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PLACE-BASED APPROACH

Over the last few decades, the fast-moving urbanism in America has dramatically shaped new dynamics in community well-being across the country. A few factors that illustrate this are longer hours at work, non-family-friendly environments, domination of the media, and behavioral changes. These things greatly, negatively affect the population, particularly families.

The government and other organizations integrate different services to help people deal with this change but neglect the significance of strong communities that promote the well-being of individuals and families. At the same time, local services often struggle to support vulnerable families and meet their needs because doing so is not an easy task to take on. Many families fail to use services offered to them because they don’t know they exist or they are unwilling to access them. There is a need to make the people engaged in the community more, to contribute to their advancement, but it’s not at all easy. That’s where place-based approach comes in because it integrates services to build strong communities.

Place-based approach targets the whole community and addresses the different complex issues at a neighborhood level and the needs families have in the community. This approach aims to destroy the challenges people face that may stop the community and its population to thrive to its full potential. One of the main focuses of a place-based approach is to build stronger communities through stronger support for vulnerable families, including parents and children. It seeks to create service systems to engage such families, addressing the root cause of their issues in order to help meet their needs and the needs of their community—with a goal of lasting change. Whoever is utilizing place-based approach to help a community should make sure that whatever systems they set up are not just good systems, but those that can meet the tangible needs of the community members. Then, it’s up to the community members to engage for the betterment not only of their family, but the whole neighborhood.

Even within fast-changing environments, each community is filled with people with gifts and talents, who can change the course of their life and the world around them. Through a place-based approach, they are able to know their worth and have the self-dignity to be pioneers of change and transform their community to be healthy and strong.

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SOUTHWESTERN SOCIAL SCIENCE ASSOCIATION ANNUAL MEETING

In late 2018, Southwestern Social Science Association (SSSA) held their annual meeting in Orlando, with Polis Institute community development experts and University of Central Florida (UCF) interdisciplinary public affairs doctoral students among the panelists.

The meeting—run by SSSA, a social science association dedicated to promote knowledge and understanding of today’s world—gathers professional scholars, graduates, and undergraduates from all over the world to share intellect and encourage collaboration while building strong relationships among themselves.

The staff from Polis Institute and doctoral students from UCF partnered together to submit to the SSSA committee a community-based participatory research (CBPR) for Polis’ West Lakes MVP Families program—an effort to promote building strong families and stronger communities by walking alongside community members to empower them and help them develop as leaders..

SSSA committee refers to this academic partnership between both parties as  “An example of a Collaborative Community-University Partnership for Social Change.” The research was mainly focused on the impact of strong families in a community. It specifically aimed to bring out the perspectives of people in the community about the key factors of strong communities and the impact of having a program such as West Lakes MVP Families in the lives of their children, their own lives, and the community.

This project allowed Polis Institute and the doctoral students to work together to grow their knowledge and understanding of the local community, and build meaningful relationships. This CBPR could be replicated for other community-based organizations that have an interest in this type of partnership.

Polis Institute is a community-based organization that designs solutions to social problems in underappreciated neighborhoods.

The MVP program was established on the concept of the two-generation approach (2Gen) initiated by Aspen Institute. 2Gen consists of centralizing efforts in creating opportunities and addressing the needs of both the children and the parents in the family.

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Save the Date

Join us for PI Day 2019

Mark your calendars now for Thursday, March 14th at 6pm when we’ll be celebrating our annual fundraiser, PI Day! We’ll be sharing insights from the year as well as our 2018 annual report. Join us for a time of pie, refreshments, and networking with fellow change-makers in the Metro Orlando community!

Click below for more info and to RSVP

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DIVERSE WORD

In this broken world, taking the time to learn about each other is pivotal for our health, both as individuals and a society. Hearing one another’s stories and growing in understanding of them allows us to connect with them and the world around us better. Sharing, too, is an act of bravery, an art people take for granted.

That is why Shawn Welcome decided to found a gathering open mic event called “Diverse Word” in 2006. Diverse Word is an open mic night in Orlando that is conducive and welcoming to all forms of spoken word such as poetry, songs, comedy, rap. It typically meets Tuesday night at Dandelion Cafe, but now meets in various locations throughout the city.

Welcome, a well-known spoken word poet from Brooklyn who now lives in Orlando, started Diverse Word after he experienced the homogeneity of the open mic scene in Orlando. He wanted to bring people from different backgrounds together to share their love for poetry and connect with the community. This is one of the reasons Polis hired Welcome, hoping to make Diverse Word a core component of their organization. They knew what a significant role it could play in fulfilling Polis’s vision for a peaceful and prosperous world, by gathering locals in a safe space where they can express themselves in creative ways, while respecting what others have to say.

Diverse Word and Polis hold that every person is valuable, as is what they have to offer to the community. They believe every human has dignity, no matter who they are or where they are from and that everyone has the right to make their voices heard, in the hopes of bringing hope and change in the community.

Unfortunately, in today’s society, people often qualify vulnerability as weakness, not recognizing the importance of transparency about pain, feelings, and emotions. Suppressing that emotional expression can bring anxiety, depression, lack of self-esteem or self-dignity, a general decrease in positive emotions, and a lack of satisfaction and connectedness to the world around us. This is what Diverse Word is attacking.

Diverse Word identifies every human as relational beings, people who need to feel connected to other people. That is one reason this open mic is so great — sharing struggles and pain that allow a deep connection with who they are, while encouraging relating  to others as well. This helps in dealing with one’s own feelings and emotions and being comfortable in one’s own skin, instead of destroying themselves inside because of their fear of judgment from people. It brings a sense of healing within us and a motivation to take initiative to bring change in one’s life that will then help us flourishing in other areas of life. One woman, for instance, got out of depression from being able to share her journey through her platform at Diverse Word.

Over the years, Diverse Word has grown and greatly influenced the lives of the people in the community. The open mic event has fostered increasing creative expression in the community, one where people have begun to thinking of themselves as members of the society through their art. The space provided by Diverse Word has helped people  develop higher self-esteem because they’ve been given a platform for their voices to be heard—articulating their feelings and thoughts, which has generated discussions and conversations about different topics such as social and cultural issues in the community. This has encouraged them to be more engaged in the community.

Through the years, people’s stories showed that creative expression increases the maturity in dealing with emotions in a healthy way. Diverse Word has created a place where people are cared for as they go on a journey to understand themselves and their community through their art and how the courage of expressing themselves can be a great first step in bringing change to the community.

Polis and Welcome hope Diverse Word continues to create a space for all to understand their human nature and experiences and share it in both secular and faith environments. They hope it remains a safe place for people to share their pain and struggles through creativity, which is an effective way to minister to people.

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For those interested, Diverse Word’s first quarterly competition of the year, called Diverse Word Winter Slam 2019, will be held this Tuesday, January 29th, 2019. Click Here to view event.

If you are interested in learning more about Diverse Word you can contact Shawn directly:

Email: shawn@polisinstitute.org
Cell: 407-683-6329

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Day for Kids

Through our “West Lakes MVP Families” program, children in the neighborhood were afforded the opportunity to hang out at “Fun Spot” with Penn State and University of Kentucky college football players! The “Day for Kids” event was just days before the teams faced off at the Citrus Bowl! It was a memorable experience for both the players and families living near Camping World Stadium! Check out this link for the full scoop!

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Congratulations to the Town of Eatonville!

The Town of Eatonville was recognized as the ‘most improved’ area in Central Florida between 2016 and 2017 by POLIS in our annual report which was released on March 14, 2018. POLIS has been publishing such data since 2008 as part of an ongoing initiative to monitor and improve conditions at the neighborhood level across the region.

To that end, POLIS created a “Neighborhood Stress Index” that combines Safety, Housing, Education, and Income variables into a single number that allows for comparisons between neighborhoods and identification of hot spots where investments are needed. Many of these hot spots are well known clusters of neighborhoods like the Town of Eatonville in which efforts are underway to not only improve conditions but to also improve perceptions since these areas tend to have a great deal of underappreciated talent, assets, and potential.

Between 2016 and 2017, Eatonville rose 31 ranks on the list to 142 (out of 609 neighborhoods) and out of the ‘distressed’ category altogether. Leaders at Town Hall deserve much credit for this dramatic improvement as they have updated their governance policies, enhanced civic engagement and communication, and built strategic partnerships. Over the past two years, the Town partnered with POLIS and Winter Park Health Foundation to offer Leadership Eatonville to equip residents to become more civically engaged by guiding initiatives to strengthen this historic town. There are currently 31 graduates of the program.

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Join Us For Giving Tuesday 2017

 

is an annual, international day of giving that takes place this year on November 28, 2017.


We believe in the value of Collective Impact. Our experience alone is worth very little. It is only when we partner with others, learn from them, and share this experience that it becomes valuable. One of the ways we are doing this is through our partnerships with key community leaders and investors in 32805.

The MVP Families program was developed alongside families in 32805 in an effort to engage the parents of students at Title 1 schools and help close the disproportionate achievement gap that exists in education. Families like Richandra and her son James (pictured left), who have been participating in the program since Fall 2016.

The cost for one MVP Family to participate in all aspects of the program – including tutoring, family coaching, monthly and bi-monthly meetings, childcare support, and quarterly Family Fun events – for one year is $2,500. Your support helps families achieve their own goals and the overall goals of the MVP Families program: increased family stability, academic success, high quality developmental relationships and improved health and wellness.


Share our Story

Tell people why you believe in our work. Share this link on your blog and social media networks or just bring us up in conversation. You know your community best, so use your own words to tell them why the work that we do matters to you.

Check out our list of materials to read or share –
Our founding research brief: “Seeking the Welfare of the City”
Review: The Polis Institute 2016 Annual Report
Read: Helping Residents Pursue Their Own Goals

Support our Work

Learn more about our programs and decide which one resonates with you, or simply opt to give where funds are most needed by giving to our “General” fund.

Get Involved

We have various needs depending on each of our programs. Here are some ways to get involved in our work overall:
• Attend an Event
• 
Become a Corporate Partner
• 
Make an In-Kind Donation
Join the Metro Orlando Cooperative
• 
Participate in a Training

Have another idea? Get in touch and let us know what time, energy, or skill sets you’re able to contribute.

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Register for Leadership Eatonville

Leadership Eatonville is a six-session workshop series for town residents that will enhance community leadership and entrepreneurial skills. Each participant will select a specific community initiative – existing or new – to work on using the principles and practical tips learned in the sessions. Workshop series is free for Eatonville residents. Non-residents may apply and will be included as space allows.

The workshop series will be held every other Thursday evening between August 10th and October 19th from 6:30pm to 9:00pm in the Denton Johnson Community Center. Graduates of the program will be eligible for additional one-on-one coaching sessions in the winter that will help them attract investment in the initiative that they are working on.

The class schedule is as follows:
Thursday, August 10
Thursday, August 24
Thursday, September 7
Thursday, September 21
Thursday, October 5
Thursday, October 19

The course is facilitated by the Polis Institute on behalf of the Healthy Eatonville Team. POLIS is an Orlando-based non-profit that facilitates positive community impact through research, training, and community engagement. Founded in 2009, POLIS has helped dozens of communities leverage their interests and skills to improve quality of life in ways that are most meaningful and beneficial to them. POLIS champions the inherent dignity and value of all people.

Please register here before attending the class.

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Introducing “Thirkield University”

In the fall of 2014, youth of the historic South Atlanta neighborhood began to articulate a vision and a plan to help kids from the neighborhood prepare for and succeed in college. The youth were guided in this effort by Malcolm Cox El, whose personal experiences and commitment to the cause fueled the initiative. Malcolm talks about TU in the video below. And he is more than one of the key founders of this effort. Malcolm is well on his way to becoming the first success story of TU as he enters the latter stages of his time in college at Georgia State University. His success is inspiring the 20 other youth who are currently involved in the program.

The program includes vital peer-to-peer support and helpful connections to supportive leadership and resources. While this is not a formal university, the youth believed that including the ‘university’ moniker would keep everyone focused on the goal – graduate from college with a vision for your life and your head held high. They named it for one of the streets in South Atlanta where the kids hang out – a street that happens to be named in honor of Wilbur Thirkield, an early twentieth century Methodist bishop and educator who championed the cause of education for African Americans.

Dan Crain has played an influential role in the process by encouraging Malcolm and other youth in the neighborhood to engage their talents over the past several years. He and Malcolm have co-facilitated Dignity Serves classes and have worked on numerous small projects together. The strength of their relationship and the things they are accomplishing are testaments to how much more we can do together than we can do alone.

Malcolm was afforded the opportunity to come on staff with POLIS part-time to build this initiative through a grant from Wesley Community Centers. He and Dan both joined Atlanta-based Church on the Street at the start of 2016 in order to mature this work and other efforts in Lakewood/South Atlanta.

Donate today to this important work.

 

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Orlando – least economically segregated large metro

Orlando is the least economically segregated large metro area in the United States according to a recent report update from sociologist Richard Florida.  This is good news for Orlando. Economic segregation, especially for the poor, has proven to be a significant social problem. Absent the social networks that open doors to the best of careers, the quality education that helps one obtain and succeed in those careers, and the role models that demonstrate the breadth of what is possible, the most talented and ambitious among us struggle to succeed.

And it’s not just about money. It’s the “deleterious social effects that accompany spatial concentration of poverty” – the stigmatization, the alienation, and the moral cynicism (Florida, Wilson, Sampson). These, and other factors, serve as psychological and sociological reinforcements that must be contended with to develop an abiding sense of one’s intrinsic self-worth even if one’s economic worth remains relatively low.

The level to which U.S. neighborhoods are economically segregated has more than doubled in the past forty years. The wealthy and the poor are becoming less and less likely to interact with one another and, as Richard Florida puts it, “effectively occupy different worlds.”

And since we tend to distrust that which we do not understand and tend to not understand that with which we do not interact, our economic segregation poses significant problems in building dignified relationships across socio-economic lines; the types of relationships that enrich perspective and facilitate opportunity.

From 1978 to 2012, in roughly the same time frame as the doubling of economic segregation, average CEO pay has risen 875 percent while the typical worker’s pay has risen 5 percent. These two facts are not completely disconnected. CEO pay is approved by board members who, most likely, are relatively high wage earners themselves. If these board members live in enclaves starkly separated from low wage earners, it’s not difficult to imagine the ease with which they might approve such disproportionate levels of CEO pay.

Said another way, when you do not know anyone personally who works a low-wage job, it’s easier to forget about them and to make decisions that adversely affect them without necessarily harboring any ill will towards them.

Currently, however, Orlando is less economically segregated than any other large metro. The main reason for this fact is the fundamental nature of the area’s economy – tourism and hospitality. Working and service class economies “militate against economic segregation” while knowledge-based economies tend to be the most economically segregated (R. Florida). Said another way, high-tech, creative class workers with college degrees seem to leverage their options to separate themselves from the poor.

Attracting these workers, and the industries that employ them, is a priority for many leaders in Central Florida who see diversifying the economy as one of the best ways to strengthen the region. There is wisdom in this goal. Orlando’s service sector economy has proven to be very vulnerable to national and even international economic downturns.

But if Orlando succeeds in diversifying the economy by becoming more high-tech, it will likely become much more economically segregated. Either way, Orlando’s population will almost certainly continue to grow and larger urban areas tend to be more economically segregated.

While Orlando is the least economically segregated large metro (more than one million people), it is still ranked 203 out of the 350 metros that were analyzed in the study. Orlando is economically segregated, just less so than other large areas. Add the inevitable population increase and a successful move to a more knowledge-based economy, and Orlando will drop further down the list unless steps are taken to prevent it.

So what steps could Orlando take to improve its economic diversity?

  1. Focus on neighborhoods – If our distressed neighborhoods become more desirable places to live, those with a wider range of choices will choose to move in or to not move out of these communities. According to Richard Florida’s study, it is the migration of the wealthy to exclusive enclaves that most propels economic segregation. Polis Institute identified 100 distressed neighborhoods in 2009 and outlined a best-practice driven plan to remediate this distress over a generation (distress was calculated as an index of income, housing, education, family structure, and crime rate variables). Five years into the process, tangible progress is being made in over 20 of these neighborhoods. Continuing to utilize asset-based strategies with the residents of small geographic areas is still the best option to strengthen these areas.

 

  1. Choose diversity – Nothing fuels economic segregation more than personal choice. If people don’t personally see the value of living in and interacting with economically diverse communities, they will not choose to do so. So value-espousing institutions such as churches have a responsibility to communicate the value of diversity. This may require a learning curve or even a wholesale paradigm shift for the leaders of such institutions. The book Place not Race makes a strong case that diverse classrooms are far more adept at raising educational achievement levels than merely providing additional resources. Living life with people of different backgrounds and social status proves over and over to be of benefit to everyone involved. But such diversity doesn’t always come easy. It has to be worked for and in order for people to work for it, they have to value it. In order to value it, they have to understand it.

Orlando is changing. The four counties that make up the metro area (Orange, Seminole, Osceola, and Lake) have seen a net population increase of 88 people per day, every day, for over 40 years and counting (U.S. Census, ESRI). As more people call this area home, as leaders work to attract more knowledge-based businesses, as world-class venues get upgraded and built, Orlando is becoming a big city.

Orlando’s emergence on the big city scene affords it a tremendous opportunity – to show the country how a big city can still enjoy economic diversity and afford its citizens, all of its citizens, genuine opportunity to rise with the tide. By improving quality of life in distressed neighborhoods and by embracing diversity at the personal level, Orlando could accomplish what no other major city in the U.S. has been able to accomplish – retaining richly diverse communities that grow and thrive together.