The story of the Transforming Places Pilot Program and the Blue Island Robbins Neighborhood Network is one of collaboration, connection and community.
“We can provide services all day long, but if they aren’t services that are actually needed by the community, it’s all for nothing,” explains Ruby Powell, of Oasis Empowerment Zone, which is partner of the BIRNN.
“I always find it very gratifying when I talk to someone else about the program and they want to jump onboard.”
Christine Suddreth, Pathlights – A BIRNN partner
The BIRNN, in coordination with United Way and MFS, is an initiative that responds to community needs in the Blue Island/Robbins area with neighborhood-specific solutions.
As one of United Way’s Neighborhood Networks, the program is a blueprint for the Transforming Places Pilot Program, a place-based investment strategy in partnership with Cook County.
The goal of the neighborhood networks of Transforming Places is to coordinate resources and programs in support of each neighborhood’s local plan, which is developed by community voices and organizations alike. By embracing a focused approach to addressing specific community needs, Transforming Places transcends traditional service models as it empowers communities from within.
“Every meeting we have – we have new resources,” says Ruby about the BIRNN. “As we connect with different organizations, and when we come together to talk about what everyone needs, it’s very helpful for us to be like hey, I know someone I can connect you with.” Not only is this network beneficial to communities, it also is beneficial for organizations looking for clients, in both the short and long term.
“By partnering with other BIRNN entities and MFS groups, we can strengthen our voice and bring awareness to nonprofits and other community organizations as a whole,” explains Christine Suddreth, of Pathlights, another BIRNN partner. An example of this was during the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, when several of organizations in the network partnered and were able to successfully “provide clinics, education and materials very specific” to their neighborhoods, which larger citywide or statewide campaigns lacked.
“We aren’t isolated community groups, there’s a purpose,” says Christine. “We recognize your neighborhood has to have a network of community members who live there. You have to bring everybody together.”
“I would like to highlight the partnership of the BIRNN, its partners, and the community. Without community voices guiding our work, providing services and filling in the gaps we often find in underserved communities would be impossible.”
Ken Benson, Neighborhood Network Program Manager and MFS Staff Member
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