JHU SAIS Celebrates Five Years of Empowering Local Communities

WASHINGTON-The Empowering Neighborhood People (ENP) program is celebrating five successful years of assisting Washington, D.C. inner-city neighborhood groups to make positive and lasting changes in their communities.

Funded by the Kaplan Fund of New York, ENP is a free program of Johns Hopkins University's Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) which takes participants in selected neighborhoods through a year-long series of five workshops focusing on leadership development, strategic planning, and group dynamics. SAIS brings many years of international community development experience to its own Washington, D.C. neighborhood through ENP.

ENP is known to provide tools and "know-how" to groups to take action in their neighborhoods. For example, the faltering Bloomingdale neighborhood civic association revived its organization, a Columbia Heights group prioritized goals and created an action-plan to improve the neighboring Clifton Terrace housing complex, and ENP participants in a Frederick Douglass group started a regular neighborhood clean-up and broke ground for a community vegetable garden.

Other groups have become part of wider community projects. For example, in the Shaw neighborhood, plans for establishing a community services center had been underway for sometime. After ENP training, Joyce Robinson Paul and other local activists working with North Capitol Community Development Corporation became an integral part of the planning process for the $4.5 million Perry School Community Services Center, completed in 1995.

"ENP got us thinking that we could be trained to do a lot of the community development in our neighborhood and we could begin by pulling a vision statement as to what we wanted," Paul said. "People dream and they have visions, but unless they put they put them down and begin to act, it's always a dream and not a reality."

For years, Shaw residents had drawn up ambitious plans to turn the neighborhood around. But when it came time to put the blueprints into action, group conflict and a lack of confidence held the community back.

"Everybody wanted to be a leader but no one wanted to work together to make things happen," said Paul. "It got to the point where people were coming to our meetings, taking our ideas and moving forward with them because we were so bogged down fighting each other, we could not be productive."

Things began to change five years ago when Paul and 20 other residents participated in the first ENP workshop series, which focuses on moving community ideas from vision to action using a step-by-step strategic planning process and skills to improve group dynamics. Soon, the mood at local neighborhood meetings began to change.

"The training showed us that everyone had a say, that we should value everyone's suggestions and their involvement and commitment to what we're trying to do," Paul said.

Since 1994, 16 Washington neighborhood groups and over 320 individuals have successfully completed ENP's training and community building program. Participants have gone on to accomplish numerous goals, including rebuilding recreational facilities, removing trash transfer stations, reviving local civic associations and organizing orange-hat patrols.

Neighborhood groups of 20 or more persons can apply to the ENP program by 08/16/1999 to be selected for the 1999-2000 program, which begins in November. For information and an application, please contact Abena Disroe, Program Coordinator, ENP, Johns Hopkins\ SAIS, 1619 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W. Room 510, Washington, D.C. 20036, 202 663-5652. Information and an application can also be found on our web page www.said-jhu.edu

For more information, contact Felisa Neuringer Klubes at the SAIS Public Affairs Office at 202.663.5626 or fklubes@jhu.edu.

Monday, May 31, 1999
Press Release Type: 
Contact Person: 
Felisa Neuringer Klubes
Zip Code: 
(202) 663.5626