| February 10, 2012 - The City of Knoxville today announced several new initiatives in support of Knoxville's neighborhoods.
First, the Office of Neighborhoods this spring will launch "Building Strong Neighborhood Organizations" - a program of workshops and seminars on how to start and operate a successful and effective resident-led community organization. The program will be aimed at everyone participating in a resident-led neighborhood group, not just leaders, and will include peer-to-peer training, so that neighborhood activists can share their success stories and learning experiences.
Second, the city will hold a neighborhood conference on Saturday, Oct. 27, bringing together neighborhood leaders, local government officials and other citizens working toward the health, safety and quality of life of Knoxville's residential neighborhoods.
Finally, the Office of Neighborhoods will provide free copying services to neighborhood organizations for the newsletters and flyers they distribute door-to-door or by mail within their defined boundaries.
The city is soliciting ideas for both the training program and the fall conference. It is also reaching out to individuals who want to form a resident-led group in their neighborhoods. To learn more, contact the Office of Neighborhoods at firstname.lastname@example.org or 215-3456.
In announcing the new programs, the city also said that it will suspend its funding of East Tennessee Foundation's Neighborhood Small Grants Program (NSGP). Most of the $30,000 the city had budgeted for NSGP in the 2012 program year will be used instead for the new programs and other activities in support of neighborhoods. It is anticipated that funding for neighborhood grants will be made available again starting in 2013.
"While this is a temporary shift in funding, it is not a shift in priority or purpose," noted David Massey, who heads the city's Office of Neighborhoods. "East Tennessee Foundation created the small grants program to strengthen social capital (relationships within neighborhoods) and build the capacity of neighborhood groups to serve their neighborhoods. This is also the aim of the neighborhood training program, the neighborhood conference and the copying service."
In recent years, NSGP has achieved the goal of enhancing social capital, but ETF and the Office of Neighborhoods are less confident that the funded projects are increasing organizational capacity. "For now," Massey stated, "we believe we can encourage positive change in more neighborhoods and reach more people by focusing on training and leadership development."
The City has budgeted $30,000 annually for East Tennessee Foundation's Neighborhood Small Grants Program over the last three years (2009-2011). Over this period, working closely with the city's Office of Neighborhoods, ETF awarded 52 grants ranging from $500 to $3,000 to support projects in 29 neighborhoods, for a total of $89,790. ETF currently is halfway through monitoring funded projects for the 2011 project year, which ends May 31.