Collaboration with neighborhood leaders is an instrumental component to the success of engagement initiatives for local government. The partnership, sharing of ideas and exchange of knowledge can lead to lasting benefits for the community. The City of Charlotte’s Neighborhood & Business Services (N&BS) department has spent over a decade building programs to help communities thrive through engagement, trainings, board retreats and awards.
The Neighborhood Leadership Awards only recognizes superior work in Charlotte communities, particularly those communities that receive assistance through the City’s Neighborhood Matching Grant program for projects such as community gardens, neighborhood watches or playgrounds.
However, the program is part of comprehensive approach to impact neighborhoods several other components such a semiannual board retreats for communities. This event allows neighborhood leaders to create strategic plan and actions steps to improve the quality of life for their neighborhoods. The department also as a speaker program in which they connect neighborhood leaders with subject matter experts from the city to speak at a community meeting. This bridge of engagement has allowed communities to have a better relationship with elected officials, government staff and agencies that support a variety of neighborhood efforts. In turn, the city is able to better understand the needs of communities and collectively identify ways to improve the quality of life in Charlotte.
“It is important to establish great and honest relationships with the communities we serve,” said N&BS Strategic Support Manager Keith Richardson. “It is our goal to be a progressive organization that is always adapting to meet the changing needs of our residents. Issues like community safety and land use will always be mainstay priorities for the average neighborhood leader. However, today you can add in a concept like digital connectivity into the mix, which is something some of us couldn’t have imagined 10 to 15 years ago. We hope to stay abreast of such emerging issues.”
This year, N&BS transformed their existing awards program into the Neighborhood Exchange & Leadership Awards (NEXLA). The change reflects an emphasis on expanded training as well as the importance of exchange information and perspective between City officials and stakeholders, but most importantly among neighborhood stakeholders, who care share information and realize their common goals for their communities.
Last year’s program featured 43 nominations with six award categories including embracing diversity, sustainability leadership and people’s choice. With the addition of awards to recognize nonprofits and businesses for their community service work, they hope to expand the number of nominations this year.
Recognizing communities for their leadership and efforts in moving Charlotte forward promotes connection that residents have with each other and the city. It also encourages the community to invest in their neighborhoods at a higher level. As the city continues to grow, residents must feel like they are a part of the evolution and part of the process.
“The largest benefit for those attending this event is it allows them to encounter new ideas and a better understanding of other Charlotteans who may live across the street and across town from them through these networking, training and recognition opportunities,” said Richardson.
This year’s NEXLA event will take place on October 1. The event will feature keynote speaker, Peter Kageyama; two rounds of concurrent panels and the awards luncheon. For more information, visit: charlottenc.gov/nex
So, how does your city highlight neighborhood achievement and engagement?