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.
Florida Citrus Sports (FCS) was established to benefit children in Central Florida and it has utilized its sporting and entertainment events, which take place at the Citrus Bowl, to do just that. Large-scale sporting venues do not typically bring prosperity to the communities in which they reside, but FCS wants to break from the norm. When they decided that they wanted to use the redevelopment of the stadium to benefit the neighborhoods around the stadium, they asked Polis to help. Earlier in 2014, we helped reorient their long-standing summer camp so that nearly all of its campers were from the neighborhood immediately adjacent to the stadium-which was no small feat. We trained and employed people from the neighborhood to knock on every door and invite every child to the camp. The result: the camp went from less than 5% neighborhood kids in 2013 to over 95%, in the course of just one year. And that was just the beginning, as FCS and Polis continue to invest in long-term relationships with the families who live near the stadium.
Northland Church has been a leader in serving the community for many years. The leadership is now guiding its flock towards a new paradigm of service through a campaign they are calling “Serving to Empower.” We began coaching their leadership team and providing key trainings to facilitate the transition into the campaign, along with the metrics to evaluate its impact. To date, we have trained 130 parishioners in the Dignity Serves course and brought on 14 new, certified Dignity Serves facilitators.
Bags, Inc. is a fast growing hospitality services company based in Orlando. They are also a very generous company in terms of charitable gifts and even direct their staff to involve themselves in charitable work. In early 2014, when they realized that their largely entry-level workforce consisted of some of the same people who may be in need of social support, they sought Polis’ help to learn how they could better serve their employees.
We conducted random surveys and focus groups in order to provide the most helpful recommendations. The yielded results that showed the company had three issues they needed to address: 1) one related to basic human needs, which required immediate intervention; 2) one related to the stability of home life, healthcare, and transportation; and 3) one related to personal development such as employment status, education, and language proficiency. Over-all, our recommendations led to corporate actions to face these challenges head on.