The Enterprise Center Community Development Corporation’s Community Leaders Program
The Enterprise Center Community Development Corporation (TEC-CDC) catalyzes positive change in the Walnut Hill neighborhood and surrounding communities in West Philadelphia through programmatic initiatives and physical redevelopment projects that engage community members, economically empower residents and businesses, and enhance the built environment. The Community Leaders program serves as the base for all other TEC-CDC programming. The community engagement and resident leadership development that take place through Community Leaders is critical to the success of the neighborhood, and the Community Leaders model is now being replicated in other communities.
The Enterprise Center (TEC), an accomplished minority businesses accelerator in the Philadelphia region, founded TEC-CDC in the early 2000s to extend its entrepreneurial mission to the neighborhood level. The need quickly became apparent for a plan, built around community engagement and support, to guide neighborhood revitalization. Funded by the Wells Fargo Regional Foundation, TEC-CDC and the Walnut Hill Community Association developed a team of residents who canvassed more than 600 neighborhood residents for input in what became the Walnut Hill Neighborhood Plan, released in 2007. That original effort to engage the community in the planning process carried over to the implementation of the plan and the creation of Community Leaders, now TEC-CDC’s longest-running program.
Initiative and Impact
Community Leaders is an annual nine-month training program in which a cohort of neighborhood residents learn valuable life and professional skills while leading community service and outreach projects. At the heart of the model is continuous, neighbor-to-neighbor engagement. Community Leaders canvass the neighborhood, conducting door-to-door outreach to distribute information to residents on a wide range of resources, including social services, job and professional development opportunities, and neighborhood events, as well as to solicit residents’ input on the community’s development needs. That input in turn influences TEC-CDC’s programmatic strategy and the ongoing implementation of the Walnut Hill Neighborhood Plan.
Since 2007, thousands of neighborhood residents have been touched by Community Leaders outreach, more than 100 leaders have been trained, and cleanups and improvement projects have helped reshape the neighborhood. Key outputs include:
The Community Leaders model has been so successful in engaging community members in positive change and building resident leaders that it has spread to other communities, with TEC-CDC providing training to more than 80 participants at other community-based organizations and government agencies in Philadelphia and Camden, New Jersey. These organizations can now also speak to the success they have had with their community outreach efforts. As one example of the influence of this model, the TEC-CDC Community Leaders training was instrumental in the development of the People’s Emergency Center’s Community Connectors, including keeping residents involved in the conversations and planning regarding the Promise Zone Initiative, which encompasses a portion of the Walnut Hill neighborhood.
“The training that was provided to [the APM/SCI Eastern North 2014 Community Connectors] was very informative and covered various areas necessary for the work that will be done in our community. It was delightful to see our connectors becoming active, bonding as a group, and using their newly learned skills during the training... I feel that after this training, our connectors are better prepared for community outreach, have become more aware of themselves and others, and have learned about their responsibility as community leaders.”
—Naida Elena Montes, Asociacion de Puertorriquenos en Marcha
Leveraging impactful partnerships has been critical to the work of TEC-CDC and the Community Leaders program. The Community Leaders have worked closely with the Walnut Hill Neighborhood Association since the inception of the program, helping to grow the membership and capacity of the community association.
Through the Community Leaders program, TEC-CDC has also been able to leverage the support of the following anchor institutions, community health organizations, community development funders, and other community-based organizations as they work together to build an engaged, stronger, and healthier community:
Lessons Learned and Next Steps
Approaching ten years of impactful programming through Community Leaders, this work has reiterated the importance of giving residents a voice in the community development process and helped build strong leadership from within the community. TEC-CDC is updating the Walnut Hill Neighborhood Plan in 2015, and the Community Leaders are once again integral to the engagement process.
TEC-CDC has also learned the importance of continuing to evolve programming and adapt to pressing concerns expressed by community members. To that end, and in light of the ongoing issues in the country around police and community relations, the Community Leaders program will look to add components to the curriculum and an engagement model that illustrates how residents and local police can work together in positive ways to strengthen communities and make them safer. Long-term, TEC-CDC will also seek to incorporate a re-entry component into the program participation, and will continue to train other organizations in the Community Leaders model.
For more information on how you can bring the Community Leaders model to your community, contact Lorna Peterson at 215-895-4040 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.Watch the video on the Community Leaders Program
Click here to view the press release