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Labeling Neighborhoods

Labeling has a great influence on perceptions, choices, behaviors, and even beliefs. Some communities are viewed only as places of significant poverty and high rates of violence. These negative preconceptions can have a psychological impact on both the residents and those outside the community. This can lead one to believe in a world that is simply broken or one in which heroes are needed to fix communities.

We should identify communities with nuance and empathy rather than use pejorative labels like crime-infested, impoverished, and blighted. Labels can be self-fulfilling prophecies. If someone is told that they are aggressive, they are more likely to behave in such a manner. Alternatively, if someone is told that they are kind, this is likely to influence their behavior in a positive way. A community should not be labelled as anything less than they are.

Society as a whole is stronger when we acknowledge the abilities and potential of our communities and is weakened when we become singularly focused on deficiencies. This is not to minimize the existing challenges but to posit those challenges in ways that point to our shared responsibility to address them. A concentration of low incomes in a particular community are not simply a result of low initiative or skill. There are social conditions that significantly influence these outcomes as well – educational options, infrastructure (sidewalks, lighting, parks), and access to healthcare to name a few.

So how do we best describe a community with a higher than average number of low income families? The adjective ‘underappreciated’ says it best. POLIS sees people, all people, as assets with inherent dignity. Under-appreciating assets is a failed opportunity. Non-profits regularly develop programs without asking those experiencing the issue first-hand what they might do to address the issue and their approaches and outcomes are made less effective because of this oversight.

Residents are the main assets in a community because they have the greatest vantage point for their community’s needs. Communities who may have not benefited from equitable financial investment tend to be rich in other forms of capital. For instance, a community known for having higher amounts of low income housing tend to have residents with stronger relationships among neighbors. Negative labeling would dismiss this very important thread in the fabric of a community.

By acknowledging the dignity of each individual in a community, regardless of the labels, the true beauty and assets of what everyone brings to the table becomes evident which positively influences the way we address any challenges.

Other descriptors that point to shared responsibility are ‘underserved’ and ‘underresourced’. POLIS uses a Neighborhood Stress Index and points to neighborhoods in ‘distress.’ Our hope is that this hints at both internal and external factors that make living there more stressful than in other communities.

However we choose to describe neighborhoods, it’s helpful to remind ourselves that no label will fully describe it and that there are unintended consequences to our labels. The best descriptors point to shared responsibility and are always aided by additional language that makes it clear that all communities have both needs and assets and that solutions to any challenges best stem from focusing more on the assets.

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September West Lakes MVP Families Meeting

Through the combined efforts of Florida Citrus Sports in partnership with Lift Orlando, Florida Blue, and the Polis Institute, the West Lakes MVP Families program is seeking to engage families in the West Lakes Community. Program objectives include assisting students with college acceptance and scholarships, developing community leaders, strengthening the bonds between parents and children, connecting families with other families, and setting and achieving family goals.

Once a month, leading up to the MVP summer camp next summer, a dinner will be prepared for and  West Lakes MVP Families program participants. Child care will be provided, allowing space and opportunity for meaningful discussion among the adults in a holistic approach to community transformation. Meetings take place the second Monday of the month at the Frontline Outreach Youth and Family Community Center (3000 C.R Smith St. Orlando, FL 32805) from 6:30-8:30pm.

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Diverse Word at the Dandelion Cafe

We must learn to express ourselves and respect others voices if we hope to live in healthy and vibrant places. Diverse Word, the longest running open-mic night in Orlando, houses everything from performance poetry to stand-up and improv comedy. This night is and always will be FREE (though donations are accepted and appreciated to help fund our quarterly slam competitions and features).

 

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Diverse Word at the Dandelion Cafe

We must learn to express ourselves and respect others voices if we hope to live in healthy and vibrant places. Diverse Word, the longest running open-mic night in Orlando, houses everything from performance poetry to stand-up and improv comedy. This night is and always will be FREE (though donations are accepted and appreciated to help fund our quarterly slam competitions and features).

 

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May MVP Families Meeting

Through the combined efforts of Florida Citrus Sports in partnership with Lift Orlando, Florida Blue, and the Polis Institute, the newly established MVP Families program is seeking to engage families in the 32805 neighborhood. Program objectives include assisting students with college acceptance and scholarships, developing community leaders, strengthening the bonds between parents and children, connecting families with other families, and setting and achieving family goals.

Once a the month, leading up to the MVP summer camp next summer, a dinner will be prepared for and by MVP Families program participants. Child care will be provided, allowing space and opportunity for meaningful discussion among the adults in a holistic approach to community transformation. This month’s meeting will be on Monday, May 7th, 2018 at the Frontline Outreach Youth and Family Community Center (3000 C.R Smith St. Orlando, FL 32805) from 6:30-8:30pm.

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Polis Stakeholder Accountability Model

Polis Institute designs solutions to social problems by valuing the perspectives of everyone with a stake in addressing the problem. We serve our three stakeholder groups (Residents, Investors, and Service Providers) in a parallel process —as facilitator— in order to achieve goals that bring the greatest benefit to those directly impacted by the issue, often the local residents.

Residents - People who live in neighborhood, Investors - Those investing capital to help residents, Service Providers - professionals who provide support that work for smaller nonprofits

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Why Place Based?

In 2015, Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, issued a statement that “a child’s life expectancy is predicted more by his ZIP code than his genetic code.” In the United States, the 12th richest country in the world, there are neighboring  ZIP codes that have a 20-year difference in life expectancy. That should give everyone pause. It should make us all ask why this is the case … and then move to do something to change it.

The most common factor in neighborhoods with relatively lower life expectancy is lower than average income levels. Low-income neighborhoods tend to have less healthy amenities (e.g. bike paths, sidewalks, access to fresh produce, parks, and exercise facilities), while also having more conditions that are antagonistic to health (e.g. factories, traffic, brownfields, and crime). Add to that mix the fact that opportunities for advancement are often stymied through chronic stress, overly restrictive housing and employment policies, and underperforming schools for the next generation.

“In the United States, there are neighboring ZIP codes that have a 20-year difference in life expectancy.
That should give everyone pause.”

And yet, these very neighborhoods are filled with people fully aware of their dignity and worth; people with talent and passion whose gifts are far too often neglected or ignored. This costs all of us something. This is precisely why place-based philanthropy is so vital — we need the people who live in these neighborhoods to be a part of strengthening our cities and making the world a better place.

This is an excerpt from our 2017 Annual Report.

 

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April MVP Families Meeting

Through the combined efforts of Florida Citrus Sports in partnership with Lift Orlando, Florida Blue, and the Polis Institute, the newly established MVP Families program is seeking to engage families in the 32805 neighborhood. Program objectives include assisting students with college acceptance and scholarships, developing community leaders, strengthening the bonds between parents and children, connecting families with other families, and setting and achieving family goals.

Once a the month, leading up to the MVP summer camp next summer, a dinner will be prepared for and by MVP Families program participants. Child care will be provided, allowing space and opportunity for meaningful discussion among the adults in a holistic approach to community transformation. This month’s meeting will be on Monday, April 2nd, 2018 at the Frontline Outreach Youth and Family Community Center (3000 C.R Smith St. Orlando, FL 32805) from 6:30-8:30pm.

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March MVP Families Meeting

Through the combined efforts of Florida Citrus Sports in partnership with Lift Orlando, Florida Blue, and the Polis Institute, the newly established MVP Families program is seeking to engage families in the 32805 neighborhood. Program objectives include assisting students with college acceptance and scholarships, developing community leaders, strengthening the bonds between parents and children, connecting families with other families, and setting and achieving family goals.

Once a the month, leading up to the MVP summer camp next summer, a dinner will be prepared for and by MVP Families program participants. Child care will be provided, allowing space and opportunity for meaningful discussion among the adults in a holistic approach to community transformation. This month’s meeting will be on Monday, March 5th, 2018 at the Frontline Outreach Youth and Family Community Center (3000 C.R Smith St. Orlando, FL 32805) from 6:30-8:30pm.

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State of the Health Eatonville

The Healthy Eatonville Place on College Avenue in Eatonville opened 3 years ago because a group of concerned people got together and wanted to help make Eatonville a healthier place. Thanks to Florida Hospital and the Winter Park Health Foundation, the Center continues to provide care and services to people with pre-diabetes and diabetes today and into the future.

That group of concerned people have met monthly for six years and now they would like to invite everyone who lives or works in Eatonville to join in their effort.  Please come, learn more about the health of the residents of Eatonville, and plan our future together.