Community Change: A Dialogue with Anne Kubisch and Pat Auspos

Anne Kubisch and Patricia Auspos of the Aspen Institute’s Roundtable for Community Change engaged in a conversation with Mark Cabaj of Tamarack about vertical collaboration and collaboration across neighbourhoods.

On this page you’ll find:

Anne Kubisch and Pat Auspos

Anne Kubisch, co-director of the Roundtable, manages a variety of research and leadership development programs aimed at improving policies and practices that address the needs of poor communities. She works on topics such as community economic development, racial equity, evaluation of antipoverty programs, philanthropic practice, and the role of government, and has authored many publications on those issues. Learn more about Anne here.

Patricia Auspos has been a Senior Associate at the Aspen Institute Roundtable on Community Change since July 2000. She has worked on various projects relating to evaluating and building knowledge about Comprehensive Community Initiatives (CCIs), mapping pathways of community change, understanding the value of civic capacity in community change efforts, and distilling lessons about good practice. She is a co-author of several publications about building knowledge around community change. Before coming to the Roundtable, Pat researched and wrote about CCIs as a consultant with several foundations. She was also a Senior Policy Associate at the Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation (MDRC). She has a Ph.D. in British History from Columbia University.

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The Aspen Institute’s Roundtable on Community Change

The Roundtable on Community Change was established in 1992 as a forum in which people could engage in Comprehensive Community Initiatives (CCIs). It serves as a place where people can meet to discuss the lessons that are being learned by initiatives across the country and to work on common problems they are facing.

Two of the Roundtable’s most influential publications are Voices from the Field I (1997) and Voices from the Field II (2002). The first volume describes the overall function of Comprehensive Community Initiatives (CCIs) and highlights fundamental challenges in their design and implementation. The second volume reviews experiences and learning from the intervening five years, and attempts to synthesize that learning to provide lessons about effective strategies and a framework to guide future action.

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Community Change

Setting the Context

To understand the importance of vertical collaboration and cross-neighbourhood collaboration, we began by asking what community residents and local organizations can achieve on their own, without outside support.

Essentially, there are three areas where community-based organizations can make a significant impact on their own. They can:

  • Provide services and goods within the community, if they have sufficient organizational capacity to do so.
  • Work to change the social environment or cultural norms of the neighbourhood. For example, they can help change local attitudes towards health-related behaviours (like teenage sexual activity or smoking) or values around work.
  • Build civic capacity by promoting collective action, and encouraging local residents to vote and to lobby for their interests.

Without outside support, an organization’s ability to make significant change is limited. The larger economy has a profound impact on poverty levels locally, and economic change requires combined input from the neighbourhood, city, the province or state, the nation, as well as the private sector, which operates on all of these levels.

All of these systems overlap, and interact with each other in an “ecology of change.” Even when a problem – in poverty, housing, or education, for example – is primarily focused on a local area, it is part of larger systems.

The reality is that community initiatives must work with organizations from beyond the neighbourhood, such as government, funders and grantmakers, and larger agencies. The challenge is to create intentional working relationships with these organizations in a way that increases local capacity.

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Vertical Collaboration

There are three broad categories of capacity-building that are core to any effort to implement vertical collaboration:

  • Political voice, including leadership development and organizing strategies.
  • Specialized strategic knowledge, including understanding policy-making and budgeting processes in the social services sector; and knowing where funders are and how they make their decisions.
  • Problem-solving partnerships, including partnerships with “anchor” institutions in the community such as hospitals or universities.

Vertical collaboration can be quite simple, or it can be extremely complex and sophisticated.

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Building Capacities

In order to build effective working relationships between neighbourhoods, Anne and Pat recommend that neighbourhood-based CCIs focus on developing the following capacities:

• Expertise in the subject field (poverty, education, health, housing, etc.).
• The ability to monitor and evaluate collaborations.
• The ability to hold outside partners and themselves accountable.
• Developing a relationship with an “anchor,” such as a local hospital, university, or college. This brings stability, helps outside partners build trust and helps enforce accountability in the neighbourhood.

In Community Building and Civic Capacity, Susan Saegert presents a variety of models for capacity building, with case studies and outcomes for each.

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Resources and Links

Resources/Examples Used During the Call

The Aspen Institute Roundtable on Community Change – The Roundtable’s website contains information about their various programs, and PDF versions of many documents to download. To visit the site, click here.

Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) – An IAF group in San Antonio, Texas, successfully turned its attention to job training and support for job trainees. You can link to the main IAF page by clicking here.

Community Benefits Agreement with the Staples Centre, LA - This document provides background about the Community Benefits Agreement that was developed around the construction of the Staples Centre in Los Angeles. You can access the PDF here.

United Neighborhood Houses, NYC – This umbrella organization for the Settlement Houses in New York City provides specific technical knowledge and staff support around policy issues, to bolster individual groups’ own capacity. To view their web page, click here.

Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) –As an intermediary organization LISC supports Community Development Corporations (CDCs). LISC does considerable behind-the-scenes work with city staff, and as a result, wields significant influence on behalf of individual CDCs. To access their web page, click here.

Success Measures Project – The Success Measures Project is an attempt to track and evaluate local indicators of success in community development initiatives. To view their web site, click here.

Neighbourhood Vitality Index – United Way/Centraide Canada is developing this new index of neighbourhood-based success indicators, and doing beta-testing through the Action for Neighbourhood Change initiative. There is no public release available yet, but we will update this page when it becomes available.

Community Building and Civic Capacity – This paper, written by Susan Saegert for the Roundtable, discusses a range of community building strategies and their impact on civic engagement at different levels (individual, network, organizational, and community-wide). To view the PDF version, click here.

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Additional Links and Resources

Voices from the Field II – This document reviews experiences and learning from Comprehensive Community Initiatives, and attempts to synthesize that learning to provide lessons about effective strategies and a framework to guide future action. To view the PDF version, click here.

Building Knowledge about Community Change – This 2004 report reviews 15 years of evaluating community building/revitalization efforts. It asks three questions: How are we learning about community-based change? What are we learning from the evaluations? Where do we go from here to increase learning in the future? To access the PDF version of the report, click here.

Anne Kubisch on Collaboration – During a 2005 Tamarack tele-learning session, Anne Kubisch discusses different forms of collaboration. The page includes audio from the call, as well as highlighted information and resources. To learn more, click here.

The Art of Revitalization – This book by Sean Zielenbach discusses the revitalization of decayed inner-city neighborhoods by exploring the role of social capital in stabilizing and turning around distressed communities, and highlighting the roles that local actors can and do play in the revitalization process. [Source: Sean Zielenbach, The Art of Revitalization: Improving Conditions in Distressed Inner-City Neighborhoods. Garland Publishing, 2000.]

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Action for Neighbourhood Change was in operation from 2005-2007. This site exists to capture and share the learnings that emerged from this initiative, but new material is no longer being added on a regular basis. ANC is not responsible for the content of external links, which may change; however, if you find a broken link, please let us know.