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Endure beyond

Pick up practices to stay energized, powerful, and relentless in your collective work.

#22 REMEMBER & REFLECT

We frequently ground ourselves in our current place within the bigger picture.

Timeline visuals used to orient Steering Committee to where they were in the process.

What we Learned

A lengthy planning process with endless possibilities for neighborhood transformation can be overwhelming. Feelings of overwhelm can quickly lead to exhaustion and frustration by all the considerations and actions the group has to take. To stay motivated, keep the end goal in mind and acknowledge your accomplishments. Repetition of where you are in the process and milestones you have achieved helps keep a healthy perspective on the progress you’ve made and where you are going. Keeping the end in mind while acknowledging what you have accomplished to-date can help your group stay centered, energized, and encouraged to press on.

weCollab Highlight

As we neared the halfway point in the planning process, the Steering Committee engaged in a “story harvesting” process so members could reflect on their work and involvement to-date. In the story harvest, folks shared feeling burned out and overwhelmed. One learning that came out of story harvesting was that “building consensus on important topics while frequently celebrating the past unites and strengthens the committee.” From this learning, we decided to add a segment to the beginning of each meeting that included a recap of recent wins and events, recent decisions made, and the process timeline so members could see where they’ve been, where they are, and where they’re going in the process. Remembering how far they had come affirmed the Steering Committee members in their power and know-how while motivating them to see the process through to completion – one step at a time.

PRACTICE!

Tell stories from your experience with the process with the planning committee at different stages. Use these questions to get started:

  • At what point has planning been easy? What points were challenging? What made it shift?
  • What could you confidently talk about and share with others outside the project? What topics are confusing to you or do you find complex?
  • What feelings have you experienced throughout the process? What caused them?
PRO-TIP:

Research Story harvesting online and see how this can inform your evaluation process.

HUDDLE UP!

  • What were the last 3 milestones you can recall that had a major impact on your planning process?
  • Think about all you’ve gone through as a group to get to where you are today. How does that make you feel?
  • Do you need clarity about the end goal and results of the planning process? What questions might you ask?
  • In what ways do you ground yourself in the present work to be done with a peripheral view on past wins and upcoming goals?
  • In what ways can you help stakeholders understand the overall arc of the planning process and their part in it?
  • How can you regularly remind the planning team of the ultimate vision you are all working toward?
  • How do you acknowledge resident-led work that you fund as it happens?
  • In what ways do you capture and reflect back milestones and learnings to funded partners involved and doing the work?
  • In what ways can you express the major milestones and wins of initiatives you fund to a broader audience that could further support the work?
  • How do you acknowledge resident-led work that you fund as it happens?
  • In what ways do you capture and reflect back milestones and learnings to funded partners involved and doing the work?
  • In what ways can you express the major milestones and wins of initiatives you fund to a broader audience that could further support the work?
  • Though you may be accustomed to managing timelines and measuring progress, how do you ground yourself in the current work?

  • How can you identify different stakeholders’ perspectives of where they are in the planning process? Is there perception aligned with the realities of the process?

  • What milestones can you share with stakeholders to contribute to their understanding of the planning process from a government perspective?

#23 Practice power perspectives

We push through mental barriers with powerful mindset shifts.

What we Learned

Residents may doubt their power to make a difference, especially when their voices have been historically ignored. Factors like market pressures or trends, governmental policy, and predatory business tactics are often the reason neighborhoods experience unwanted change. Practicing Power Perspectives helps residents realize their power by turning their aspirations into attainable, actionable steps they can take. The weCollab Highlight demonstrates one way to shift resident perspective on achieving their aspirations and realizing their power. . Resident-led neighborhood planning reverses the flow of power and decision making from outside the neighborhood to inside, from developer to resident (see graphic). Build residents perception and belief in their power through activities like small retail pop-ups public information sharing or forums, and or collective visioning, and clear plan implementation steps.

When residents resist or are inactive in planning, you can overcome barriers by celebrating work residents have already done for others to see, supporting residents to lead outreach so they are visible to their neighbors, and demystifying the myths around what it takes to start initiatives in your neighborhood. Practice achieving small wins to help residents in realizing their own agency, pushing through the doubt and fear, and increase appetites for success.

Flow of Power

weCollab Highlight

A project theme that emerged from community engagement in the weCollab planning process is “Dream Big, Start Small.” Residents expressed the need for small, simple investments that improve their daily lives and existing places in the neighborhood. The consultant posed this concept as a way to make progress on big issues like the safety and future of the neighborhood, job creation, wealth building, education, and entrepreneurship. The plan included improvements like street and park lighting, speed humps, and activating existing parks with markets and recreational activity. These initiatives are perhaps easier to implement and create impact that residents can see and experience right away. Many of these small initiatives together add up to gradually influence development around what the plan calls “Focus Areas” preparing them for investment and activity. While seeing and experiencing changes as a result of their input, residents become more comfortable with their power to change their neighborhood.

PRACTICE

Brainstorm some common negative narratives and perceptions around development in your neighborhood. What message can you send to counter this narrative? Draft a script incorporating this message to use at your next outreach opportunity.
Here’s an example from the weCollab planning process: Residents would say, “Why have I never heard of your neighborhood plan?” Steering Committee Members would respond: “I’m not sure, but welcome to the party!”

HUDDLE UP!

  • Who do you perceive has the most power in initiating change in your neighborhood?

  • What entities do you think other stakeholders believe hold the most power in initiating change in your neighborhood?

  • How often do you focus on what you’re accomplishing versus the work it takes or will take to get there?

  • How do you view the distribution of power among stakeholders in your neighborhood, including residents? Does this align with actual demonstrations of power by different groups?

  • What does it look like to you when a stakeholder successfully wields their power? / How do you think other neighborhood stakeholders view their power? Is it aligned with the reality of what they are capable of with their resources and position?

  • How might you shift your beliefs about who holds power in the neighborhoods you serve to align it with what’s really possible?

  • What do you believe about the contributions of residents to the work of neighborhood planning?

  • What does it look like to you when stakeholders successfully wield their power? / In what ways do neighborhood stakeholders demonstrate their perceived or actual power?

  • What shifts might you need to make in how you think to dignify residents’ contributions to your planning work?

  • Who holds power in neighborhoods you might work in or fund? Does this align with what people perceive as power?

  • What does it look and sound like when funded partners successfully wield their power? / What are beliefs among stakeholders in the neighborhoods you serve about who holds power and how that power is demonstrated?

  • In what ways could your funding challenge the boundaries of what residents are typically expected to do or capable of in your neighborhood planning work? Where can you seed more power to residents?

  • How do you perceive power in the neighborhoods you serve? What are some real demonstrations of power that you have observed in your work?

  • What does it look like to you when a neighborhood stakeholder successfully wields their power? / How do residents and stakeholders demonstrate their understanding of who holds power in their neighborhood?

  • In what ways can you demonstrate that resident voice and contributions to neighborhood planning have a real impact on your work and decisions?

#24 identify warning signs

We identify warning signs and take action to prevent burnout.

What we Learned

Resident-led planning work requires a constant fuel propelling residents to stay engaged. Remembering your “why” will help you get through the difficult parts and give all you can. Burnout is real, but when you are surrounded by supportive neighbors and feel valued for engaging and contributing to something that is important to you, it’s easier to stay involved.
Things to look out for to know if residents might be approaching burnout include:

  • moving from one phase to the next with the exact same people at the table
  • when people stop showing up to meetings and events
  • people are silent in meetings
  • consultants and stakeholders don’t have a clear outcome for when they bring folks together.
  • meetings feel like a waste of time

We learned to be observant of warning signs and encourage adjustments that keep the effort dynamic and progressing forward.

Optimizing the type of work or relationships with everyone’s time and talent helps maintain momentum and get the best use of everyone’s time and energy. For example building the foundation of trust and relationships among residents and neighborhood organizations can largely happen without planning partners who are often focused on the technicalities of creating a neighborhood plan. Once residents are engaged across all demographics and have their common ground for the work established, getting feedback on planning concepts and drafting a plan becomes much easier. In the beginning it may take less energy over a longer period of time to organize resident groups and prepare people to work together. Surveying the community, making recommendations and drafting the plan are increasingly intensive on everyone’s part, until the plan is ready to be implemented. Then energy peaks at a high level with broad and wide effort across stakeholders to realize the neighborhood’s vision.

weCollab Highlight

At some point during the Steering Committee meetings, we noticed frustration building and misunderstandings arise more frequently. We instituted a working agreement of “don’t leave in the gray” meaning if someone was upset about or didn’t fully understand something, we encouraged them to ask questions and get understanding rather than pull back from the discussion or give up. When one member was frustrated and wanted to give up, there was always someone who didn’t mind reaching out to them to hear out their frustrations and encourage them to make adjustments that helped them remain involved.

PRACTICE

Select 2 volunteers to call all the members of your leadership group one-on-one. Note any major concerns they have or adjustments that can be made to keep everyone active. See how it worked for us in the play “consistently evaluate.” Track attendance at meetings and look for patterns of missed attendance. Reach out when it’s appropriate to see how to keep the person engaged.

HUDDLE UP!

  • How can you tell if you are “in the gray” on something or feeling de-energized by or unmotivated about the planning process?

  • How can you tell if others are losing motivation or interest in the planning process?

  • What’s the one thing keeping you committed to the process? How can you remind yourself of this when the work gets tough?

  • How can you tell if you or any of your staff supporting a planning process are “in the gray” on something or losing energy and motivation in the process?
  • What signals have you noticed in the past before a stakeholder made a shift in their commitment level, behavior, or involvement?
  • In the past, what has helped you re-engage after a decline in energy or motivation and made your work in neighborhood planning feel worthwhile?
  • How can you tell when you or your staff might be losing steam on a project?

  • What signals have you noticed from stakeholders that they might be unclear about something or losing will for the process?

  • In your experience, what has helped you or your team and clients to stay engaged after showing signs of waning willpower?

  • How can you tell if you or any of your staff supporting a planning process are “in the gray” on something or losing energy and motivation in the process?

  • What signals have you noticed in the past before a stakeholder made a shift in their commitment level, behavior, or involvement?

  • How can you help shift your or stakeholders energy back to a place of progress and dedication after a lull in engagement?

  • How can you tell when you or your staff might be losing steam on a project or planning process?

  • What signals have you noticed from stakeholders that they might be unclear about something or losing will for the process?

  • In your experience, what has helped you or your team and neighborhood stakeholders you serve to stay engaged after showing signs of waning willpower?

#25 celebrate & Invite Joy

We celebrate every win and endure the planning process with JOY.

 

What we Learned

In difficult work, it is important to find the things that bring you and your group joy to sustain you through the challenges. It can be easy to forget all you have overcome when new or more difficult challenges arise. Making space for laughter and incorporating play in everything you do can make the work more enjoyable and fulfilling. Also, setting goals that give you reason to work hard and celebrating when you reach those goals can give you and your team sustaining joy.

weCollab Highlight

weCollab embraces fun and chose a planning partner, YARD, that got the memo. When YARD visited St. Louis, they often met the Steering Committee members and staff for dinner at restaurants; once even gathering in a residents’ garden. As the process intensified, we started meetings with music and included a “celebrate your wins” segment to share success stories like community event turnouts, smooth partnerships, updates on survey responses and new milestones in the planning process. Celebrating these wins allowed residents to share what was keeping them excited and motivated about the work.
YARD even submitted the weCollab plan to the Charter awards given by the Congress for New Urbanism, and the plan won!
Steering Committee members attended the award ceremony in Charlotte, North Carolina, and the achievement was covered by local news and recognized by the State of Missouri, Mayor of the City of St. Louis, and the Board of Aldermen. Nothing is too small to celebrate and stay encouraged in this work.

PRACTICE

Throughout your process, check often for accomplishments of your group and recognize where you are doing things that are against the “status quo” in your neighborhood or city. Make sure to celebrate those areas where you push the boundaries and innovate. What might seem small is still worth celebrating.
While awards don’t make a plan more or less successful, challenge your group to find a neighborhood plan competition and submit your plan. This can inspire your group about what to achieve and expose your work to a wider audience that may be able to support. Here are a few organizations to start with: Congress for New Urbanism (CNU) Charter Awards, Urban Land Institute, American Planning Association, the National Organization of Minority Architects, American Institute of Architects, The Plan Award.

Hear the weCollab jingle and see the residents accept the CNU Charter Award in Charlotte, North Carolina, June 2023.

HUDDLE UP!

  • What fun traditions do you have with your neighbors?

  • What brings people together in your neighborhood?

  • In what ways might you encourage your planning team to come together for leisure and not related to planning work?

  • What history do you have in the planning process that motivates you to keep going?
  • What does it look like for all the stakeholders in a planning process to champion and celebrate it?
  • In what ways do you or can you start celebrating resident work and?
  • What about your work makes you proud and grateful to support neighborhood planning?

  • What types of activities and experiences seemed to have brought residents and stakeholders joy throughout the planning process?

  • How can you demonstrate the value of resident-led planning to a broader regional or national audience, encouraging other places or clients to engage in the practice of resident-led planning?

  • What does it look like for you and your team to celebrate your work in neighborhood planning processes?

  • What types of activities and experiences seemed to have brought residents and stakeholders joy throughout the planning process?

  • How can you elevate the success of the planning work among your networks?

  • What about your work makes you proud and grateful to support neighborhood planning?

  • What types of activities and experiences seemed to have brought residents and stakeholders joy in past planning processes?

  • How can you demonstrate the value of resident-led planning throughout your departments and regionally?

people | power | place | systems

Initiating a 20 Year Journey

Every St. Louis neighborhood is a chosen place to live, raise children, and grow old.

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