by Diana Nelson Jones/Nov 5
it is no longer astonishing that groups from a bunch of neighborhoods get together and act toward a common goal - a sweeter life for all. Surprising, maybe, but no longer unheard of.
The southern Hilltop neighborhoods now have a paid community organizer who has gotten organizations from six neighborhoods on board, literally, to form the board of the Hilltop Alliance, a newish community-building umbrella that has some serious technical assistance.
The Web site, www.pghhilltopalliance.com has just been launched.
Sara Bennett, the community organizer, was hired with funding from the Pittsburgh Partnership for Neighborhood Development (PPND) and its partners in building professional capacity in neighborhood groups. Those partners include the mayor's office, city planning, the Urban Redevelopment Authority and the Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group.
The Alliance was born of the momentum of these neighborhoods going together on a Weed and Seed grant and then a collaborative Hilltop convention called by CORO, a community building non-profit who sent team leaders to help knock on doors and roust people out for that big meeting in 2007. Sara said the goal is to build capacity so the Alliance is an umbrella the way the Northside Leadership Conference is an umbrella for a score of North SIde neighborhood-building non-profits
To build the Alliance, Sara said, invitations went out to all known neighborhood councils and community development non-profits in Allentown, Arlington, Arlington Heights, Beltzhoover, Bon Air, Carrick, Knoxville, St. Clair, Mount Oliver and the Mount Oliver borough.
So far, representatives from the two Mount Olivers, Carrick, Allentown and St. Clair have joined, and 60 people turned out for a recent pow-wow to launch an action plan - in plain talk, something like a "to do" list that you can actually pull off -in anticipation of a big action forum on Nov. 16. (There will be a lot of talk before the action, and we will be there to report on it.)
Walkabout will follow the progress - the drippingly slow, almost incohesive segments of progress that lurch backward for every step forward until enough people get tired of yelling and shouting about turf and hurt feelings and disagreeing over what business should be developed on the corner.
Well... Walkabout may not live long enough to see the shouting end, but...
"It's a slow road," Sara said, "but so much collaboration that hasn't happened before is happening now. It's a struggle, but it is necessary and it's worth it. If we can persevere through the tough stuff, we will hit a tipping point, first organizationally, with more neighborhoods coming on board, and from that, we will start to see some real changes," she said; for starters, "a drop in the crime rate and an improvement of the perception of safety.
"I don't see us going back to where it was 50 years ago, but the goal is to make these wonderful places to live, where people can feel safe and bring their kids to the park and places after school.
"We want the Hilltop to be a place that is on the map in Pittsburgh."