Block By Block, For The People

February 13, 2015


residents’ Day is around the corner. Abraham Lincoln famously proclaimed, “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Notice how many times Honest Abe used “people.” In my conversations about Cities of Service, I sometimes refer to the “people power” waiting to be unlocked in citizen volunteers. City residents who are ready to step up – if they aren’t already – represent invaluable human capital and potential for solving city problems.

They are the building blocks for positive change in their communities. Our communities.

We recently announced seven cities from across the country who are our latest partners in neighborhood revitalization, using the Cities of Service Love Your Block blueprint. Birmingham, Ala., Boston, Lansing, Mich., Las Vegas, Phoenix, Richmond, Calif., and Seattle have committed to concentrate their efforts in communities of greatest need, and each is set to receive $30,000 toward planning and implementation of block improvement, along with dedicated AmeriCorps VISTAs from the Corporation from National and Community Service.

[Read about our new grantees’ plans for Love Your Block; and more from Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, and the City of Boston.]

The promise of our Love Your Block program is multifaceted:

Block by block, blight is removed.

The City of Pittsburgh has been using Love Your Block for multiple years and now runs on city and corporate grant support. Since its inception, Love Your Block in Pittsburgh  has improved 390 blocks, enabled the clearing of 34,927 pounds of litter and the creation of 256 green spaces. The city has notably leveraged nearly $559,161 in donations and 4,865 volunteers. Their impressive list of projects and neighborhoods is mapped here.

Block by block, relationships are built – between community, government and service-oriented leaders.

In the City of Mesa, Arizona, Chief Service Officer Michelle Alvis saw what happened once a channel for reaching out to – and receiving – volunteers was created. She said, “Our Love Your Block activities transferred into emergency response effort(s)…Having processes and procedures in place to utilize large numbers of volunteers allowed for a quick transfer of volunteer based efforts into other scenarios.  A considerable number of people who reached out to assist with flood recovery efforts were already Love Your Block volunteers.  The Love Your Block team and experience was key in the City’s emergency response.  Love Your Block assisted in coordinating efforts with our fire and police department to assist residents with recovery efforts.”

Block by block, lives are improved.

It’s no surprise that where urban blight persists, crime tends to percolate. Along with other efforts, revitalizing neighborhoods can help to reverse this trend.

The City of Birmingham tallied incidences of crime in the 16 neighborhoods where they implemented Love Your Block, in 2013 and in 2014. Overall crime in those neighborhoods fell by double digits – 11% –from 2013 to 2014. The greatest declines were in murder (from six to four) and rape (from 18 to 12) – both down 33%. Car breaks-in and auto theft both fell 16%. Property theft declined by 13%.

Birmingham’s Chief Service Officer Bacarra Sanderson Mauldin reported, “According to one neighborhood president, ‘programs like Love Your Block have breathed new life into our street and given us something to look forward to.’”

Benchmarks of success across cities using Love Your Block, such as reductions in crime, are something we will work with cities to capture and track over the course of their three-year grants. This particular cohort of Love Your Block programming will be calibrated so that we foster, as well as build on, the promise seen in prior grantee reporting.

Block by block, city by city

Love Your Block also has been used in Allentown, Pa., Atlanta; Baltimore; Baton Rouge, La.; Buffalo, NY; Chula Vista, Calif.; Fall River, Mass.; Flint, Mich.; Mesa, Ariz.; Washington, D.C.; Kettering, Ohio; Philadelphia; Pittsburgh: and New York City. The universe of cities who have adopted the blueprint is likely larger; we have 205 members across the United States and U.K., where additional cities also are beginning to bring Love Your Block to their neighborhoods.

We can’t give grants to everyone, so we’re welcoming other applicants to work with our community of practice to apply lessons learned and leverage resources and knowledge for their revitalization plans.

We provide a process for City Halls to engage citizens and partner for positive change. With the right approach, we foster relationships. With the right tools, we further results. With the right infrastructure, we make real impact.

And we’re seeing it happen, block by block – with the government of the people, by the people, for the people.

Learn how you can get started, and Love Your Block

*Photos representing neighborhoods where grantee cities have applied to concentrate neighborhood revitalization efforts: Eastlake, Birmingham from; Dorchester, Boston – E. Jacobs/Boston Globe; South Lake Union, Seattle – M.Siegel/Seattle Times; Allen Neighborhood Center, Lansing, Mich. – Dave Trumpie; Center Portraits, L-R: Bacarra Sanderson Mauldin, Chief Service Officer, Birmingham; Myung J. Lee, Executive Director, Cities Of Service; Michelle Alvis Of Mesa, Ariz.