This article tells the story of how Belltown activists brought the neighborhood together to learn ways to engage the community, build a common vision, and develop partnerships to improve the neighborhood.
A group of neighborhood activists in Belltown felt that their community was full of resources and strengths, but that community groups, businesses, non-profits, and the government could be working more collaboratively. Through a series of discussions, the Belltown Community Council and other local organizations decided to form a steering committee and plan a 1-day training to encourage cross-sector cooperation. They selected Jim Diers, the first director of Seattle Department of Neighborhoods (DON) and UW Professor, to facilitate the Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) training. The steering committee had members from community groups, the non-profit sector, business, the faith community, the UW School of Social Work, and Christa Dumpys, a Neighborhood District Coordinator from DON. They combined their resources and worked together to solicit donations, organize the event, and do strategic community outreach to ensure that those in attendance represented a broad variety of neighborhood stakeholders. The group received a Small Sparks award from the Neighborhood Matching Fund to cover the cost of the training.
The ABCD training was held for 33 participants on March 9, 2013 in a donated space at the brand new City University campus in Belltown. Jim Diers spent the morning presenting the key tenets of the ABCD philosophy, discussing strengths and challenges of community work in Belltown, and highlighting examples of successful local partnerships. Participants had a midday break, which gave them a chance to network with one another and enjoy the tasty food that was donated by local restaurants and coffee shops. The afternoon portion of the training gave everyone a chance to present their vision for Belltown, share project ideas, and find others in the community who wished to team up. Small groups formed around their areas of interest and began to start work on projects which included: creating a neighborhood information sharing website and discussion group, working with local artists to develop public art in new and unused spaces, and finding ways to maximize use of the new Belltown Community Center. There is a lot of excitement around the community project ideas that came out of this training and we’re excited to see what they lead to in the coming months!
by Jake Hellenkamp, UW School of Social Work Intern