Facilitator: Lulu Mickelson April 17, 2019

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Where We Live NYC is the City of New York’s community-driven process to develop the next chapter of fair housing policy. The initiative confronts segregation, fights discrimination, and builds more just and inclusive neighborhoods.

The Where We Live NYC process includes extensive engagement with residents, community leaders, and government partners – including 60+ focus group style “Community Conversations” led by community-based partners in 10 different languages, and a Fair Housing Stakeholder Group that includes 150+ advocates, service providers, researchers, and community leaders who have been engaged throughout the process.

The model is an innovative and unique way to prioritize resident voice.

Where We Live NYC seeks to share their model widely and lead thought on a national scale. What are the key steps to publicizing their innovative strategy? LabStorm attendees discussed how to spread the word about Where We Live NYC in order to make inclusive, community-driven housing the norm. Here are the main takeaways:

  • Make information accessible. Where We Live NYC is releasing the results of this fair housing planning process in a policy report. This format, though a standard in the professional sphere, may not be accessible to all community members. In order to share the findings with the greater community, Where We Live NYC should go beyond a report, and consider other avenues for sharing information. LabStorm attendees suggested visual alternatives, such as engaging web graphics, interactive exhibits, mobile apps, and informational street art. These forms of communications are more accessible, inclusive and transparent than traditional policy reports. By including the wider community in their process, Where We Live NYC can build momentum, accountability, and collaboration around the policy report within the very communities it seeks to support.
  • Build connections among residents. There is a critical hearts and minds component to fair housing. Some community members initially oppose affordable housing in their neighborhoods, but there is an opportunity to combat community opposition by humanizing and educating on the importance of inclusive neighborhoods. As the Where We Live NYC process grows, they need spaces for diverse residents to connect and understand each other. LabStorm attendees suggested creating “bridge spaces” in communities. These places could be churches or community centers where different types of residents already come together. Another alternative is a “living library” where you “check out” a person for a time to have a conversation and understand their perspective. Through these shared spaces, residents could begin to build connections and create a cohesive community.
  • Engage other cities. As Where We Live NYC works to scale their model beyond New York City, they must consider the national audience. The techniques that work best in New York City may not necessarily apply in smaller cities with different demographics and neighborhood dynamics. In order to understand fair housing at a national scale, Where We Live NYC should continue to foster relationships with partner cities. Another option is convening cities in order to problem-solve together. This larger dialogue is critical for two reasons: (1) fair housing is not being prioritized at the national level, so it is up to local municipalities to take the lead; and (2) fair housing is a regional issue that cannot be tackled by one city alone – in order to make New York City fairer, Where We Live NYC needs thoughtful engagement from neighboring counties and cities. By bringing together these neighbors, Where We Live NYC can generate discussion and make meaningful changes on a larger scale.

This LabStorm showed us how community inclusion and conversation makes public services more effective. Are you an expert in scaling community-driven change? Please share your expertise in the comments below, or by emailing [email protected].

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