Chatting with Mr. Larry Williams of the Westwood neighborhood at the Oct. 1 neighborhood conference
In recent years you may have heard local governments use the term “community engagement” more and more without being certain just what the term means.
I know the words can seem vague, but I can assure you the City of Dayton staff doing community engagement work are involved in very specific activities that have an impact in neighborhoods.
In fact, just two years ago, the City of Dayton reorganized some programs and activities into a Division of Community Engagement in the newly named Department of Planning, Neighborhoods and Development, with a purpose of further strengthening support of neighborhoods.
The division’s staff are responsible for involving residents in City government, communicating with residents about their concerns, and helping neighborhood-driven efforts succeed through providing useful resources. The division also includes the Welcome Dayton program, which supports the growth and well-being of Dayton’s immigrant communities.
To further define and illuminate community engagement, let’s look at just some of the recent activities in Dayton, some carried out by Division of Community Engagement staff and some accomplished by other groups.
Elements of the Dayton Recovery Plan – Dayton’s own $138 million share of the giant federal American Rescue Plan Act designed to help communities recover from the COVID-19 pandemic while preparing for the future – are beginning to make an impact across the city. The City of Dayton has earned praise for its involvement of residents and community leaders in the development of the Dayton Recovery Plan. Through a survey and a series of public meetings in 2021, City staff members clearly heard the community’s wishes on how funds from the largest grant in the city’s history should be applied. That was community engagement in action.
A similar community engagement effort led by CityWide, Dayton’s non-profit development affiliate, occurred in 2018-19 following the closure of Good Samaritan Hospital in Northwest Dayton. The “PhoenixNext” project was an 18-month visioning process involving 600 participant and identifying the community’s ideas and preferences for reuse of the 13-acre site. Ground will be broken this fall for the Northwest Health & Wellness Campus, a multi-tenant, multi-purpose complex reflecting the vision developed by the community.
Annually, the City of Dayton’s 10-week Neighborhood Leadership Institute offers information, networking and hands-on learning activities designed to bring out and enhance leadership skills in neighborhood volunteers. The series is presented by the Division of Community Engagement.
Recently, Division of Community Engagement staff worked to involve residents in a cleanup in the Greenwich Village neighborhood, in cooperation with the City’s Department of Public Works, the Division of Housing Inspection and Dayton Police. Their success was evident as scores of residents joined in the effort, many going the extra mile with yard work at their own homes in addition to helping with cleaning of vacant lots.
And on Oct. 1, City staff and volunteers presented the annual neighborhood conference, this year titled “Above and Beyond: Elevating Our Neighborhoods.” More than 250 residents, community leaders and businesspeople joined in dozens of workshops, brainstorming sessions and conversations about strengthening neighborhoods in and beyond the city of Dayton.
These are just some of the ways the City of Dayton and our partners make a difference through community engagement. You’ll see more in the months ahead if you follow the City on daytonohio.gov or our social media channels.