In the Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood, we work to build a cradle to career pipeline for the residents and families of Central, a transformative model intended to build a healthier community.
We recognize that residents must lead the change to be truly impactful in our neighborhood, and our Ambassador program empowers community leaders who serve as partners in designing and implementing the work.
At the May Promise Advisory Council meeting, we welcomed those who recently completed training and are now Promise Ambassadors, bringing our total count to nearly 70 ambassadors.
Congratulations to our latest Promise Ambassadors:
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.
Neighborhood Connections, with additional funding from Cuyahoga Arts & Culture, announced that it has awarded Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood Ambassadors with funding for a community engagement project called Central Celebration: Present, Past and Future.
Central Celebration will be an event featuring on-stage performances from neighborhood youth that deliver biographical accounts of past and present community leaders from the Central community. Over the next few months, the Promise Ambassadors will be recruiting and working with youth from Central to be part of the performance. Parents, teachers and library staff will also be heavily involved in the event to mentor youth throughout the research, rehearsal and performance process.
“By empowering kids to conduct research and learn about our neighborhood’s history the information will be passed along to others,” said Twila Norris, Promise Ambassador. “The process of learning about our leaders and connecting people to all the community resources that will help pull this event together will teach our kids about their living environment and extend their education outside of the classroom and into the community.”
The event is expected to feature performances highlighting former Congressman Louis Stokes, former mayor of Cleveland Carl Stokes, current city of Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, Olympian Jesse Owens, Judge Sara J. Harper, Councilwoman Phyllis Cleveland and others.
A host of Cleveland institutions are currently honoring Carl and Louis Stokes in a series of year-long events, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Carl Stokes’ election as mayor of Cleveland.
The group sees Central Celebration as a way to promote the importance of education, leadership and community through educating families on the history and culture of the Central neighborhood in Cleveland.
“We all share a desire to increase community engagement in Central and want to educate Central residents about the neighborhood’s rich history,” said Lillie Hunter, Promise Ambassador and Neighborhood Connections grantee. “We also hope the program will draw attention to all the resources available in our community.”
Neighborhood Connections offers small grants to groups of residents in Cleveland and East Cleveland to do projects that improve the quality of life in their communities. Grants range from $500 to $5,000. Grants are intended to spur small, grassroots community projects.
Promise Ambassadors are advocates and supporters of the Cleveland Central neighborhood. They have participated in Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood-provided training and are committed to working directly with the Promise Neighborhood organization and its partners to improve the quality of life for residents in the Central community. Promise Ambassadors are involved in a specific area or areas of interest connected to the Promise Neighborhood mission including: early learning, K-8, high school, college and career or resident leadership. Learn more about Promise Neighborhood Ambassadors and how to get involved here.