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Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Talking about priorities

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Talking about priorities

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The presence of thriving businesses is critical for neighborhoods and economic centers. Our guests illuminated the importance of: 

– Developing and maintaining trusted relationships as clear focal points of business support initiatives 

– Helping individuals develop or enhance their entrepreneurial mindset and leverage as many resources as needed to make their idea move forward.  

This requires listening and understanding the vision of the small business owner.   


Listening was a common skill discussed throughout the series and was stressed as one of the most important skills to have as a community member or organization. De’Amon Harges pointed to the work The Learning Tree does which focuses on three main things: 

 1) listening first 

2) celebrating what already exists in the community; and 

3) connecting with others to build social capital.  

The actions they take are not centered on needs, but strengths. Other conversation highlights included leveraging technology to support resident-led efforts, investing in engagement as part of organizational budgets, and being clear that “buy-in” is not the same thing as engagement.


Our final conversation focused on infrastructure and beautification left me wanting more.  The guests interrogated grant-making processes and explored ideas about the ways in which the built environment, art and culture are developed and sustained in neighborhoods.   

They reminded us all that: 

– The process is just as important as the product  

– People need to have and honor spaces in which they can dream and plan 

Danicia Monet, urban planner and artist, highlighted that for her success in this space looks like lots of engagement and when attacking big complicated issues like gentrification there should be a focus on “the most good for the most people”.  


The full series has allowed me to define a set of critical principles for community engagement work including:

  • A focus on dignity, 
  • A focus on listening and getting to know people (and neighborhoods), 
  • Acting with love and respect, 
  • Distributing money directly into the hands of people, 
  • Being flexible, patient, and multi-faceted, 
  • Building trusted relationships — people first, and  
  • Prioritizing the most marginalized voices.  

If we adhere to these principles, we will have a more rich, equitable and fruitful community. This requires moving from thinking as individuals towards a collective. That is the only way we are going to transform neighborhoods and cities at scale. In the coming days and weeks, we will continue to revisit these conversations to refine and build partnerships with our neighbors. Recordings of each session are available online at 16tech.com and written notes will be posted soon.   

The 16 Tech Community Investment Fund exists to support neighborhood-based projects that improve quality of life. The first round of awards was announced in May 2020. Applications for the second grant cycle are now open with October deadlines quickly approaching. Awards will be announced in December. The Community Investment Fund will allocate a total of $1 million in 2020. For more information, visit www.16tech.com/community-investment.   

Starla Hart is the director of community initiatives at 16 Tech Community Corporation and contributor for the Indianapolis Recorder. Contact her at shart@16tech.com.  

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