“Our responsibility, our obligation to holding to the integrity of where we invest and how we invest is grounded in the people. And so these neighborhoods have people who have already built assets within their neighborhoods, but we have to now dig deeper to figure out where those relationships are.”
—Pamela Ross, vice president of opportunity, equity and inclusion at CICF
In this special episode of For Good, Pamela Ross talks about neighborhood empowerment and placemaking—one of five of CICF’s leadership initiatives for Marion County—and how it is impacting our community. This episode is part of a special series introducing CICF’s strategic plan for Marion County. Listen to the other four episodes to learn more about how CICF is working to help create a more equitable Central Indiana.
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Transcription of episode available below.
WHO YOU’RE LISTENING TO
- Pamela Ross –vice president of opportunity, equity and inclusion at CICF
- CICF’s community ambassadors
- CICF’s strategic plan for Marion County
- Family Stabilization – a For Good episode with Diane Schussel, CICF senior community leadership officer
- Economic Mobility – a For Good episode with Andrew Black, CICF community leadership director
- Criminal Justice Reform – a For Good episode with Alicia Collins, CICF community leadership director
- Dismantling Systemic Racism – a For Good episode with Brian Payne, CICF president and CEO
You’re listening to For Good, Central Indiana Community Foundation’s podcast highlighting stories about passion, purpose, and progress in Central Indiana.
At CICF, we believe in creating a community where everyone can reach their full potential, no matter place, race, or identity.
In this episode, you’ll learn about one of the initiatives included in CICF’s five year strategic plan for Marion County from experts on our staff.
This is our community. And these are your stories.
PAMELA: Hi. I’m Pamela Ross, vice president of opportunity, equity and inclusion at Central Indiana Community Foundation. CICF has a mission to mobilize people, ideas and investment to make this a community where everyone has equitable opportunity to reach their full potential, no matter place, race, or identity. And we have five initiatives that will help us execute that mission in Marion County.
One initiative is empowering neighborhoods and placemaking. For CICF, empowering neighborhoods and placemaking means investing more in some of the blight, some of the disinvestment that we see in several communities throughout Marion County. We have looked at research. We have had conversations. We have elevated voices that have helped us to be more informed about what the neighborhood residents would like to see in their neighborhoods. So as a community foundation, it’s really important for us to make sure that neighborhoods all across Marion County have an opportunity to have sidewalks, to have safety, to have beautification in their neighborhoods that really represent the faces and the people in those neighborhoods.
CICF thinks that’s important because we are a community foundation. Our responsibility, our obligation to holding to the integrity of where we invest and how we invest is grounded in the people. And so these neighborhoods have people who have already built assets within their neighborhoods, but we have to now dig deeper to figure out where those relationships are. And how we get closer to understanding what will really make a difference in transforming some of the things that we hear … Some of the data that is continuously shared about what’s happening in the neighborhoods. And you can’t find that without building the relationships and getting deeper into understanding how we can come along and support them … Versus coming in and doing things to them. We need to figure out how to be with them.
When it comes again to this particular leadership initiative, we really need to build those relationships in the neighborhoods and with grassroots organizations to help us do all of our work better. It’s not just in the grant-making. It’s not just in investing in non-profit organizations. It’s more of how, again, do we build relationships with communities with populations that we have not typically had deep-rooted relationships with. If we did not invest in these neighborhoods and in these relationships then at a minimum, we would remain stagnant and we would become eventually irrelevant.
That’s a part of what typically happens when organizations don’t stay true to what is happening around them, but they just stay in within the same status quo of how they’ve always done things. I think that communities have already shown resiliency. I wouldn’t say that they would be worse off, but I definitely would say that CICF was not be as strong if we did not make this turn.
One of the ways that we are building these relationships is through our work through our CICF ambassadors. This is five individuals that actually started out from a cohort of 36 residents that we engaged at couple years ago to help inform us about our strategic plan. Within that we didn’t learn necessarily something new from the work that they went out and did in the neighborhoods as far as engaging our residents in conversations, observations. They came back and told us that, residents, neighborhoods want good schools. They want high quality education. They want safety. Again, they want their neighborhoods to be beautiful. They want jobs. A lot of things that we always hear anyway in the statistics. But what we did find in that that I think was somewhat of a surprise to us was that the relationships that we had with the residents were really pretty powerful.
So with that relationship with the ambassadors, I have had the opportunity to get to know what it means to actually organize and make movement at a community level and not as a- the work processes of typically which institutions would do things. Really what I’ve had to do is take, on behalf of CICF and really in my own right as a professional, take a seat back and learn how things happen at a resident level and how rich that process can be when it comes to really collectively creating new ideas, understanding what the assets are, and then figuring out how to move forward. So our relationship with the ambassadors has just begun, but I can already see that the trust that has been built, the deepening of understanding of what really is happening in the neighborhoods, and how we can again come along and support the work that they’re doing.
Because they’re very good about understanding where the assets already lie. So where we could be at an institution level, trying to figure out where to create urban gardens, they’re able to know what residents already in the neighborhood already have gardens in their backyard. So it’s for us to figure out how to support what’s already there and then figure out, with their help, where can we support any gaps or needs and not just go in and think that we already have the answers.
So I would say that what excites me the most is the transformation that I think the power is being shifted from us as an institution to the community truly being given the power to do what we believe what they can do best. And that is, come up with their own answers, be their own solutions, and build within themselves. I think what excites me already is what I see in the relationships that we have with the ambassadors, but also just what I see in the staff and the excitement of wanting to understand more.