March 19, 2010

The Power of a List

Tom O'Brien, Manager of Neighborhood Connections, The Cleveland Foundation's wonderful grassroots grantmaking program, recently reminded me of the power of a list. Not just any list, but a list that fills in a missing piece of the community change puzzle in a community.

Tom and his Neighborhood Connections team are putting the finishing touches on a directory of grassroots groups and neighborhood associations who are at work in Cleveland's neighborhoods. With listings for 350 groups, this "telephone book" of Cleveland's grassroots groups is intended to highlight the work of grassroots groups in Cleveland and to serve as a catalyst for more groups to work together to create positive change in Cleveland's neighborhoods. The directory lists organizations and groups by neighborhood and by organizational mission (arts groups, block clubs, environmental groups, etc). It also includes contact information for the Cleveland neighborhood centers and a resource guide for training programs and a list of other grassroots funders. The guide will be available both in hard-copy form and as a search-able on-line document.

I know that putting this together has been a lot of work. My ancient history includes heading up a neighborhood resource center that published a similar directory, so I appreciate the time that this requires. But I also know that this is time well spent.

What makes directories such as these so powerful? If the stated purposes of this directory aren't enough (and they are), here are even more reasons who directories such as this are worth doing:

  • If anyone dares to say that no one cares, that not much is going on at the grassroots in Cleveland - take a look.
  • If anyone thinks that they are alone, slogging away in their neighborhood - take a look.
  • If anyone is wondering what's going on in the next neighborhood or across town - take a look.
  • If anyone is "shopping" for a neighborhood and wants to see where people are invested in the neighborhood's quality of life and future - take a look.
  • If anyone wants to connect with people a neighborhood and doesn't know where to start (because so many groups are invisible to outsiders) - take a look.
  • If anyone wonders if investing in the passion and creativity of grassroots groups is a smart investment - take a look.

While I love what Neighborhood Connections is doing, I'm not sharing this as a new invention. I'm sharing this as a reminder of the power of something as simple as a list - and an invitation for you to share your experience with similar directories in your community. Post a comment to share information about similar projects in your community and what you've seen about the power of the list.

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