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Community Development Workshops

(adapted from Dave Beckwith by Randy Stoecker)


Workshop # 1:   Madlantis Neighborhood Discovered

A new Madison neighborhood came to light yesterday when an undergraduate student was doing a beer bong on a pontoon boat during a storm on Lake Mendota and got swept overboard.  Not being able to find his way back to the boat, he swam until he came ashore on a tiny island, where he discovered a secret entrance to a tunnel which emerged into a neighborhood unknown until today.

University researchers are planning to study the area. Their report is expected as soon as they can get a grant.

Mayor Dan Supercalifrajalisticexpialidocious said, "Cool!"

The beer bonging student, having been inspired by the Madlantis neighborhood to reform his ways, just completed his service learning project with the neighborhood.  Here is his report. 

Report on the Madlantis Neighborhood

July 2005

This island neighborhood has apparently escaped detection by claiming to outsiders that it is part of East Madison, while claiming to East siders to be part of the rest of the city. Having thus successfully fooled all parties, their anonymity was preserved for many years. We found Madlantis to be a typical center city area, and recommend the formation of a neighborhood organization to ensure that residents' voices are heard and that city services and renewal of the deteriorating housing stock are dealt with.

Population: Madlantis has about 10,000 people. They are about evenly divided between men and women, with a higher than normal percentage of elderly and children. Ten percent of the people are African-American, 15% Hispanic - mostly Mexican-American - and there is a substantial Slovak (Eastern European) minority within the white majority. Median family income is $25,340.

Physical Characteristics: There are 3500 housing units in Madlantis. Most are single family homes. These are woodframe, and 48% are owner occupied. The northern half of the island is characterized by gently curving streets and well kept lots and homes. In this area home ownership is more frequent (72%). Residents refer to the two sections 'up there' or 'down there', depending on their point of view. "Up There', 1% of the homes are vacant, and 6% deteriorated to some extent. "Down There', 17% are vacant and 23% deteriorated. The neighborhood's only park is in Up There.

Commerce and industry: Besides subsistence fishing in Lake Mendota (which accounts for the frequent stomach disorders found in area families), residents are employed by 'The Mill', a trash can cleaning and resale plant operated by Chokem and Killem, Inc. Workers there are represented by Local 13 of the Amalgamated Yuck Workers Union (AYW). Along Center Street, which divides "up There' from 'Down There', there are a few stores and offices, and commercial deterioration is definitely on the rise. This is where the main office of the Nohelp Bank and Trust Company are to be found, along with the branch office of Progressive Dane, the private attorney Barney Bloodsucker, Esq. And 'Buz' Sawyer, the Family Doctor, Dentist and Tree Surgeon for most of the area's residents who can pay the bill.

Social and Voluntary Organizations: 'Up There' residents generally attend the First Episcopal Church. Some also go to the Last Lutheran Church, located on Center Street. St. Somebody's Catholic Church is also on Center Street, and the Holiness Holy Ghost Church is in 'Down There'. There is a Ministerial Alliance which meets at Joe's Bar and Theological Watering Hole, by the lake shore, every other Friday night.

In this workshop you will be divided into groups to draw maps of the neighborhood.



Workshop #2: Community Diagnosis

Now that the city government has discovered Madlantis, they are encouraging the neighborhood to go through the city's neighborhood planning program.  But you know, as seasoned community workers, that you need to conduct a solid community diagnosis before you can come up with a plan.  Residents have been telling you that the housing in Down There are falling apart, especially the housing.  Some of the Up There residents have been especially vocal about how "shabby" Down There looks, and how they wish people living in Down There would take better care of their houses.  Down There residents have shot back that they have to deal with the Chokem and Killem plant; they have no park; the slumlords are the major culprits in housing deterioration; and lending discrimination has prevented the current homeowners from getting loans to fix up their homes.

In this workshop you will design a research project that can bring the neighborhood together, help resolve the disagreements, and inform the neighborhood planning process. 

1.  Who will be involved as researchers?

2.  What is the research question?

2.  How will you research the question--consider both research methods and who will do it.

3.  What will you do with the data? How will it be used?

4.  What will be possible next steps, depending on different outcomes of the research?

Remember that an effective community diagnosis process will be exciting, and will  help the community get better organized.

Workshop #3: Recruiting and Maintaining Participation

One of the most important things any community development effort needs to do is recruit participants. Such participants are often fleeting, losing time to changing family obligations, work obligations, or simply moving on with their lives.  Consequently, an active community development effort is constantly in search of new participants and new ways to get and keep people involved.

Some community organizing and development models put membership development before all else--you don't try to take on big issue campaigns until you have a strong organization.  These efforts can range from basic "door knocking" to in-depth "one to one" conversations to build relationships and learn what community members care about. 

There are often three levels of incentives that groups use to recruit participants.  The first "entry-level" incentive is the individual or selective incentive.  This incentive is something that a participant can only get by showing up at the meeting--like a free meal or a discount coupon.  The next level is the social incentive, where people participate because their friends are going to be there.  The final level is the ideological or purposive incentive where people participate because they truly believe in the issue.  One goal is to get people to participate initially and another is to get them to become truly committed to the community development process. 

In this exercise we have been invited in to Madlantis by three of the neighborhood's clergy--Bernie Brewski of Joe's Bar and Theological Watering Hole (Down There), Rev. Elizabeth Ross of the Episcopal Church (technically Down There since it is on the south side of Center Street but serving an upthere membership) and Rev. Ronald Righteous of Holiness Holy Ghost (Down There).  They have formed the Madlantis Neighborhood Organization Sponsoring Committee. They know of our reputation as top-notch community workers and want us to build a new community organization in Madlantis that can reverse what they see as increasing deterioration of housing in the community.  Your job is to come up with a participant recruitment plan.

Workshop #4: Issue Selection and Intervention Design

In this workshop you are an issue selection task force of the Madlantis CDC.  The doorknocking you have been doing has brought a number of issues to the organization.  Your job is to recommend which we should do first, and why.  Here are the issues referred to this committee at the last meeting:

1. At the corner of Chestnut and Roan, in Down There, there have been 11 fender bender type accidents in the last year.  Nobody’s been seriously hurt, but lots of kids pass by on their way to school every day.  Folks want a 4-way stop sign.

2. Mr. & Mrs. Jones are both school teachers, so they have a steady (but small) income.  They’ve never owned their own home, but they’ve got their heart set on one just over the border in Up There.  The banker told them “that’s a questionable area, you know.  Why don’t you look a couple of blocks farther north and come back to us?’  They’re mad.

3. The KwikSip Korner Kupboard is a Center Street, right by where the kids wait for their bus transfers after school.  They’ve had two big windows broken this Spring, and they’re worried about more vandalism.

4. On Victoria Land, one of the nicer, historic areas of UpThere, Mrs. Petunia lives, and has lived all her 97 years.  The cats seem to have the run of the place – all 97 of them.  Neighbors are partly concerned for her safety, and partly sick and tired of the smell.

5. Surrounded as it is by Lake Mendota, the Madlantis Neighborhood is acutely aware of the pollution of the lake.  Lots of folks, especially those who fish, are REALLY MAD about the Spring runoff and the floating museum of horrors that the lake becomes.?

Discuss what might make each problem into an issue, how to cut it and then rate each issue by priority.  Remember a good issue is one that people will be willing to get involved in, that has a specific target, and that has a specific intervention.

Next, take your top priority issue and design an intervention. 

Workshop #5:  Evaluation

A really good intervention design will already have measurable or documentable goals and strategies.  That is rarely the case, however.  In this workshop you will take the intervention you designed in Workshop #4 and specify some measurable/documentable goals and strategies, and then design an evaluation plan.  What is a measurable or documentable goal?  It is an outcome that you will be able to provide evidence for.  Your goal could be to reduce the incidence of car thefts by 20%.  That is easily measurable.  Or your goal may be to improve residents' sense of pride in the community.  That is a lot more difficult to measure, but you may be able to document such a change through the stories of residents.

Your strategy, then, should clearly fit the goal.  If your strategy for reducing car theft is to increase the literacy of teenagers, you better be able to argue what the connection is.  You should also be able to specify the strategy in terms of how often you will do things, with how many people, and over what period of time. 

Once you do that, the evaluation design is easy.  Just answer these questions:  What information do you need to gather to document or measure achievement of your goals?  What information do you need to gather to document or measure the implementation of your strategies?  Of course, you will want to think a bit more sophisticatedly about the research itself.  In the crime reduction example, remember that crime goes up and down inversely with the health of the local economy.  So if the economy improves at the same time you implement your crime reduction strategy, you need a research plan that will allow you to distinguish between the effect of the improved economy and the effect of your crime reduction strategy.

Workshop #6: Getting Funding

The Wantmor Foundation has released its annual request for proposals, or RFP.  In the RFP, they have indicated that they are emphasizing programs focused on youth and education, and will fund proposals for up to $100,000 for three years. They also have a miscellaneous category, but they only fund one-year projects at $15,000 in that category.

In this workshop you will outline a grant proposal, using the priority list you chose in Workshop #4.  Remember, funders get lots of grant porposals, and they want to make sure that their philanthropy will have maximum impact.  Here are some of the things you need to take into consideration:

1.  Which fund, if any, will you apply for?

2.  How will you justify the need?  What data will be required to convince the funder that the need is there?

3.  How will you convince the funder that you will be able to impact that issue?

4.  How long will this program take and what will be its timeline?

5.  What will your budget include?  Consider what supplies you might need; how much time staff will need to run the program; whether you will need to rent space, pay utilities, hire outside consultants; how much "overhead" you should include?