The initial POLIS research, conducted between 2006 and 2009, highlighted the first social problem that we designed a solution for – concentrated poverty. Key to our model is a galvanized group of high capacity leaders willing to make a long-term investment with a particular neighborhood. Such a group is rare but in 2013, Lift Orlando formed with a focus to do just that within a 3/4 square mile area just west of downtown Orlando. Polis has provided strategic consultation, baseline demographics, and a comprehensive asset map of that very same neighborhood since before Lift was created. So, the two companies teamed up to organize the local community to build initiatives that have significant community involvement with real community leadership. Since July, roughly 80 residents have been regularly involved developing five different initiatives: engaging the youth, improving a community park, enhancing access to technology, increasing economic development, and improving housing conditions.
To gain more information to support those initiatives, Polis conducted the largest privately-funded community survey ever done in Central Florida. We went door-to-door and surveyed 1,500 adults at five community events.
In the meantime, we worked with Orange Center Elementary and with the Jackson Center to involve children, who painted over 70 inspired pieces of artwork to add to the festivities. Both the survey and the art project were done to discover the interests, hopes, and concerns of the residents of this downtown historic neighborhood – with the hope of also finding leaders willing to guide the way to a brighter future. Since those events, eight people from the community have been trained and hired to do the bulk of the work. Their efforts were complemented by over 80 volunteers and supported by two Polis staff members. Over the course of eight months, nearly 30,000 hours were spent on the project. The result: in addition to the invaluable conversations and relationships that formed, over 200 people stepped up to get involved from the neighborhood and 12 ideas were revealed as areas of greatest importance. These ideas are coming together to positively impact housing, education, income, and wellness.