Places for Civic Engagement

Neighborhood Resource Center and Neighborhood College

Herndon, Virginia 
Population: 23,000 
Contact: Marianne O'Riley, NRC Manager, 703-435-6830, marianne.o'riley@herndon-va.govnrc@herndon-va.gov 

The Herndon Neighborhood Resource Center (NRC), which opened its doors in 1999, is a collaborative effort of the Town of Herndon and Fairfax County. The NRC facility offers integrated services to address the complex social and physical challenges facing many of Herndon's neighborhoods. The center is within walking distance to many of the neighborhoods and is located on a bus route. 

The NRC building features include three multipurpose rooms, each with a kitchen; computer terminals; meeting rooms for service providers and clients; a waiting and reception area with toys and books for children and a 2,000 square-foot learning center with state-of-the-art computer lab. Various types of audiovisual equipment are available for programs and activities. The center also features a Community Association Reference Library, which contains written and audio materials to assist and strengthen community associations. The NRC provides meeting space for community organizations and groups, as well as volunteer opportunities. 

Also located in the NRC is the Herndon Police Department's Community Resource Office, which offers a variety of crime prevention programs, including the Neighborhood Watch Program. 

NRC staff manages the day-to-day operations at the NRC, including scheduling all programs and activities. The NRC staff is bilingual in English and Spanish and provides minor translation assistance to Town of Herndon community associations. 

The Herndon Neighborhood College program, which operates out of the Neighborhood Resource Center, enhances the town's partnerships with its residents by giving them the tools they need to build and expand leadership bases in their communities. The program uses a curriculum that incorporates leadership skills training, information on the local government process and hands-on community experience through a field assignment. 

The curriculum includes eight in-depth sessions. At each session, town officials and other community specialists give presentations about civic engagement, local government, consensus building and other topics. The participants also engage in networking sessions. Many of the program's graduates are involved in community groups and volunteer activities. 

The Town of Herndon received an Achievement Award in the 10,001-35,000 population categories from the Virginia Municipal League for the Herndon Neighborhood College program.

Network Center for Community Change (NC3)

Louisville, Kentucky 
Population: 741,000 
Contact: Anthony Smith, Director of Network Organizing, (502) 583-1426,connect@makechangetogether.org
Network Center for Community Change 

Meeting at the Network Center for 
Community Change (Photo: Anthony Smith)

Four Louisville neighborhoods: California, Phoenix Hill, Shelby Park and Smoketown established a community movement in 2010 to empower residents. The Network Center for Community Change (NC3), as the initiative is called, has more than 3,200 members. The network, sponsored by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, functions as a learning community of local leaders, residents, faith-based organizations, government, businesses and schools. 

Members of the network meet monthly in their neighborhoods to develop strategies in the following priority areas:

  • Living in strong, connected neighborhoods;
  • Doing satisfying work;
  • Enjoying and accumulating the money that is earned; and
  • Raising children to be healthy and ready for school.

The skills and experiences of specialists are enlisted, and residents meet to engage their neighbors about opportunities. The network has achieved results in all of its goal areas. For example, more than $4 million has been generated in neighborhood salaries from job placements through the network; $1.75 million and $760,000 in Earned Income Tax Credit was returned to families from free tax sites. The network, in collaboration with the city and several local agencies, organized Kindergarten Countdown, a program that educates parents and children about the transition to kindergarten. Network members are also working on ways to attract more customers to local farmers markets so that they can provide healthier food choices. 

The Network Center for Community Change was a finalist of the Community Matters 2010 Competition organized by Community Matters, a national non-profit working to promote citizen engagement and communities' development.