When Miguel applied to CPI, he wanted to “find ways to play a more active role in actually understanding the community’s needs and how the zoning process can play a role to meet those needs.” He has taken impressive steps towards advancing those goals since graduating! A neighborhood microgrant program, which started out as his CPI course project, is now up and running and quite successful.
In his CPI course project, Miguel identified that his civic, Newbold Neighbors Association (NNA) did not have the money or time to conduct a formal neighborhood planning process. Instead, he proposed “a different method, more akin to crowdsourcing, which attempts to harness the creativity of the community” and “cultivat[ing] a planning attitude from which we can later draw inspiration.”
What does that mean? In Miguel’s case it meant proposing and creating a neighborhood microgrant program, to which local community members could apply to do small projects that further the core values of NNA: improve public safety, beautify the neighborhood, support sustainable development, promote local businesses, provide greener streets, help reach new residents, and foster smart planning and zoning.
Since graduating CPI, Miguel has worked with NNA to give away $1,000 in small grants!
Did the grant achieve its goals? We think the results speak for themselves! See below for the four projects they chose to fund.
Excerpt and photos from the 2015 Newbold Neighbors Microgrant Program Report:
1. Rachel Brennesholtz – Neighborhood Sno Cones
Rachel’s project was to buy a sno cone machine that would be owned by NNA and could be used for block parties and other NNA events. We used the machine for a number of events, including one hosted by the Philadelphia Film Festival and two “NNA Night Out” events at Pep Bowl.
2. Hani White -Haiqal’s Garden
Hani’s proposal was to print a self-published book meant to teach young children the joys of urban gardening. The Thomas Aquinas Child Care Program, School, and Church serves approximately 200 Indonesian children and their families. This is an under-served, yet very industrious, energetic group of people, with the capacity to contribute skills, money, and cultural richness to the neighborhood. The Haiqal’s Garden Early Literacy and Gardening Project had two objectives: 1) to educate children, families, and early childhood educators about the benefits of home gardening; and 2) to strengthen both the home language, Indonesian, and the second language, English. Hani read the newly-published children’s picture book, Haiqal’s Garden, in English and Indonesian, to preschool children at St. Thomas Aquinas institution, then engaged children, parents and staff in a simple seed planting activity.
3. Bethany Welch – Fernon15
Fernon15 is a collaborative effort to jumpstart revitalization on the 1700 block of Fernon Street. The south side of the block is part of the St. Thomas Aquinas/Aquinas Center campus and the north side is residential homes and vacant lots where blighted homes have been demolished.The group bought three small barrels, plants, and fencing. The teens and a visiting youth group used rubble, downed tree limbs, and pallets from the vacant lot to create a barrier to discourage dumping. The group is now aiming for an autumn block party of some kind and revisiting lot acquisition for a full scale garden project with greenhouse.
4. Megan Rosenbach - Neighbors Investing in Childs Elementary Garden
There have been a number of neighborhood cleanups at the Childs Elementary School garden, and funds from NNA have supported buying supplies, mulch, and flowers.The garden used to be a littered with graffiti and garbage, but it looks much better today and has encouraged tons of community participation.