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Great Lakes Urban

I met Eric Smith, the Executive Director of Great Lakes Urban Restoration Network at the 2023 Building Connected Communities conference. He is a tremendously kind and giving individual and his organization is a catalyst for building vibrant and connected communities. The work they are doing transforming communities from the inside out is inspiring and I want to share it here.

Great Lakes Urban is dedicated to fostering connections among people in communities and strengthening efforts to build strong, safe, and healthy neighborhoods. One of their notable initiatives, aligning with the Social Connection Circle's Neighborhood Connectors initiative, is called "Good Neighbor." This initiative brings together individuals seeking deeper connections and meaning right where they are. Being a Good Neighbor involves uniting people on balconies, in front yards, driveways, and porches to engage in conversation and collaborative planning for a better future. Good Neighbors prioritize knowing each other's names and stories, relying on one another, and recognizing abundance in their neighborhoods. They presents a variety of neighborhood connecting ideas on their website, envisioning every neighborhood as a friendly one with regular gatherings. While respecting boundaries and privacy, the organization encourages individuals to proactively reach out to neighbors, fostering social connections and seizing missed opportunities for community interaction.

At the core of their approach is asset-based community development (ABCD), which taps into the strengths of neighborhood residents. ABCD leverages the power of local associations and receives support from institutions like city governments, churches, and nonprofit organizations. The principles and practices of ABCD have been field-tested, refined, and successfully adopted by communities across North America and globally over the past 35 years.

The organization's primary focus is on developing the strategy and providing structure and support for this ABCD movement to ensure widespread adoption. Successful implementation of ABCD in neighborhoods and cities can result in increased pride and ownership among residents, improved relationships with city governments, and greater participation in community-strengthening activities. Positive outcomes include reduced crime rates, enhanced academic achievement among youth, increased feelings of possibility and hope, and various other improvements in quality of life.


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