Before turning, after the recession of 2008, toward other work--including my current work in instruction and political science content, and communications--I had been engaged in work involving community development and community organization. Today, I maintain an interest in this area, and am not shy about sharing the work I did. If you have an interest, in any fashion, about harnessing the power of social networks and social capital in the betterment on cities and communities, the work is worth a read.
The oldest work, from my dissertation at the University of Alabama, concerns the development of Trinity Gardens, a neighborhood that lies mostly in the city of Mobile AL, with a small section sitting behind the city limits of Prichard AL, one of America's poorest urban municipalities. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, a women's group in this largely African-American, lower-income neighborhood joined forces with previously existing area civic groups in anti-crime efforts. A city councilman came to support their efforts and formed a neighborhood policing committee to further the group's aims. The meetings first involved discussions of crime only, but soon involved discussions of general community improvement. By the mid-2000s, the neighborhood hosted a new community center, an exercise trail, and a performing arts amphitheater, community library and health clinic, and could brag of decreased crime and blight. The segment in Prichard, however, stagnated.
I followed up my interest in social capital research in post-Katrina New Orleans, with a consideration of how community-based development, sparked by perceived and real threats to the future of some flooded or lightly flooded efforts, spurred the city's recovery. The research showed, however, that the neighborhoods did not have strong citywide ties. Existing literature suggested that this would limit the city's recovery in many areas, especially in less connected, lower-income areas. Today, a decade after Katrina, these efforts continue to have reverberations in the city's politics. However, the Crescent City never adopted a neighborhood-based planning or development system or organization, of a type now commonly found throughout the U.S.