My street neighboring project: what to name it, how to fund it, and how to measure it?

Joel Zaslofsky
Joel Zaslofsky
one week ago
5 posts

I’ve been dreaming of starting my own ABCD style local project for years. And come April, it’s happening – weather, COVID-19, and any other constraint be damned. Happy

I have some important and hopefully quick questions for you about what to name certain things for the project. You don’t have to answer all three core questions as any one is better than nothing.

I constantly struggle with naming, funding, and measuring the things I create and your brain is what I need right now. 

The Context

My project is inspired by many street neighboring initiatives around the world, but none more than Abundant Community Edmonton. Their mission statement goes like this:

Abundant Community Edmonton is a grassroots initiative fostering neighbour to neighbour relationships. The goal — to cultivate a culture of care and connection, increase the sense of belonging and inclusion, and ultimately create a more healthy and livable city — one block at a time.

Making the word "neighbor" mean much more than just the people who live immediately by you is also central to my mission. I’ve also seen first-hand how street level connection is inherently good for us all (e.g., health, safety, economy, environment, food, raising children or looking after our elders, and community-based care).

The Core Questions

OK. Now for my most important questions at the moment.

What to Call the Initiative

The word “street” resonates more than “block” where I live. So I want “street” to be part of the initiative’s name. For my suburban context, which of these initiative names are the most intuitive for you, and why?

  • Street Neighbors
  • Street Neighboring
  • Hit the Streets
  • In the Streets
  • See You in the Street
  • The Streets Are Ours

Feel free to propose your own name in your reply.

Financial/Incentives: How to Pay People for Their Role(s)

The good news is that, in true ABCD style, I have everything I need to get started in April. I don’t need a single penny from anyone to find a Street Connector on each street around me and begin a ripple effect.

However, I can see the benefits of having the project financially sustain itself so the operational costs aren’t always coming out of my pocket.

How might I fund the fixed costs of this grassroots project?

For example, the online infrastructure like the website and email marketing service or the physical supplies like Street Connector cards I give to people when I speak with them in-person about the project.

Abundant Community Edmonton is primarily funded by the municipal government, but other similar initiatives are primarily funded with grants.

Philosophically, some kind of crowd-funding is the most appealing to me. But I’m open to combining fundraising methods because this seems to be a case of both/and instead of either/or.

Measuring the Outcomes

My definition of evaluation is this: a systematic assessment of merit, worth, or value for the purposes of learning, decision-making, and accountability. It’s data + stories.

Data is the information that helps us learn what has happened in a community, collected and organized in ways that others outside the community can understand and learn from. The data tells us if a given story we gather is representative or exceptional. – Definition modified from Ron Dwyer-Voss

I was thinking that evaluation of all kinds in this project would be done according to the guidelines of The Four Essential Elements of an Asset-Based Community Development Process by John McKnight and Cormac Russell. An excerpt is included below:

"Evaluating an ABCD process requires a move away from traditional top down summative and formative evaluation processes that are features of traditional ways of evaluating community initiatives. Instead an ABCD approach moves towards a developmental and emancipatory learning process.

Relationships are the primary currency of community work, not data or money. Hence the preferred learning process is one that values what goes on between people, not what goes on within them as disaggregated individuals."

What kind of approach would you take to measuring outcomes for this project?

My primary metric is increased social trust, but that’s typically tricky to evaluate.

updated by @joel-zaslofsky: 01/14/22 02:27:05PM