Giving Compass' Take:

• Urban Institute discusses how those involved in community development need to engage with their constituents more to truly understand their difficulties and trauma.

• How can we make sure we're always listening to the voices of the people that nonprofits serve? It will require adjustments in the way some organizations operate, but that will be a small price to pay for greater impact.

VolunteerMatch discusses ways we can bring communities closer together in the digital age.

Those living in public housing and other low-income or marginalized communities face challenges and trauma that most of us never do — and none of us ever should.

Though I’ve spent years working with communities like Benning Terrace, I don’t know what it’s like to grow up there and struggle with the daily stressors of violence and concentrated poverty. My family isn’t dealing with generations of trauma stemming from historic and structural conditions of racism, disenfranchisement, and isolation. And I haven’t been let down in the past by those attempting to intervene in my community. I am also not the most knowledgeable when it comes to community resources and strengths to draw upon in response to these challenges.

Researchers have the data to inform what programs and policies could help make things better, but most of us lack that lived experience. To get the full picture of community members’ priorities and design strategies to best address them, we need to talk to community members, acknowledge what they’re facing (and our role in it), and listen to their feedback.

These steps might seem obvious to some — why wouldn’t researchers, policymakers, or social service providers engage the communities they work in?

  • It’s not how we’re used to doing things. A weak excuse for avoiding innovation. The status quo certainly hasn’t solved all our problems.
  • It’s expensive. Building lasting relationships, hosting meetings, and getting to know a community requires time and money. But those investments pay off.
  • It goes against what some consider “rigorous.” Conversations with residents won’t produce hard data, but that doesn’t make their insights any less valid or useful.

Read the full article about improving communities through trauma-informed ways by Elsa Falkenburger at Urban Institute.