Civic Stewardship: A community-led strategy for citywide wellbeing
Over the last 50 years, we have made little or no progress on many civic outcomes: Rates of poverty, drop-outs, disease, homelessness, and crime are about what they were in 1970; and this is particularly salient in distressed urban neighborhoods. An underlying cause is the persistent misalignment between institutional policies and programs on the one hand, and community needs, aspirations, and practices on the other. The Civic Stewardship Initiative enables communities to join with institutions as equal partners to co-create and implement systemic solutions.
CSI’s core strategy is to form teams of resident leaders, paid for their time and trained as professionals, who activate neighborhood stewardship in several ways:
1.Coach neighbors to use available resources and programs more effectively.
2.Coalesce groups of neighbors for both mutual support and collective action.
3.Cultivate a broader sense of community care and belonging.
CSI enables neighborhood groups to apply stewardship capabilities that are as essential for sustained community change as they are for organization success, including: leadership development, rigorous measures, communication technologies, knowledge management, and performance-based funding. An accessible platform of stewardship capabilities supports communities and institutions that collaborate on local efforts as well as broader system changes.
We are now working in a Boston neighborhood that provides an action-learning lab for developing the approach and seeding new initiatives citywide. Given its potential impact on civic wellbeing, and the growing influence of cities worldwide, the time is ripe for transformative civic stewardship.