What's New?

  • A Story of Making Connections across the Divides of Race, Class and Culture

  • How one man’s journey from a Louisville housing project to the governor’s office demonstrates the power of networks.

  • Reflections on how Making Connections began its work in local communities, using “STLs.”

  • Finding new ways to get Beyond Welfare

  • Reflections on building resident power and capacity for change

  • Helping residents train for good jobs in San Antonio

  • Using culture to build community in Oakland

  • How residents got a seat at the table in Indianapolis

  • Getting people to work together on the needs of women and girls in Des Moines

  • The influence Making Connections had in Hartford

  • The long and winding road to the 'new normal' in White Center

  • The Diarist Project Publications

    (Download The Diarist Project Publications Catalog)

    (The Diarist Project Publications Catalog, 2007 - 2009)

    A Path Less Traveled: Reflections on the Approach Making Connections Used To Start a Long-Term Initiative To Transform Struggling Communities

    Making Connections began its work in local communities by having senior foundation staff take on the role of “Site Team Leader.” Asked to reflect about this role, these “STLs” offer some very interesting perspectives about the challenging process of implementing a national initiative in communities across the country.

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    Finding New Ways To Get Beyond Welfare

    A small group in Ames, Iowa, is exploring a very different approach to helping poor people, one that links people across income levels. The group’s founder, Lois Smidt, raises some provocative questions about how we try to reduce poverty and measure our success.

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    Building Resident Power and Capacity for Change: An ‘on-the-ground’ reflection about what it takes for funders to work effectively with low-income communities

    This report, done for Grassroots Grantmakers, developed out of an “on-the-ground” meeting involving 50 funders who support grassroots organizations in low-income communities. Through in-depth interviews it explores many topics raised at this meeting, including the need to build strong relationships with communities, to build the capacity of these communities and to build the capacity of foundations to do this work.

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    Bringing a Passion for Juvenile Justice System Reform to Making Connections

    At a Making Connections site, a Casey Foundation staff person serves as the "Site Team Leader." These "STLs" have brought a very diverse set of experiences to this role. In Oakland, STL Bart Lubow has a long history of working in juvenile justice reform, a history that influenced his approach to Making Connections.

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    Building a Pipeline to Success: A Look Inside the Making Connections Louisville Career Development Initiative

    In Louisville, Making Connections has successfully connected residents from its neighborhoods to jobs in a nearby hospital complex. But it hasn't always been easy, and MC has learned a lot about what it takes to build a successful jobs pipeline.

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    Building an Alliance around the Needs of Women and Girls

    As its name implies, one of the key goals of Making Connections was to get local people and institutions to work together more closely. But while everyone agrees that collaboration is important, it isn’t easy to make it happen. A Des Moines-based group called the Women's Alliance has built an effective collaboration among nonprofits serving women and girls in this city. This publication tells the story of how this collaboration was built and what others can learn from this experience.

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    Community Mobilization and Action for Results: A New Approach to Building Local Movements to Strengthen Families and Transform Neighborhoods

    This publication lays out the argument for a Foundation-wide commitment to community mobilization, explains why a focus on results can and should be the focus of a mobilization strategy, and lays out the lessons learned so far about how to build a local movement for change. This was done at the request of the person who led the "CMAR" work within the foundation, Garland Yates. It is another example of the role of diarists in helping practitioners pull together their thinking about their work.

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    Dealing with the Here and Now: Making Connections in Hartford’s resident-run small grants program

    Any long-term community change initiative has a short-term challenge: how to give the community’s residents a sense that things are changing now. In a few Making Connections sites, resident-run small grants programs have led to some concrete changes in its target neighborhoods while also demonstrating the principle that residents themselves can make things happen in their neighborhoods.

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    A Different Kind of Network

    The Making Connections Louisville network is building an ambitious community-wide network that is linking residents not just to one another, but also to many opportunities provided by Making Connections’ partners, such as jobs and asset-building programs. In addition, the network is building new relationships between service providers and residents.

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    Easing the Burden of Medical Debt in Des Moines

    More than one in three residents of Making Connections Des Moines neighborhoods struggle with medical debt. But a campaign led by a Making Connections partner - an organizing group called AMOS - helped thousands of Des Moines residents get free or discounted medical care.

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    The E-bulletin as a Communications Strategy in Des Moines Making Connections

    To carry out the strategy implied in its name – Making Connections – Des Moines has been e-mailing a weekly “e-bulletin” to more than 800 residents, community-based organizations, service providers, businesses and media. These e-bulletins focus on a wide range of topics: from issues facing low-wage workers to medical debt to diversity at a local organizing group.

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    The Gates Cherokee Redevelopment Project: A Huge Step Forward for Low-income People in Denver

    After a three-year campaign, a broad coalition has helped establish a new standard for the community benefits that should be expected when government provides large subsidies to development projects in Denver.

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    Getting Off the Payday Loan Treadmill

    In Louisville, the Making Connections network is working with a bank to give residents an alternative to high-cost payday loans. The goal is to help Network members pay off high cost debt, repair their credit and establish an emergency savings account. This 16-page publication, written by Louisville diarist Laura Crawford, explains how the Affordable Credit and Savings Plan works, how it came about and what challenges it has faced. It also includes a reflection about building family economic success by Making Connections Louisville's FES coordinator, Jane Walsh.

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    Having Faith in Communities of Faith

    In San Antonio Making Connections has relied heavily on faith-based institutions to start a movement for change. This publication explains how Making Connections built relationships with churches on San Antonio's West Side, what they have accomplished working together and what Making Connections leaders have learned from this experience.

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    Helping Low Income Immigrant Families Buy the "American Dream"

    This is the story of how an Oakland Making Connections seed grant helped dozens of immigrant and refugee families buy homes. The report looks at the role a grant can play in building the Making Connections process. It also finds lessons in this experience for other MC sites.

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    If at First You Don't Succeed...the Evolving EITC Story in Hartford

    Making Connections in Hartford helped launch and invested heavily in a local EITC campaign in 2002. The investment paid off in 2005. In those three years it learned a lot about strategic investments and partnering with local organizations.

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    Increasing Transparency and Local Ownership: Making Connections Denver Turns a Difficult Leadership Transition into an Opportunity to Transform Itself

    This story is an in-depth examination of the process Denver Making Connections used to hire a new site coordinator, a process that deeply involved six residents of Denver's target neighborhoods. This transition in leadership also became a transition in the way Denver MC is governed, with residents playing a more prominent role in a new governance structure. This publication also includes a reflection with Site Team Leader Garland Yates about his strategy around these transitions.

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    Journey to Engagement: A First-person Reflection on How to Engage Residents

    For more than 30 years, former Casey Foundation Senior Program Officer Garland Yates has been working with residents in low-income communities across the country. This publication - which is based on a series of interviews - lays out what he's learned about how to engage residents in trying to transform their communities. It also tells the story of how he came to this work.

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    Learning from a Learning Partnership: What Denver's Community Learning Network Can Teach About How to Build A Resident-Driven Process and Keep a Community-Building Initiative Accountable

    A key element of Making Connections is the idea of each site having a local "learning partner" that functions as a source of local data, data that can be used to carry out, evaluate and learn from the local work. In Denver Making Connections was able to deeply engage residents in this work. This publication explains how this happened and what was learned.

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    The Long and Winding Road to the “New Normal”

    How does a community develop a way to manage a community change initiative that will help sustain this work over time but not undermine the energy of a community working together to create a new way of doing business? The first Making Connections community to confront this challenge has been White Center/Boulevard Park, which is an extremely diverse, mostly lower-income neighborhood south of Seattle. They have learned a lot about the process of developing a “Local Management Entity” and creating what they call the “new normal.”

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    Making a Difference: One Life - One Family - Transformed

    A crucial part of transforming a low-income community is transforming the lives of individuals and families who live in that community. This publication tells the story of a Denver resident who has been on a long transformation process: Candace Redshirt.

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    Making Media Matter: How and Why Making Connections in Hartford Stressed Communications to Explain Its Work and Pursue Its Neighborhood Transformation Goals

    An early emphasis on communications has helped clarify what Making Connections in Hartford is all about, provided an opportunity for people from two very diverse neighborhoods to work together on common issues, and developed a group of residents and community organization leaders who understand both the importance of media and the way to get a community's messages out through the media.

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    Motivated by Her Two Children, Mayra Lopez Learns To Be an Activist

    In part because of her involvement with Making Connections, Mayra Lopez has become a leader of efforts to make her Oakland neighborhood a better place to raise children. While her story is a very personal one, it also communicates a lot about the process that people living in tough neighborhoods go through to change their lives and their communities.

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    A New Way to Give It Away: How a Small Grants Program has Engaged Residents and Achieved Quick Successes in Boston

    A challenge in doing a long-term community transformation initiative is what to do about the short term. This publication takes a look at how this challenge was overcome in Boston.

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    “On the Big Battles, We Were Getting our Butts Kicked”

    The long-time director of a growing organizing group in Denver – and a long-time close partner of Denver Making Connections – reflects about why his groups decided to invest so heavily in a long-term initiative like Making Connections and what has come out of this investment. This publication includes a short reflection by long-time Making Connections Denver Site Team Leader Garland Yates about why he worked hard to engage existing organizing groups in this work.

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    A PHD in Life: Cec Ortiz's Journey from Low-wage Worker to City Leader

    This piece tells the story of how Cec Ortiz - Making Connections Denver's first site coordinator - journeyed from a small farming and ranching community in southeast Colorado to eventually become the head of the Denver Mayor's Office of Economic Development. Ortiz was able to overcome her own set of struggles and challenges by building strong bonds with each person she encountered.

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    Rebuilding a Neighborhood from the Ground Up

    When people talk about the potential of resident-driven community change, they often talk about Boston's Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative. Begun in the mid-1980s, "DSNI" has helped bring about a palpable change in this once-forsaken neighborhood.

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    A Reflection on How Social Networks Can Become a Powerful Tool to Meet Basic Needs and Build Momentum for Change

    An organization in the border city of Nogales, Az., has used "promotoras" - residents how have been trained to reach out to other residents about health issues - to both meet some of the immediate health needs of low-income families as well as help these families better understand - and ultimately control - the forces that affect their lives. The founder of this organization, Maria Gomez-Murphy, reflects on her organization's social network-approach, explaining how the promotoras do their work and why it has been an effective way to educate and activate many local residents.

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    A Reflection on Why Social Networks Are Critical to Sustainable Change

    The person leading the Annie E. Casey Foundation's work on social networks - Audrey Jordan - explains why social networks are so important to the process of transforming struggling communities. This publication also includes the story of how a community group in Lawrence, Ma., has used a social network approach to revitalize its community.

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    A Seat at the Table: How Resident Leaders from Two Indianapolis Neighborhoods Helped Shape Decisions about the Future of Making Connections in this City

    One of the challenges in the transition of Making Connections to local management was maintaining a strong resident role in the work. In Indianapolis, a core group of residents played a crucial role in the LME transition. Their work transformed the way many people perceived the roles that residents can and should play in changing their neighborhoods. This publication tells the story of how these residents carved out their role in this process and what others can learn from their experience.

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    A Small Investment in Translation Equipment

    "While several dynamics are at work here, it is clear that by making translation equipment available at the meetings of resident groups, we have facilitated a level of interaction and dialogue that did not previously exist."

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    Stopping Predatory Lending: How a Strategic Alliance Allowed Citizens for Community Improvement, Residents and Des Moines Making Connections to Tackle an Issue that has Undermined Many Families and Neighborhoods

    Many low-income neighborhoods have experienced an epidemic of predatory lending, which involves loans with extraordinarily high interest rates and fees that go to people who don't have access to traditional loans.   This publication tells the story of a group in Des Moines - supported by Making Connections Des Moines - that has successfully fought this practice, winning a large settlement for people hurt by predatory loans and helping change the state's lending laws. It includes reflection by Making Connections staff about the lessons this success story has for other MC sites.

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    Taking Care of Our Own: A Denver Neighborhood Leads the Way in Alternative Youth Justice and Shows a Way that Communities Can Help Build a Model for System Reform

    A Denver Making Connections neighborhood helped establish a community court to handle minor violations by young people living in this community. The idea is to have them make restitution to the community as well as receive services that could deal with the reasons they were getting in trouble in the first place. The publication looks at how Denver's court system was persuaded to make this major change in its approach, discussing many of the lessons learned.  The publication also focuses on the changes that happened in this neighborhood before the creation of the community court, changes initiated by Making Connections Denver.

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    Unleashing the Power of Parents to Fix Their Kids' Schools

    A Making Connections Denver partner has found ways to engage parents in their children's schools and help them become articulate leaders in a district-wide school reform movement. This publication tells the story of how this movement has been built, what it's achieved so far and what others can learn from this experience.

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    Using Culture to Build Community: How Oakland Arts Activists Turned Their Dream into the Reality of the EastSide Cultural Center

    This 40-page case study examines the successful effort to transform a shuttered former hotel into a cultural center and 16 units of affordable housing. Making Connections Oakland helped nurture a group of Oakland artists and teachers as they built an organization, developed partners, raised money and successfully bought and renovated a building to create a base for their community art work. Their vision is to use culture to bridge the enormous diversity of the Lower San Antonio neighborhood and build community. Through nearly three dozen interviews, Oakland diarist Bill Wong tells the story of the Center’s creation and the lessons that can be learned from this experience by arts activists, community developers, funders and initiatives like Making Connections.

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    “A Very Intense and Complex Balancing Act” – a Reflection by Oakland Making Connections Coordinator Fred Blackwell

    The local people who took on the role of coordinating the Making Connections work in the 10 sites faced a great challenge: how to pull together and be an advocate for local people and organizations while also being the connecting point between the local work and the national foundation that was supporting the work, the Annie E. Casey Foundation. One of the first coordinators was Fred Blackwell in Oakland. He says he learned a lot from the experience.

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    Westside Education and Training Center: Finding Creative Ways to Combine Residents' Need for Good Jobs with Employers' Need for Trained Workers

    This publication tells the story of the very rapid creation of an education center that is helping residents on San Antonio's Westside train for and connect to local jobs as well as take college courses that can lead to careers. Making Connections played a key facilitation role in bringing together several partners to create this education center in a former school building.

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    What's Changed in the Way Hartford Supports Children and their Families Living in Very Low-income Neighborhoods?

    In Hartford, diarist Mike Salius asked people what influence that Making Connections had over the years in this city and how its influence might be sustained. What the 13 people he interviewed had to say was quite interesting, suggesting that Making Connections had more influence in Hartford than some outsiders might think.

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    Where the Rubber Hits the Road. The Evolving - and Growing - Role of Local Site Coordinators in Making Connections

    To help build a national initiative from the ground up, the Annie E. Casey Foundation has increasingly relied on "local site coordinators." This publication explores this new role through the eyes of the site coordinators themselves. It also explains what they are learning about how to develop local efforts to transform struggling neighborhoods.

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    “The Work Just Has to Keep Going” – A Reflection on Denver’s Community Court

    As the people who helped win a community court based in a Making Connections Denver neighborhood learned, convincing a system to agree to a reform is just the first step. Then that reform needs to be implemented and ultimately institutionalized. This didn't happen with Denver's community court and the reflections by five people about the struggle to keep the court going has much to communicate to anyone involved in a system-reform effort.

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    “I had this sense of people just pouring into me” – How one man’s journey from a Louisville housing project to the governor’s office demonstrates the power of networks.

    The life story of one of the people who helped create Louisville Making Connections’ ambitious Network and ground it in the realities of his community – Delquan Dorsey – demonstrates the transformative power that networks and relationships can have. He also shows the critical role someone who grew up in a struggling neighborhood can play in grounding a community change initiative in the realities of the communities being changed.

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    A Story of Making Connections across the Divides of Race, Class and Culture:

    Nearly everyone doing community change work acknowledges the importance of race, class and culture. But how do you tackle these sensitive subjects? The journey of one Making Connections Des Moines staff person – a self-described “white person from the suburbs” – suggests both some answers to this question as well as why addressing these issues is so critical to any effort to build community and engage residents.

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