Neighborhoods, USA and Public Participation
By Ryan Henderson
In May I’ll be attending the Neighborhoods, USA Conference in Houston, Texas. At the conference, I’ll be presenting two workshops, while holding out hope that I’ll be given the chance to present Adopt-A-Neighbor for the Best Neighborhood Program of the Year award. The opportunity to present in front of a group of committed community builders (city/county staff, volunteers, and neighborhood leaders) will be quite the privilege. The honor, however, will come from meeting and connecting with so many individuals who care about making their community a better place to live. This month I’ve chosen to write about Neighborhoods, USA (NUSA) because I believe they stand for many of the same things that IAP2 stands for. I’m also a big proponent of cross-promoting like-minded organizations that are committed to increase public participation.
Neighborhoods, USA’s mission statement is simple and concise. NUSA “provides opportunities for diverse people and organizations to share their ideas, values and experiences to build stronger communities.” The idea behind NUSA is to get people to care about their neighborhoods by increasing opportunities for neighbors to share ideas amongst one another. According to the organization’s website, NUSA is a national non-profit organization committed to building and strengthening neighborhood organizations. Created in 1975 to share information and experiences used to build stronger communities, NUSA continues to encourage networking and information-sharing to facilitate the development of partnerships among neighborhood organizations, government, and the private sector for the ultimate goal of strengthening every neighborhood.
Neighborhoods, USA, like IAP2, hosts an annual conference that provides an opportunity for people from all locations and levels of society to come together and discuss important issues while motivating and encouraging one another. This year’s conference in Houston will be my first and I can’t wait. As many readers of this blog may already know, my job with the City of Fort Lauderdale is very neighbor and neighborhood centric. My job duties were the main reason I decided to join IAP2 and thanks to my work experiences I’ve been given the opportunity to present at the NUSA Conference.
I’m excited that I’ll be able to meet so many committed community builders and learn about the programs they’ve implemented in order to increase public participation. As I mentioned, the City of Fort Lauderdale has submitted Adopt-A-Neighbor in the category of Best Neighborhood Program of the Year. The award is given annually as a way for NUSA to recognize outstanding government entities and businesses for their work in improving the quality of life in their communities. As someone who enjoys seeking out and writing about innovative, community engaging programs in local government, I can’t wait to see all the programs that’ll be finalists for the award. Inevitably, many of the finalists and their programs will find a way into this blog.
Therein lies the beauty of NUSA, IAP2, and their respective conferences. Through annual, national conferences, these two organizations afford their members the great opportunity to come together and discuss the state of public participation in their communities. It’s the opportune time to collaborate, share, and learn how to replicate programs that work to increase public engagement and participation. That’s why supporting these organizations and their missions are so critical. Perhaps I’m preaching to the choir, but its groups like IAP2, NUSA, NCDD, etc. that serve as the incubators for ideas and collaboration in the world of public participation. The conferences serve as the perfect time to meet, in person, everyone we spend countless hours chatting on the phone and emailing back in forth amongst. Conferences allow for further connections and more intimate idea sharing. This is why I am so excited to meet some of my fellow colleagues at the NUSA Conference. I know how much I’m going to learn from them, in person, over the four-day period.
To learn more about NUSA visit their website
To register for the 2015 IAP2 North American Conference visit our website