This article was written by Amy Luesebrink, and Jeffrey Strand, District 1 Commissioner (individual capacity)
Neighborhood and Community Engagement Commission
Did you attend Live on the Drive, Tour de Camden, or the Camden Farmer’s Market this summer? Volunteer at a garden like Loring School Gardens, Common Ground Community Garden or a Tiny Field on your block?
Did your local neighborhood provide a partnership that offered youth summer jobs, or seniors a new way to garden and grow their own local produce and social networks? Did they help a senior or family renovate or stay in their affordable homes longer?
One big shout out to the seven local nonprofit neighborhood organizations in our Camden Community and their many diverse board members, staff and volunteers who work monthly to bring the Camden Community so many benefits: Cleveland Neighborhood Association, Folwell Neighborhood Association, Lind Bohanon Neighborhood Association, McKinley Community, Shingle Creek Neighborhood Association, Victory Neighborhood Association and Webber-Camden Neighborhood Organization. [See what they’re up to and get their contact info on pages 8 and 9.]
The following are what the City of Minneapolis Neighborhood Community Relations Department lists on its website that Neighborhood Organizations work on. Along with organizing community activities, planning and development, and dealing with complex community issues and conflicts are tasks for the 70 individual Minneapolis neighborhood organizations. The organizations contract with the City to work to improve their neighborhoods — which helps improve the community and city in which we live, work and play:
Neighborhood planning and development
- Neighborhood Action Plans (NRP and NPP)
- Strategic plans for the organization
- Small area plans
- Commercial corridor planning
- Park planning
- Redevelopment planning
- Respond to development proposals
- Zoning variances and conditional use permits
- Street and highway construction, upgrades and repair
- Commercial development proposals
- Environmental issues
Deal with complex community issues and conflict
- Historic preservation and neighborhood character
- Community discussions on race and class
- Respond to proposed developments
- Changing populations and demographics
- Respond to emergencies (e.g. 2011 tornado)
- Provide services
- Organize volunteer cleanups
- Provide resources (e.g. redirect funds for home repair)
- Paperwork, lots and lots of paper work
- Writing grants and funding proposals
- Reporting on use of funds and activities
- News and information
- Annual reports and legal filings (990s, MN Annual Report, etc).
- Regular financial reports
- Meeting minutes
- Other record keeping (e.g. member records)
No two neighborhood organizations across the city are the same; volunteer residents and staff come together to target and work on specific pieces of complex issues facing their unique neighborhoods. An over arching umbrella of state statutes and city guidelines form the basis of the contracted work neighborhood organizations can take on. Neighborhood organizations are not free to choose for other neighborhood organizations how they run or operate their local nonprofit organization and they are not free to spend city funding freely.
From 1990-2010, the City Council at the time chose to fund an “investment” focused program which meant over $20M coming out to the seven neighborhoods of Camden. 52.5 percent of those funds had to be, and were, invested into housing and other legal strategies that helped our local schools, parks, crime and safety, and business efforts in Camden.
From 2011-present, the City Council has only focused on funding a neighborhood organization program that focuses on community outreach, board capacity building, and improving relations with the city department. This past decade has certainly led to more focus on diversification of neighborhood boards and building board capacity, but there has been no dedicated guideline requirements or dedicated funds for “investing” in our neighborhoods and community to help complete the circle of true community engagement. Dedicated investment funds were used to help Camden rebuild after the tornado, help create new affordable independent senior living, affordable housing for folks living with MS, and much more. This year, we’ve watched this Council choose to redirect millions of dollars of funds — once dedicated to neighborhood organization investment programs — to do things like using $24.3M to prepay down the Target Center debt.
The City Neighborhood Community Relations (NCR) Department is currently working with the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA) at the U of M to review data, seek further community input, and help the NCR Department create neighborhood organization program guidelines for 2021 and beyond.
If you’re interested in learning more in your neighborhood or community, consider volunteering with your local neighborhood organization to help promote and improve your community. Check out pages 8 and 9 to see which of the seven neighborhoods you live in and see what your neighborhood, and what all the seven neighborhoods in Camden, are doing! You can also find more info about them at ci.minneapolis.mn.us/ncr/links/index.htm.