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When you’ve been to one city, you’ve been to one city.

We’ve said this time and again at Cities of Service. Every city is different and so is the context in which it operates. City leaders have diverse approaches to citizen engagement and there is potential for even greater impact when they can share their transferable solutions with one another.

In this spirit of bringing people together to share a variety of perspectives, we held our first international convening this summer in Bologna, Italy, in partnership with the City of Bologna, the Fondazione Innovazione Urbana, Nesta, and URBACT. …

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Hamilton is one of ten cities participating in the Cities of Service Love Your Block program, and the city is working with community members and partners to identify houses that needed small-scale repairs and help the owners make improvements.

There are a number of reasons that homeowners could not make the repairs on their own: some don’t have the financial resources, others don’t have the time or equipment. Some have been ill.

East End resident Keith, for example, had been in intensive care. Peggy, his wife, had been spending her time in the hospital with him and the yard work had been more than Peggy could handle on her own. …

What Does Effective Engagement Look Like? Lessons from Resilience AmeriCorps

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We know that when city government and citizens work together, they are better able to handle challenges ranging from flooding and extreme heat to lack of economic opportunity. But what does effective collaboration between city leaders and residents look like on the ground?

In 2016, Cities of Service launched the Resilience AmeriCorps VISTA program to help city leaders work with residents and foster communities that are resilient in the face of hardship and disaster. We worked with ten cities to plan and implement programs that would empower citizens to build resilience in their neighborhoods. …

Unsung Hero: Mary P. Wheeler

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Tool lending libraries may be popping up in cities around the country, but they are not new, says Minot resident Mary P. Wheeler. “Libraries have been doing this kind of thing for years and years,” she said. “Libraries have always been interested in meeting community needs.”

The tool library in Minot, North Dakota, is new, however, and Mary was instrumental in making it happen. A native North Dakotan, she is technical services librarian in charge of cataloguing all the items at the library, from books to wrenches and wheelbarrows.

Minot was devastated by flooding along the Souris River in 2011. Many residents didn’t own the tools they needed to repair their homes. To ensure that residents had the equipment they needed in the future, Cities of Service AmeriCorps VISTA members, city staff, and residents created the tool lending library as part of its Cities of Service Resilience AmeriCorps program. …

Unsung Hero: Beth Verrelli

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Beth Verrelli has lived in Fairview, a diverse neighborhood in Anchorage, Alaska, for more than 25 years. She used to see local children eating raspberries off the bushes in her alleyway.

“That made me interested in bringing local homegrown food to kids that often don’t have access to fresh foods and produce,” she said.

She applied for a grant from the local community council to improve the Fairview Park, including installing an edible garden. …

Focused on Impact Q&A with AmeriCorps VISTA Leader Talia Ramella

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Talia Ramella is the Can you tell us a little about your work in Phoenix? Love Your Block City Hall AmeriCorps VISTA leader for the Cities of Service Love Your Block program. In this role she provides support for AmeriCorps VISTA members placed in the 10 participating Love Your Block cities. Before joining the Cities of Service team, Talia served a year as an AmeriCorps VISTA member in Phoenix, Arizona, supporting the Cities of Service Love Your Block program there.

What were some of your favorite moments?

I was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona. I feel really connected to the city and the people there. I first met my supervisor [Chief Service Officer Michael Hammett] working in a restaurant in Phoenix. I went from serving Michael pancakes every Sunday morning to working with him. He was-still is-a really incredible mentor. Working for city government was one of the first times I was surrounded by people who were politically and civically involved. It was a new experience and I found I really liked it. …

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Sarah Rosen Wartell, President of the Urban Institute, is a member of the Engaged Cities Award review committee. As part of an ongoing series, we asked her a few questions about the award and her own work.

What interests you about reviewing applications for the Engaged Cities Award?

I think that the core concept of the award, which is that decision-making needs to be truly participatory with the affected communities, is the right premise. It’s very much a part of [the Urban Institute’s] mission, whether it’s research where we try to have the community participate in design, execution, and interpretation, or even social science research with the community. …

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Marc Ott, Executive Director of the International City/County Management Association, is a member of the Engaged Cities Award review committee. As part of an ongoing series, we asked him a few questions about the award and his own work.

As you know, the Engaged Cities Award aims to find and elevate some of the most successful and diverse ways that city leaders are actively engaging their citizens to solve critical public problems. Why do you think a recognition program like this is important?

To solve the complex problems facing communities around the world today, it’s essential that we seek a diversity of opinions. Only by including people that may have been kept out of the discussion in the past can we identify truly innovative approaches. That’s why this award is so important and we’re happy to be a strong partner with Cities of Service. The cities that participate and the ultimate prize winners shine a light on the importance of this paradigm shift. …

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Brooks Rainwater is director of the National League of Cities’ Center for City Solutions and a member of the Engaged Cities Award review committee . As part of an ongoing series, we asked him a few questions about the award and his own work.

As you know, the Engaged Cities Award aims to find and elevate some of the most successful and diverse ways that city leaders are actively engaging their citizens to solve critical public problems. What interests you about reviewing applications for the Engaged Cities Award?

The Engaged Cities Award recognition is important because it is a clear signal to cities-and, most importantly, community members-that local leadership is important for solving problems in inclusive and innovative ways. It is in cities where we see policy landscapes that are action-oriented and focused on results. Unlike other levels of government, city leaders don’t vacillate and equivocate. They do the work on behalf of the people that elected them to do it-and they create replicable solutions for other cities that the Engaged Cities Award can help elevate. …

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Vicki Sellick is Executive Director of Programmes at Nesta and a member of the Engaged Cities Award review committee . As part of an ongoing series, we asked her a few questions about the award and her own work.

What interests you about reviewing applications for the Engaged Cities Award?

I have the privilege of working for an organization called , which is a U.K. foundation charged with finding bold ideas to change lives. …

About

Cities of Service

A nonprofit organization that helps mayors build stronger cities by changing the way local government and citizens work together. www.citiesofservice.org

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