Promising Practices Program

Administering Organization

The Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA)

Program Name

East Montclair/ Lowry Neighborhood Academy

Program Objectives and Unique Needs Addressed

The Neighborhood Academy trains community members to become actively engaged in creating issue-specific solutions in their communities. The East Montclair/Lowry Neighborhood Academy of Denver, Colorado, followed the national program's objectives, which are to: 

  • Train a group of at least seven youth and seven adults in a curriculum grounded in ICA's ToP® (Technology of Participation®) group facilitation methods and participatory strategies for community development.
  • Use the methods learned to plan and implement one project of the participants' own design and planning.
  • Apply the philosophy of Community Youth Development to build strong, long-lasting youth-adult partnerships.
  • Catalyze or strengthen a series of paradigm shifts:
    • from the need for hierarchical leadership to the need for facilitative leadership
    • from the need for a visionary leader who defines a path of change to the need for participatory community planning and action implementation
    • from reliance on outside resources to self-reliance and confidence that the best tools for change are already within one's own community
  • Put in place a system of on-going one-on-one mentoring and support of Neighborhood Academy alumni with the staff of community-based partner organizations

Program Description

The Neighborhood Academy is an ongoing program offered by the Institute of Cultural Affairs, comprised of an intensive leadership and skill-development program for youth and adults. The typical Neighborhood Academy consists of six to eight full day sessions or 12 to 14 half-day sessions. Session leaders model facilitative leadership and share approaches that work in community development. Core approaches to learning include demonstration, practice, and supportive feedback on group facilitation methods, and the design and implementation of a practical project to improve their community. Participants practice 'up-front' facilitation skills by working on real-life community needs.

The East Montclair/Lowry Neighborhood Academy was co-sponsored by the Denver Office of the Institute of Cultural Affairs and the Rocky Mountain Mutual Housing Association. This Neighborhood Academy brought together individuals between the ages of 16 and 60, from diverse cultural backgrounds, including immigrants and refugees from Ethiopia, Somalia and Mexico, as well as native Denverites. The East Montclair/Lowry group chose to address a traffic safety issue at a busy and dangerous intersection situated between the two neighborhoods. Academy participants facilitated a community meeting to review the traffic situation and suggest improvements. They followed up with local officials, including city council members and traffic engineers, to take the next steps toward implementing a solution.

Resource Materials Used in Program

ICA's Technology of Participation® group facilitation methods and participatory strategies for community development include three effective yet simple methods that can be used by anyone. They include a focused conversation method, a consensus workshop method, and an action planning method.

Groups Served by Program

The Neighborhood Academy promotes community integration for all members of the community. The Neighborhood Academy is for youth and adults who want to make positive, permanent changes where they live. One third of the participants in the East Montclair/Lowry Neighborhood Academy were refugees. The leadership sessions included potluck dinners, where community residents identified issues in the community and how to address or resolve those issues.

Program Funding

Typically, program costs are paid by ICA's local community partner organizations. The ICA will work with local partners to secure funding.

Program Staffing and Required Staff Training

Neighborhood Academies are led by the staff of the Institute of Cultural Affairs, but may also include local paid facilitators with advanced training and demonstrated skills in ICA's Technology of Participation methods. Local volunteers often help with program set up and management.

Program Evaluation

Methods used to evaluate a Neighborhood Academy may include surveys and interviews, feedback from participants and the staff of partner organizations, documentation of the results of the participant project, and pre- and post-assessments of participants' leadership skills and confidence.

Program Outcomes

Program success is defined in terms of the skill level of participants in the program's facilitation methods, participants' confidence in 'up-front' leadership roles, the increase in community engagement, practical impact on a community need, and the overall satisfaction of the local partner organization's objectives.

Upon graduating from the program, participants in a Neighborhood Academy are equipped to:

  • Map their neighborhood and utilize its resources
  • Develop a Vision for their community
  • Build effective youth-adult partnerships
  • Move people toward action by expanding participation in local activities
  • Plan and implement strategic community projects
  • Hold productive and participatory neighborhood meetings

Graduates have integrated themselves into a variety of leadership roles within their local schools, Parent-Teacher Organizations, Neighborhood Associations, church tutoring programs, and youth groups. They have gone on to work as Neighborhood Organizers, to plan and implement community events, to facilitate neighborhood action planning processes and conferences, and to train additional Neighborhood Academies.

Additional Comments

The East Montclair/Lowry Neighborhood Academy partnered with the Rocky Mountain Mutual Housing in Denver for this particular project. Community partnerships are an essential component of the national ICA Neighborhood Academy project. Additional partnerships have included: Jacobs Center for Nonprofit Innovation, San Diego, CA; Machan Elementary School, Phoenix, AZ; and the Community Toolbox, Adelanto, CA. Other Key Elements The Neighborhood Academy can be offered in English and/or Spanish

Program Contact

Kynan Langenbeck
(773) 769-6363, Ext. 284

Program Dates

This program began in 1996; it is still operating.