Empowering residents is an important aspect of building strong civic capacity.
Residents who feel that they have the ability to impact their neighborhood and their city are more likely to be satisfied with where they live and contribute their time, skills, and resources to broader revitalization efforts. Small, inexpensive neighborhood projects can give residents the opportunity to impact their community in a positive way, while also building up neighborhood capacity to tackle even larger challenges.
In smaller legacy cities with significant amounts of vacant land, selling vacant lots to neighbors is a common strategy to put vacant land back into reuse. The Genesee County Land Bank, which serves Flint, Michigan, has taken these programs a step further through their Clean and Green program. Community groups apply to the land bank to maintain at least 25 vacant lots within their neighborhood. Groups must service the lots at least once every three weeks during the warm months, and receive a stipend of $3,000. The short video below describes how the program has engaged young people and helped stabilize neighborhoods.
Other small projects include engaging volunteers in broader community development efforts. Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership, a community development corporation in Warren, Ohio, helps coordinate volunteer activities for churches, youth organizations, and local businesses. Although the direct impact of these volunteer projects may be small, involving residents in efforts to improve their community can help help spark additional civic engagement.