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  • Great Lakes Urban

7 Neighborhood Functions Remind Us That Small is Beautiful

Updated: Mar 21, 2023

Research by the ABCD Institute has identified 7 key functions that neighborhoods play in our society. In January we started a series describing how our work contributes to the health and vitality of the 7 key functions. In remembrance of Fred Rogers, who was born on March 20, we took the opportunity to explore function #6 for our monthly post: Raising Our Children. Pictured below is a scene from the Westcore neighborhood.

At Great Lakes Urban one of our favorite Mister Rogers Neighborhood quotes is, “Everybody you meet has something special to give and receive.” In our experience, Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) builds the kind of social environment that Fred Rogers invited us into. Youth need to feel like they matter, like they can help and be helped.

In his book, Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World, Vivek Murthy, MD, the Surgeon General of the United States, outlines some of the research behind the impact that connection and belonging have on youth outcomes. Here are a few findings:

  • Youth experiencing belonging and social connection do better academically, have higher self-esteem, feel more socially adept, and perform better on intelligence tests requiring logic and reasoning.

  • In neighborhoods where people watch out for and are trusted to help with each other's children, adolescents exhibit greater social competence, get along better with peers, and are able to empathize and resolve conflict.

Why is this the case? Author and ABCD luminary, Cormac Russell, puts it this way, "Communities and the families that exist within them have a central role to play in raising powerful and connected children, which cannot be replaced by professional intervention no matter how well funded. The further a child is from the center of a caring community, the more ‘at risk’ he or she becomes. By the same token, the closer a child is to the center of a competent community that welcomes both her fallibility and giftedness, the closer she is to her promising present and compelling future."

How does Great Lakes Urban's work keep children at the center of competent communities that welcome both their fallibility and giftedness? We do this be helping communities adopt ABCD principles and practices, including the habits of listening, connecting, and collaborating to achieve the common good. Neighborhoods where these habits are present always find a way to work across differences to ensure a better future for the youth and families that call that place home.

In the Westcore neighborhood (pictured above) this happens in a number of ways. Youth are exposed to positive adult role models through their regular and informal gatherings on 18th Street every 18th day of the month. It also happens at the neighborhood community center, called Nuestra Casa (Our House), which provides a safe space for youth and families, as well as through programming such as the community garden behind the center. Click on THIS LINK for a short 90-second video about how Nuestra Casa came to be through the hard work of caring residents organized by a Neighborhood Connector.

The good news is that you can help us turn spaces of disconnection and isolation into neighborhoods characterized by connection, belonging, hope, and wholeness. One way you can do this is by donating to Great Lakes Urban. Simply click THIS LINK to make a secure investment in a future where youth flourish and are supported to achieve their highest potential. We will use your support to equip and deploy the Neighborhood Connectors who are on the front lines in what are often historically under-resourced communities.

Tune in next month as we continue to discuss neighborhood functions and explore how Great Lakes Urban contributes to them. The 7 functions include (1) Enabling Health, (2) Assuring Security, (3) Stewarding Ecology, (4) Shaping Local Economies, (5) Growing Local Food, (6) Raising our Children, and (7) Co-creating Care.

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