own their own knowledge and draw their own conclusions.
What is unique in this approach is the self definition and ownership of learning goals and outcomes, that everybody is a learner as well as a teacher (peer learning), that learning is focused on group empowerment as well as individual empowerment.