Crixell Shell of the Minnesota Peacebuilding Leadership Institute talks with community members at the Lowry Hill East Neighborhood Association's Twin Cities Community Pop-Up Market at Mueller Park on Aug. 20. (Eric Ortiz)
LHENA Community Building Block Program
Mission:Create healthy neighborhoods for all people in Minneapolis.
How: Use restorative practices with a reimagined block club approach to develop restorative solutions and improve the quality of life in any neighborhood.
The Lowry Hill East Neighborhood Association (LHENA) developed a "Block by Block Model" based on restorative practices. The goal of restorative practices is to build community and manage conflict by repairing harm and building and strengthening relationships.
LHENA was chosen as the neighborhood to pilot a community public safety program in Minneapolis. This program was led by a partnership of Restorative Justice Community Action (RJCA), Minnesota Peacebuilding Leadership Institute (Peacebuilding) and community leader Manu Lewis. Beginning in January 2022, a six-person LHENA core team comprised of Lowry Hil East residents, LHENA staff and Minneapolis community leaders went through six months of training and mentoring with RJCA, Peacebuilding and Manu Lewis. Together, LHENA's core team developed a community building model that promotes healing, restorative practices and mutual aid.This model is centered on neighborhood blocks and provides a general framework for community building with the tools for success. The program can be customized by any neighborhood to meet the unique needs and cultural specifications of any community.
LHENA Community Building Block Steps
Step 1: Recruit block leader. Get a block leader for the block in the neighborhood where you live or work.
Step 2: Gather contact info. The block leader collects email and phone contact information from neighbors (residents and business owners) on your block.
Step 3: Set up communication channel. The block leader creates a primary group communication method to keep everyone connected and informed on neighborhood news. The communication method could be group email, group text chat, app, social media or another type of communication channel. It is good to have one primary communication method, but you can have multiple communication channels.
Step 4:Connect neighbors.The block leader connects everyone on the block with the group communication method and shares block contact information with all the neighbors on the block.
Step 5:Send regular updates.The block leader sends block and neighborhood news update via group communication. The update can include information about community events, gatherings on the block and in the neighborhood, public issues of importance such as tip sheets on safety and crime prevention (from bike theft to carjackings), neighborhood crime reports so people know how to protect self and property, volunteer or job opportunities, anything (positive or negative) that would interest neighbors. The frequency of the email can be weekly or monthly.
Step 6: Organize meetups and caretaking. Everyone on the block gets to know each other through informal meet and greets and communicates with the community via regular group communication. They look out for each other and can provide mutual aid for their neighbors, sharing resources and services as necessary. Group communications can address any public issues that need attention. It could be suspicious or criminal behavior. It also could be good news (birthday, new job, promotion, BBQ), planned gatherings (block party), a simple request (can anyone go on a dog walk with me tonight?) or an impromptu activity (picking up trash on the street, clearing leaves out of drains). The block group is more than just a neighborhood watch program. It is meant to build community and solidarity.
Step 7: Create neighborhood block network. Theblock leader connects with their neighborhood association and lets them know about their block group. The neighborhood association adds all of the block group leader information to a centralized neighborhood database and connects all of the block leaders in the neighborhood. This creates a neighborhood block network, where all the blocks can stay connected.
Step 8: Connect with city stakeholders.The neighborhood association shares neighborhood block leader information with all key local officials and community leaders, including city council representatives, police precincts inspectors and officers, community specialists, school administrators, and business owners.
Step 9: Create city block network. Block leaders connect with local officials and community leaders, and help blocks build relationships with them. They can organize formal and informal community gatherings so neighborhood blocks and local officials and community leaders can build mutual trust and respect. These neighborhood block networks can create a city block network, where everyone is connected and working together to build healthy communities.
Step 10: Encourage mutual effort. Block leaders delegate and encourage shared participation in block caretaking, meetup organizing, as well as neighborhood and city networking. The more people working together, the more community we can build.
What Are the Characteristics of a Healthy Community?
1. Access to education 2. Volunteerism and philanthropy 3. Personal and professional development 4. Safety net services
Access to Education Education is essential in any community. Children need access to reliable education, especially during early grades, to support long-term success.
Volunteerism and Philanthropy The whole community benefits when neighbors help each other. There is no shortage of ways to volunteer and share your time, talents and love to help someone in need. If you can't volunteer, financial donations also can help.
Personal and Professional Development Young, aspiring business leaders play a role in the success of a community. Providing them with opportunities to continue their professional development can produce many benefits for the community, including new jobs, a stronger economy, and better corporate social responsibility.
Safety Net Services Misfortune can happen to anyone at any time. Giving community members and families shelter and other needs during a crisis is the hallmark of a healthy, caring community. Many agencies and organizations provide these "safety net" services to neighborhood residents in need. It contributes to a community's greater good to support them and their efforts however you can.
How a Block Program Can Help Build Healthy Communities The health of any community — regardless of size, age or population — depends on the people who live, work, play and pray there. When community members are connected and work toward the common goal of helping each other, more lives get access to education, volunteerism and philanthropy, personal and professional development, and safety net services. When community members care, more lives improve. Communities grow, prosper and get healthy. Everyone in the community benefits when communities are healthy. All of this starts on your block in the neighborhood where you live.
Benefits of Being Part of a Neighborhood Block Group
You know your neighbors and what's happening on your block and in the neighborhood.
You can learn about events and gatherings on your block and in the neighborhood.
You can learn about opportunities in your neighborhood and community.
You can help shape how your community looks today and in the future.
You can be part of community solutions.
What Are Restorative Practices? Restorative practices get a bad rap and are commonly misunderstood. The field of restorative practices emerged in the early 2000s from the principles of restorative justice, but restorative practices extend beyond criminal justice. Because the restorative concept has its roots in the field of criminal justice, some people hear the word "restorative" and mistakenly think restorative practices are reactive, only to be used as a response to crime and wrongdoing.
On the contrary, restorative practices are proactive. They restore, build and strengthen new relationships and social capital. Social capital is the network of relationships between people and community connections that allow society to function. Social capital is the trust, mutual understanding, shared values and behaviors that bind us together and make cooperative action possible.
More Voice, More Choice, More Responsibility In 2000, Ted Wachtel founded the International Institute for Restorative Practices (IIRP), a new accredited master’s degree-granting school that supports the study and research of restorative practices. The IIRP is dedicated to restoring community by preventing and resolving conflict, building and strengthening relationships. In the United States, they've been most successful in impacting schools, youth justice, and youth counseling.
Wachtel retired as the president of IIRP in 2015 to take restorative practices into politics and economics. He believes restorative practices are the path to building a new reality based on the "theory of everyone." This is the idea that we get better results in every setting (family, classroom, workplace, community, country) if authorities give more voice and choice to all people, in exchange for taking more responsibility.
The fundamental hypothesis of restorative practices is simple.
Human beings are happier, more cooperative and productive, and more likely to make positive changes in their behavior when those in positions of authority do things with them, rather than to them or for them.
This is the social discipline window. It is a way to frame the way we work with people.
The social discipline window can be applied to any setting — communities, family, schools, work.
With the social discipline window, we never stop learning. Everyone is a student of life, and we can empower communities at any age.
Restorative practices build healthy relationships, reduce harmful behavior, repair relationship, resolve conflicts, hold people and groups accountable, and maintain community.
Restorative practices are all about building cooperation, collaboration, taking responsibility and being accountable. These are all social skills that are lacking in today's society. By bringing restorative practices into our community, we can develop these important skills and create a more inclusive world with healthy communities in every neighborhood.
The important part of restorative practices is restoring and building relationships. When harm happens in the community, it violates the relationship. With restorative practices, we can create a continuum that builds relationships, repairs harm and strengthens the community. This restorative practices continuum is a great way to solve problems, and it is the foundation of the LHENA community building block program. This block program builds on the existing block club program in Minneapolis. There are block clubs, but they are disconnected. We aim to connect the city, block by block.
Behavior change happens when time is invested in building bridges with others and promoting values like tolerance, inclusiveness, respect, empathy and forgiveness. The block group program presents a community approach to change and a way to manage the tensions that can arise as part of that process. This is where the ethos of restorative practices could be useful in helping us transform our communities. Restorative practices are a way to improve relationships and civil society.
Inspiring Community Leadership and Empowerment The core team of LHENA's block program will train block leaders on using restorative practices with their neighbors. Then, block leaders can train others how to use restorative practices to create a "train the trainers" cycle. As more people understand restorative practices and how to use them, we can build more positive relationships and trust, decrease antisocial behaviors, repair harms, and strengthen communities. Once we establish the restorative block program and refine the process in our neighborhood, we can find and train new block leaders in other neighborhoods to bring restorative practices to more parts of Minneapolis. The result will be healthier communities. That can lead to a healthier city for all. If you are interested in learning more about the community building block program or being involved, please fill out this form.
Questions to Consider Who are you and your tribe? What are your interests? What do you value?
What makes a strong community? What are your community concerns?
What do you see as your role in the community? In addressing your concerns?
How do we find and develop community leaders and block leaders?
How do we create networks of common interests and organize them?
How do we build community? How can you contribute?
What could our community use more of? Less of?
How has public safety personally affected your quality of life?
What would you like to see in our communities to make you feel safer?
How can we engage people to be more active in their communities?
What actions can we take to breathe new life into public safety engagement?
If you have a public safety issue in the Wedge, here's what you can do.
1. Call 911 for any public safety issues that require police, fire or medical. Follow up with a call or email to 311. Calling 311 can have up to 30 min wait times. If you don't want to call 311, you can email any and all complaints to 311 at firstname.lastname@example.org. In other words, anytime you call 911, report it to 311 also. Ask for a report/incident number every time you call or email.
2. If there is a problem property in your neighborhood - residential or commercial - you can report to 911 and 311. Regulatory Services, NCR (Neighborhood and Community Relations), and the Ward 10 Council offices will all be notified when anyone reports a problem property. These complaints are tracked and counted, and the properties get flagged and bumped up the chain of command.
3. Contact LHENA. LHENA staff serves as a conduit between Wedge neighbors/business owners and City/MPD. After you have reported a public issue to 911 and 311, let LHENA know about it. You can share your concerns here. We will not share your name or any other personal information if you want to remain anonymous to the city and MPD. When you contact LHENA, just let LHENA staff know what information you do not want us to share, and we will keep it private. Once we determine what information you want us to share, LHENA will relay the information to the appropriate people at the city and MPD to ensure swift actions are taken and the issue gets resolved.
LHENA is here to help. LHENA staff and board members are serving as a conduit between Wedge neighbors/business owners and city/MPD. Together, we will work together to create public safety solutions that work for everyone in our community. If you want to join us in this effort or have ideas to share, please let us know. All are welcome.