Structuring Community Involvement – Anti-poverty work in Durham

This entry was contributed by on March 11th, 2015 at 10:41 am and is filed under , , , , , .
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Durham Mayor Bill Bell announced an anti-poverty initiative in early 2014, and then focused some of it on Northeast Central neighborhoods (per the map above)

The section of North-East Central Durham (NECD) the mayor is targeting is home to about 3,466 people. It has a 61.4 percent poverty rate, with annual incomes there averaging $10,005 per person.  Mayor Bell suggested organizing community members and leaders into task forces to gather information about any shortcomings in education, health care, employment, housing and public safety in the target area. Bell wants all of Durham’s key governmental, education, business and nonprofit institutions to play a part.

Here are some ideas shared by me and some residents in the neighborhoods about how to organize the work to reduce poverty in the targeted area.

This strategy focuses on making sure recommendations address the current and projected needs of existing residents. While it is important to attract additional residents into the neighborhood to improve income base strength, the plan is sensitive to minimize resident displacement and target solutions needed to meet the needs of the current residents.

An underlying goal of this effort is to allow current residents the opportunity for input and to implement this strategy. Understanding this point it is therefore essential that the community outreach be done by someone who knows the area, who lives in the area and has an invested interest in making this process work for the current residents, the city, county and the larger NECD. It also outline a clear chain of responsibility, which allows for accountability and a structure that gives current residents a voice in the decision making process.



Steering Committee

Task Force Co-Chairs

Task Force Members

Community Outreach Coordinator


Steering Committee

  • County Commissioner Chairperson – Michael Page
  • Deputy City Manager
  • Deputy County Manager
  • 7 Community Members
  • 2 Latino
  • 2 Public Housing
  • 3 Other Residents
  • Mayor Bill Bell

Steering Committee Responsibilities

  1. Oversee the Poverty Reduction Initiative
  2. Ensure the process is open and transparent
  3. Secure funds (grants) and resources to address needs identified by Task Forces
  4. Approve all activities involved in the Poverty Reduction Initiative presented by the Task Forces
  5. Approve timelines, measurements, goals presented by the Task Forces
  6. Identify and select the Task Force Co-Chairs
  7. Present Overall Initiative Reports
  • Mayor to City Council
  • County Chair to County Commissioners
  • Outreach Coordinator to Community at large
  • Present Overall Initiative Reports

Convene bi-monthly meetings with Task Force Co-Chairs to:

  • Receive Task Force needs requests
  • Report back progress of past requests
  • Receive report from Community Outreach Coordinator


2 Elected officials/1 Community Member will act as co-chairs for each of the six Task Forces


Convene Task Force members

Secure meeting space for Task Force meetings

Facilitate Task Force meetings

Present timelines, measurements and goals to Steering Committee for approval

Present bi-monthly progress reports, barriers and needs to Steering Committee

Create timelines, measurements and goals

Identify needs and barriers and suggest resources and solutions to be communicated to the Steering Committee

Identify the needs of the Task Forces and help secure resources to address these needs

Processing information gathered from community outreach

Participate in community outreach activities


Outreach Coordinator


  1. Educating the community on the Poverty Reduction Initiative and the process
  2. Allow opportunities for community involvement in the Poverty Reduction Initiative (Task Force)
  3. Allow opportunities for feedback and input into the Poverty Reduction Initiative (informal)
  4. Implement assessments of the target area household by household
  5. Hold community meetings of the target area
  6. Hold community meetings of the Durham community
  7. Bi-monthly updates to residents of the target area


Outreach activities

  1. Flyer every residence in the census tract with Poverty Reduction Initiative information, September CIP potluck invitation and Town Hall Meeting (2 weeks)
  2. Door to Door outreach – target to reach 50 households (2 weeks)
  3. Planning and implementing Town Hall Meeting
  4. Town Hall Meeting (October 11, 2014)
  5. Door to Door outreach – target to reach 50 households (2 weeks)
  6. Flyer census tract promoting upcoming potlucks, events and meetings (2 weeks).
  7. Community Social Event (November)
  8. Flyer census tract, promoting upcoming potlucks, events and meetings (2 weeks).
  9. Planning and implementing Town Hall Meeting

2 Responses to “Structuring Community Involvement – Anti-poverty work in Durham”

  1. John Stephens

    Stephen – thanks for the clear outline of how to combine neighborhood leadership with elected leaders and other community leaders for guiding the Durham anti-poverty initiative.

    I’m wondering how you compare the outreach and structure for the anti-poverty initiative to what you wrote concerning the anti-crime work of the 1990s in some of the same neighborhoods. Your blog post is: Partners Against Crime: Hard work in Durham for true citizen ownership

    How did your experience with the early promise, and then disappointment, of the work on crime prevention compare to what you think is best for the anti-poverty focus on some neighborhoods in northeast central Durham?

    It seems the “task force” approach is similar to what you wrote about Partners Against Crime – the 6 task forces were Law Enforcement, Youth, Religion, Health, Housing and Education. Now the task forces are, according to the March 2014 news story, education, health care, employment, housing and public safety. Are these the right topics for the task forces in your view?

    A weakness you identified from the Partners Against Crime experience was a changing political landscape which lessened commitment to the engagement process. You also saw rising tensions between non-profit organizations and community leaders. What do you think needs to happen to avoid those problems with the current community involvement/ ownership on anti-poverty work affecting residents of northeast central Durham?

    Thanks, John

  2. stephens

    Stephen – thanks for your comment on the Partners Against Crime experience – I am placing it here as well so readers know your thinking. John.

    Stephen Hopkins says:
    March 17, 2015 at 11:21 am (Edit)

    You are right about changes at the elected level would help to get the PAC’s back to what was intended but that is also true if the PAC’s elected leaders that understood the orginal intent of the PAC process. The PAC’s were intended to be the voice of which the city & county could go to for concerns, needs and recommendations form the community. The PAC was suppose to promote shared leadership, the PAC was to be made up of Block Captains with 6 task forces to made recommendations and to address community needs with asisstance from city & county staff. Past leaders just gave in to what city staffers wanted even though it wasn’t what the neighborhoods needed.


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