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Creative Community Development

A woman artist stands next to her paintingNeighborWorks America believes art, culture and creative expression are key components of comprehensive community development. Art, culture and creativity can connect people across differences, amplify residents' voices, generate imaginative problem solving, animate public and private spaces, rejuvenate structures and streetscapes, honor history, improve business viability, and boost jobs and income. When they are fully integrated, community development and arts- and culture-based strategies enhance one another. They create opportunities for people to improve their lives and strengthen their communities. For these reasons, NeighborWorks America embraces creative community development as a key strategy for advancing our vision of ensuring that every community in America is a place of opportunity. 

To advance creative community development, we have committed to: 
  • Building the capacity of NeighborWorks network organizations to implement creative community development with a focus on advancing more equitable outcomes.
  • Raising the visibility of arts- and culture-based strategies and creative expression to increase understanding of their value.
  • Providing the network and broader field with tools for and training in creative community development and outcome measurement. 
  • Embedding creative practices and collaboration within capacity-building efforts.

Demonstrating the Value of Creative Community Development

In 2017, with generous support from the Kresge Foundation, NeighborWorks undertook a planning process to better understand the role of arts, culture, and creative expression in advancing community development goals. In the resulting plan, we identified ways to leverage our existing capacity-building resources to support the implementation of creative practices across our network and the broader field. 

Since releasing our Creative Community Development report, NeighborWorks has focused on integrating creative community development into our training, peer learning offerings, outcome evaluation, internal practices and partnerships. These activities have equipped our network organizations to partner with artists, elevate marginalized voices, strengthen community, address disparities and inequities, and assess and communicate the impact of their work.

As a result of these efforts, we have seen increased interest, enthusiasm and adoption of creative community development practices across the NeighborWorks network. This work has been transformative for many of the participating network organizations. Some of these examples were highlighted in our article on "Building Capacity for Creative Community Development" that was published as part of the Community Development Innovation Review in 2019.

The stories below further highlight how new or expanded partnerships with artists or arts-based organizations can help us better elevate and address issues related to gentrification and displacement in our communities. Using creative methods, the partners developed shared goals and tested new community-driven strategies.

image for Adaptations to meet the moment and keep engaged
Adaptations to meet the moment and keep engaged
Most placekeeping projects involve bringing people together in physical space. That's tough when the project is slated to take place during a shut-down order. When COVID- 19 shelter-in-place orders began dropping in March, a number of NeighborWorks network organizations found themselves having to shift their projects in order to keep their communities safe. 

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Building partnerships to lead the work
Three NeighborWorks organizations worked hand in hand with arts organizations to reimagine the future of their neighborhoods.

image for Using art to keep a neighborhood's culture in place
Using art to keep a neighborhood's culture in place
Artists are a key part of the culture of a place. For neighborhoods that are at risk of instability due to real estate market forces, artists connected to a particular place have immense power to offer tools of resilience. That's what happened in a project spearheaded by NeighborWorks America, in collaboration with Springboard for the Arts. 

The following case studies highlight the way five NeighborWorks network organizations used arts to bring residents together, bolster their communities and improve health and safety. 

Recognizing Training Needs to Build Capacity

Interested in building your knowledge and expertise using creative community development principles and methods? We'll soon offer the chance to earn a new professional certificate in creative community development! 

Measuring the Results

Success Measures at NeighborWorks America is committed to deepening the evaluation capacity in the community development field and providing evaluation services to nonprofits and philanthropy. A core component of this work is a suite of data collection tools to gather data to understand how your work contributes to change in communities.

Recently, Success Measures underwent an effort to infuse community development evaluation tools with an arts and culture focus and created new measurement tools on creative community development. 
Creative Community Development
Disaster Relief, Recovery and Preparedness
Demonstrating the Value of Creative Community Development
What can art, culture and creativity contribute to creating equitable and engaged communities? 
New Professional Certificate
Interested in building your knowledge and expertise using creative community development principles and methods?