Innovation in neighborhood leadership

Matthew Henson Community

Henson Village is a mixed-income community in the Central City South neighborhood. Through the federal Hope VI initiative, Henson Village was built on the former site of Matthew Henson Homes, a historic public-housing development.

Anyone interested in building new leadership at the neighborhood level could learn a lot from the 17,000 residents of Central City South. This neighborhood—a two square-mile area located just southwest of downtown Phoenix—is demonstrating the power of working together to create great places.

The Neighborhood Development Collaborative, a partnership between foundations, corporations, and public entities who share a common purpose of improving economic and social conditions in local low-income neighborhoods, has helped Central City South residents create a Quality of Life Plan, “a document to be used collectively by residents and stakeholders to guide work toward creating neighborhoods that are healthy, safe, and economically vibrant.”

This resident-driven and resident-developed plan includes goals and strategies in eight areas, each of which has partners in the broader community. For instance, supporters of the economic-development goal include Downtown Phoenix Market, Arizona Public Service, Chicanos Por La Causa, and the Urban League; partners for the health goal include the ASU School of Nursing, Maricopa Integrated Health System, and CCS Leader Mentors.

Residents of Central City South are also gaining skills through a leadership-training academy, offered four times per year, that helps them develop the capacity to direct the Quality of Life Plan’s implementation and advocate for the community they want. The Quality of Life plan even has its own “Strategy Stewards” to ensure that the plan is not discounted, forgotten, or ignored.

The Phoenix Revitalization Corporation (PRC), a long-time community-development organization, has played a vital role in this effort. LISC Phoenix, the Arizona Community Foundation, Chase Bank, The Lodestar Foundation, Valley of the Sun United Way, and St. Luke’s Health Initiatives have been Central City South’s funding partners, and the City of Phoenix has provided additional support.

Regular updates about Central City South are posted on the PRC’s website, as well as on the Twitter feed for the Quality of Life Plan.

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