Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs
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In 1992 the Center for Neighborhood Development (CND) at Cleveland State University and the Greater Cleveland Neighborhood Centers Association (NCA) designed a neighborhood leadership program to support volunteer resident involvement as well as to re-energize grassroots community involvement in providing leadership for the centers. Grassroots leaders were defined as neighborhood residents who are actively involved on the neighborhood level in revitalizing their community

An underlying premise of the collaboration is that community change demands leadership and that leadership should come from the community in order to facilitate community involvement in every aspect of determining the future of the community. The goal for both partners was to develop a leadership development model that would bring neighborhood leaders from throughout the city together in a supportive environment leading to collaborative action and building of community. The program focuses on the existing leaders capabilities and skills and provides new resources and knowledge to be more effective leaders.

The NCA/CND collaborative resulted in the creation of Neighborhood Leadership Cleveland (NLC). NLC was designed with the intensive involvement of community residents, NCA board members, and agency directors, supplemented by research on leadership development. A unique 14 week training program was developed that would provide residents the opportunity to be reflective about their leadership activities, recognize their role as a neighborhood leader and affirm the importance of their efforts, break down the isolation that many leaders were experiencing, and provide information, new techniques, and resources so that they could plan a future course for themselves and their neighborhood.

The program objectives are to build upon neighborhood leaders' experience; encourage and assist the establishment of networks among neighborhoods, their leaders, and their institutions; to broaden participants understanding of community; and to enhance the ability of neighborhoods to resolve problems on their own or in cooperation with other neighborhoods and institutions.

NLC presently has one class a year that has between 30 to 35 participants. The program is now recruiting for its 24th class and there are over 685 graduates of the program from neighborhoods throughout Cleveland and inner-ring suburbs with NCA locations.

Neighborhood Leadership Cleveland is designed to increase the participation and effectiveness of neighborhood residents in determining the future of their communities. The program is a two-tiered approach to leadership training consisting of the introductory course and a specialized level of training, including instruction, technical assistance, and community forums. Program participants explore such topics as the different definitions of leadership and leadership styles, decision-making analysis, neighborhood goal setting, and conflict resolution. The program begins with a day-and-a-half retreat and classes include simulations, group presentations, exercises, and neighborhood tours to ensure that the class has hands-on experience with practical applications. The assets-based model is stressed as well as consensus building. The program has as guiding principles that everyone is a teacher as well as a student; that we must celebrate the richness of diversity; that we must learn about each other as well as ourselves; that we all are important community assets; that participants will take ownership of and responsibility for the training; and that leadership training will be recognized not as an end but rather a re-entry point for continuing the participants' community activities and taking on new challenges.

The NLC program is now a joint program of the Center for Neighborhood Development and Neighborhood Leadership Institute.