Keeping the promise of “residents lead the change”

Lowell Perry Jr., director, Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood 

When the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland agreed to be the lead convener of the Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood nearly eight years ago, a central theme of “residents lead the change” resonated among all of our partners. The motto “residents lead the change” is a crucial component of long term transformation in the community because we need to embark on our work with residents not just for them. The most visible evidence of this intention is the individuals who have stepped forward to become Promise Ambassadors. Promise Ambassadors are resident leaders who have gone through formal leadership training to become engaged advocates for the Promise Neighborhood mission in order to ensure that more young people are positioned to move successfully through the cradle to career pipeline.

Now that more than 60 people have undergone Promise Ambassador training the question becomes – what’s next? Additionally, is the current state of resident engagement adequate? When we asked this question of our Promise Ambassadors, the input we received is that residents want to do more than canvass homes, hang flyers on doors, and speak out at advisory council meetings. They want to be involved in the work of Promise Neighborhood and it’s partners from concept to execution.

Using this feedback, Promise Neighborhood is undergoing a process to ensure our work internally, and our  collective work with partner organizations, is more intentional in having residents involved from throughout the entire process of our business. We have made strides in engaging residents in the process through the Promise Ambassador program, but the next phase must involve an evolution in the way all stakeholders (residents, organizations, and conveners like the Promise team) think about what “residents lead the change” means.

We believe the evidence-based approach of Polarity Thinking provides a sound vehicle to help achieve that mind shift.  This idea is characterized by a “both/and” instead of an “either/or” approach when partners in a project may have what on the surface appears to be opposing ways to get to the same result. In reality, both are valid and contribute in their own way in a synergistic fashion.

The Promise design team which included resident participants, have been working with the Enlightenment team over the past couple of months to develop the initial introductory polarity assessment tool to baseline where we are currently in the journey to the goal of a true resident centered culture. It will be a tool that can be used going forward to gauge whether residents are indeed leading the change, and consequently change the way we do business as an initiative.

The integration piece is the next level of the Promise Ambassador journey. Integration includes working with organizational stakeholders to involve Promise Ambassadors on committees, boards, taskforces, etc. The overarching goal is that by participating in the work of our partner organizations, Promise Ambassadors will organically become subject matter experts in areas that interest them. This effort will hopefully lead to internships, long-term employment and greater access and ability for Promise Ambassadors to build their professional networks.

We are excited for this next path on our journey to ensure “residents lead the change” and hope that you will join us.