Nancy Sunnenberg wants to create a broad, proactive way of welcoming people when they move to a new neighborhood. She’s been thinking about the questions of “How do we attract and retain people who are residents?” and “How do people become more active citizens?” for a long time.
After moving to Roselawn in the early 2000s, Sunnenberg joined the Community Council to become more involved in her new neighborhood. She became a trustee and officer, and her work with the group got her thinking about how to get more people involved in that kind of community work.
Like many organizations, Sunnenberg says, “we were looking for (people with) the energy and physical wherewithal to do things.” So in 2006 she started researching how a proactive welcoming of people to a neighborhood might cultivate them to be active participants in civic life, hoping to find ways to engage more people.
Now Sunnenberg is exploring the same question through her People’s Liberty grant project
, Hello Home.
It felt like a perfect funding opportunity, she says, for a project that didn’t fit neatly into an existing nonprofit’s mission. The People’s Liberty grant allows her more flexibility than a traditional organizational grant.
The goal of Hello Home is to create a united “welcome packet” for Walnut Hills, East Walnut Hills and Madisonville, which Sunnenberg chose because they connect along one of the city’s major transportation corridors in the city, Madison Road. The packets will contain offers from and information about ArtsWave, Cincinnati Museum Center, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Metro, Cincy Red Bike, local businesses and much more.
The crux of the project, however, is not the packet itself but how new residents will receive it. Sunnenberg is training Neighborhood Ambassadors to actively meet and greet recipients; community councils and organizations and signature neighborhood businesses have helped her connect to volunteers in the three target areas.
The process starts with a note left on a new resident’s door, allowing that person to contact the Neighborhood Ambassador. They then meet for conversation at a local coffee shop or similar neighborhood hub. The Ambassador acts as a host, welcoming the newcomer to the neighborhood, and the packet is delivered through that active process of welcoming.
“The process is part of the package,” Sunnenberg says, adding that the real idea is human contact and personal engagement will help inspire and empower people to get involved in their new neighborhood communities.
“People do not recognize how much resource they carry within themselves,” Sunnenberg says.
Neighborhood Ambassadors were trained last week at People’s Liberty HQ in Over-the-Rhine. Once the packets have been launched for a few months, Sunnenberg, the Ambassadors and participating organizations will come together to evaluate how the process is going and identify opportunities for growth and change.
“There are a lot of opportunities to expand the project based on ‘how do we help people connect?’” Sunnenberg says. “I hope that what will come out of it will be the conversation that expands the idea. I am even more of a fan of the creative process than I was coming into this.”