NCR has been planning for the reset of neighborhood programming, funding and governance for three years. This next iteration of programmatic goals, community engagement and funding guidelines reaches into the core of neighborhood organizations' work and their relationship with the City. The new programming focuses on addressing racial equity. NCR used multiple engagement methods to ensure all stakeholders were able to participate.
Starting in 2017, NCR held preliminary conversations with folks about how they envisioned the next iteration of neighborhood funding. These conversations included:
- Five NCR-led, citywide ‘Art of Hosting’ events, attended by over 700 people
- Two culturally specific events, attended by over 150 people
- A highly publicized online survey from June to July 2017, with 842 comments received
In 2018, the City Council directed NCR to develop work groups to refine the framework going forward.
The Neighborhood and Community Engagement Commission (NCEC) adopted three important focus areas for the work: (1) guidelines, funding and implementation; (2) advisory governance structure; and (3) a citywide community engagement policy. The work groups used a racial equity lens throughout the process.
Members of the City Council, NCEC, NRP Policy Board and NCR selected 48 representatives to join the work groups following an open application process. Work group members were selected for their expertise in:
- Neighborhood organizations
- Cultural communities
- Undoing racism and promoting equity
Each work group also had representatives from City Council, NCEC and the NRP Policy Board.
Each work group received equity and inclusion training during their first week. Work groups met 28 times from August-December of 2018. Volunteers donated over 1,020 hours of their time to create the Neighborhoods 2020 framework recommendations. Continuous community outreach during this process included:
- Frequent email updates on progress
- Agenda, notes, meeting locations and draft documents made available online and updated weekly
- 16 community office hours meetings with project lead
- NCR staff presentations and question-and-answer sessions at 88 neighborhood board and community meetings
Towards the end of 2018, NCR shared final work group recommendations with community members through six meetings in culturally specific locations, three of which were held in a language other than English (Spanish, Somali and Hmong), with 314 participants. Work groups used comments from these meetings to adjust their final recommendations.
NCR presented to City leadership and requested feedback and suggestions, with representatives preset from the City Attorney's Office, Internal Auditor, Finance, the Division of Race and Equity, the Innovation Team, the City Coordinator’s Office and City Council members.
On February 2, 2019, the Community Connections Conference provided a dedicated space for Neighborhoods 2020 feedback and public comment.
In early May 2019, the Neighborhoods 2020 program guidelines were presented to City Council. The City Council directed NCR to contract with a third party to further refine the guidelines based on public feedback. The City of Minneapolis contracted with CURA to comply with the City Council’s directive.
As a result, CURA’s work produced:
- A racial equity evaluation of previous neighborhood funding and work
- Refined Neighborhoods 2020 program guidelines
- Eight citywide public meetings
- Four BIPOC-specific community meetings
On Feb. 28, the program guidelines were released for public comment. The official public comment period was extended multiple times to September 30, 2020 due to the COVID-19 outbreak and civil unrest.
- Staff held weekly meetings with neighborhoods from March 15, 2020 through present
- One large public informational session was completed on April 2.
Lessons learned throughout the engagement process
Intentionally creating avenues for all voices to feel comfortable and heard is important
NCR worked to bring in as many voices and opinions into the engagement process as possible. At times, this required considering engagement methods that may make some others uncomfortable. For example, hosting spaces to hear from specific communities conflicts with the desire to invite all. NCR received feedback and inquiries about hosting meetings in places and languages that centered BIPOC, non-English speaking residents.
There was an inequity in how much background information people had prior to being engaged. This posed a challenge when recruiting community members to participate and affected how meetings were facilitated.
For residents that were already engaged or paid by neighborhood organizations, information was inherently more understandable, readily available and of interest. Whereas, residents that were not already engaged or paid by neighborhood organizations did not bring as much background information or knowledge to the meetings. This was not a barrier, but it did require intentional facilitation and communication with all residents.
Having all voices heard, equally or equitably, remains a challenge
After residents are engaged, input is brought to the City and leadership is asked to respond. Some residents are more readily interested or able to write letters, call elected officials or advocate to have their voices heard. NCR worked to make sure that residents who are not interested in submitting letters, participating in written feedback methods, or don't have access to their elected officials still got opportunities to have their voices heard. NCR continues to work to ensure that these voices are valued equally – or even equitably in this type of work.
Addressing inequity and racism requires systemic change
Addressing systemic racism or inequity requires systemic responses. These conversations must move from individual work, individual intentions to communal work, communal impacts. Neighborhoods 2020 explored how to address systemic inequities, but there remains a lot of work to do and learnings to apply from these types of programs and engagement processes.
It proved difficult to disentangle programmatic goals from funding goals
It is difficult to talk about programmatic goals without focusing on what resources are available to achieve those goals. Given the context this engagement process took place in, current neighborhood funding was ending and future funding was going to be determined, it was difficult to discuss programmatic goals without also discussing funding.