“Poverty is the result of relationships that do not work, that are not just, that are not for life, that are not harmonious or enjoyable. Poverty is the absence of Shalom in all its meanings. ”
-Walking With The Poor, Bryant Myers
Mika’s Community Building process ensures that the residents have ownership of the progress achieved in their communities. Mika also serves as a bridge between the neighbors and resources outside their communities. As neighbors grow in their understanding of the resources available to them in the larger community, they are able to link with partners who will help them reach their shared vision. Mika serves as a motivating force that challenges and works alongside residents to create a healthy community. Our goal is to develop neighborhood leaders, enhancing their capacity to effectively identify, design, fund, manage and evaluate projects and initiatives that support the shared goals of their communities.
Selecting a Neighborhood
Goal: Determine Target Area
Mika’s first step in community building is Selecting a Neighborhood. To determine a target community we speak with residents and observe the culture and activity within the neighborhood. In addition, we seek out the assessment and feedback of other community players, including police, school district officials, neighborhood pastors, and other agencies familiar with the area. The goal is to gain an insider’s knowledge of the neighborhood and a comprehensive view of the community’s status. Upon diligent consideration of this information, Mika can identify a target community.
Goal: Determining Partner Church
The second step in community building is Developing Partnerships. The goal of this step is to establish a working partnership with a church willing to make a long-term commitment of at least five years to the selected neighborhood.
Connecting: Getting Together
Goal: Identify Neighborhood Leaders
The goal of the third step, Connecting, is to identify leaders currently living and working within the neighborhood. During this stage, Mika staff gains an understanding of the routines, rhythms, culture and traditions of the neighborhood. The Staff also builds rapport and fosters trust with individuals and families within the neighborhood by listening to their life stories and family histories, by referring neighbors to resources within the community, and by inviting children and teens to participate in Mika’s existing programs. Mika also facilitates fun and inviting neighborhood activities which offer the neighbors the opportunity to get to know one another.
Organizing: Acting Together
Goal: Establish a team of neighbors committed to working together
The fourth step, Organizing, involves the formation of a Neighborhood Action Committee (NAC), consisting of residents from the target neighborhood. Once established, the NAC schedules regular neighborhood meetings to which friends and neighbors are invited. The initial meetings are intended to build trust in the NAC by organizing short-term activities that allow neighbors to get to know one another. As the neighbors come together, they begin to identify shared values and voice a shared vision of the future. Through group activities, home visits and dialogue with the neighbors, the NAC identifies opportunities for action that reflect these shared values and visions.
The long-term purpose of the NAC meetings is to design and implement larger projects of change that effectuate the values and vision of the neighborhood. Together the NAC identifies concerns within the neighborhood and begins to articulate strategies to address these concerns. The NAC then adopts a strategy and designs initiatives to carry out this strategy that are both sustainable and within the capacity of the neighborhood to implement. Ultimately, it is the NAC that identifies the outcomes and objectives for an initiative, formulates an implementation methodology, adopts an organizational structure, develops resources, and manages the project budget and schedule. These activities go hand in hand with the fifth stage, Capacity Building.
Capacity Building: Learning Together
Goal: To implement sustainable initiatives
Mika’s fifth step in community building is Capacity Building. The goal of this stage is to implement the sustainable initiatives identified and designed by the NAC. During this stage, the Neighborhood Advisor uses neighborhood activities and initiatives to intentionally develop the leadership capacity of the identified leaders. As these leaders implement neighborhood initiatives they hone their ability to identify, design, and evaluate projects, and to raise and manage the resources required by such projects. Through this process neighborhood leaders begin to step into the leadership roles previously occupied by the Neighborhood Advisor.
In addition, during this stage the neighbors articulate goals and formulate a strategic plan for the next three to five years. The friendships and trust built at previous stages is vital during this process, as the neighbors will need the confidence that comes from such trust in order to voice ideas and to step out in action. Also during this time, new members are welcomed into the NAC, and new neighbors are engaged in community projects. In this way, the connection between neighbors is continually strengthened, and the neighborhood vision is honed and deepened.
Linking: Impacting Together
Goal: to implement collaborative initiatives
The final stage of Mika’s community building framework is Linking. The objective of this stage is to link NACs to other organizations and NACs throughout Costa Mesa. This linking process allows neighborhood leaders to share ideas and to collaborate on solutions to issues of city-wide concern. Examples of current linking projects include the annual Christmas Store and a Healthy Marriage Initiative.