Today’s post is the second in a series by Ken Smith, Executive Director of Price Hill Will
Residents of other communities often ask me about how Price Hill Will was created and how we’ve managed to accomplish as much as we have in a relatively short period of time. I am always happy to share our story in the hope that it could be beneficial to others. If we are to succeed at the herculean task of improving neglected neighborhoods, we have to learn from the mistakes and successes of others. Of course, we are certainly more likely to send out press releases about the latter and hope no one notices the former.
At Price Hill Will, many elements played a role in our success to date. I will share the ones I think helped us the most.
First and foremost, I credit our success with the multi-year process that engaged thousands of residents and led to a comprehensive, asset-based, community-driven plan for Price Hill. Without that foundation of engagement, we would not have had the needed buy-in from residents, the city, or funders.
The original planning initiative had an amazing steering committee composed of key stakeholders, neighborhood leaders, and concerned residents. This committee brought their wide range of talents, experience and knowledge to the effort. They gave the work credibility, both inside and outside the community, and they were able to transcend (or at least hold at bay) much of the neighborhood politics which can quickly doom an idea. The importance of having key people involved in community efforts cannot be understated. When Price Hill Will incorporated as an independent organization we were lucky than many members of the steering committee agreed to continue their efforts as our first board of directors. Over the last 11 years we have been able to recruit dedicated leaders from our neighborhood when we’ve had a board vacancy.
Timing & Funding
Price Hill was chosen to be one of the three original neighborhoods to receive focused, place-based support from a Cincinnati funding initiative called Place Matters, which serendipitously coincided with our founding. The community already had a strong human services organization, Santa Maria Community Services, but Price Hill Will was in its infancy with minimal staff and no full-time executive director. In order to be selected as a lead agency for Place Matters, Price Hill Will had to agree to add capacity and expertise, which was exactly what the Place Matters funding allowed us to do! Price Hill Will was also extremely lucky to receive a significant grant from the city of Cincinnati to begin work on our single-family rehab program called Buy-Improve-Sell. Those two funding sources, along with support from SC Ministry Foundation, allowed us to get our feet underneath us. As a result of early and continued successes, we have been rewarded with continued and increased funding opportunities.
Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the staff at Price Hill Will. We began with just two contracted staff and a few AmeriCorps members. Today, we have nine full-time and four part-time employees working on housing, economic development, business support, real estate development, community gardening, neighborhood promotion, creative placemaking, and youth development. We have been very fortunate to attract talented folks who are committed to the mission of the organization. Eight of the 13 employees live in the neighborhood. Without these dedicated staff members, Price Hill Will could not achieve it mission.
Many communities are seeing similar problems with general disinvestment, crime, social ills and a deteriorating built-environment (public and private). This commonality presents a tremendous opportunity to learn from our peers and implement best practices. My fellow community development professionals have been more than willing to share their knowledge with me, and in return, I am happy to assist where I can. I believe the Cincinnati region could benefit from more interactions amongst the neighborhood leaders, both volunteer and professional. If you are interested in making your neighborhood (and ultimately the city) a better place, I encourage you to reach out to other people inside and outside your community. Have a beer, talk about what each of you is doing, find ways to collaborate, and most importantly, build relationships.