Through this process, I found my imagination.
Being trauma informed means recognizing the impact of traumatic experiences, but not letting them define you or your community
Creating a trauma informed framework
Since 2016, NKCDC has been working toward a trauma-informed model for community development. Being trauma informed means acknowledging the physical and mental toll that comes from living in a neighborhood suffering from disinvestment, neglect, poverty or the opioid epidemic—but not letting those experiences be the only defining characteristics for the community or its residents.
NKCDC sees this holistic change in three mutually reinforcing stages:
Together, we are safe.
This is the foundational element of the work. NKCDC will strive to be a safe space for both its staff and the community. We will continue to transform vacant space to increase physical safety in our community, while also working with residents to identify and improve psychological, social, and moral safety.
Together, we are resilient.
When we create a safe space for neighborhood growth, the community can begin building on strengths and developing new capacity to increase resilience.
Together, we are home.
Building from a base of improved safety and greater collective resilience, the community will be equipped to redefine their neighborhood as “home” and connect to a more positive identity. NKCDC will continue to promote equitable development and create affordable, safe, and healthy housing, economic opportunities, and paths to homeownership.
A collaboration with our community
In 2016, NKCDC began a Sustainable Communities Initiative partnership with Impact Services and the Philadelphia Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC). Our initial goal was to work with residents to design a training curriculum that could teach community members about the impacts of trauma and how to deal with it effectively—both as individuals and as a community.
In July 2017, with funding from the Thomas Scattergood Behavioral Health Foundation, LISC Philadelphia, and NeighborWorks America, NKCDC and Impact Services began a series of workshops led by trained trauma-informed consultants Mike O’Bryan of the Village of Arts and Humanities, Dr. Sandra Bloom, and Joe Foderaro. The workshops were attended by residents and staff, and covered topics such as toxic stress, types of safety, and the SELF (Safety, Emotion, Loss, Future) framework.
Because of the enthusiasm and command of trauma-informed principles that the neighborhood participants demonstrated during the co-design process, the curriculum shifted to a “train the trainer” model. NKCDC, Impact Services and neighborhood residents agree that people living in the community are best positioned to communicate trauma-informed concepts and make sure the program is sustainable.
The co-design process also led NKCDC to understand that trauma-informed work requires a deep commitment throughout NKCDC as an organization. We now have five staff members trained in the Sanctuary Model—a blueprint for trauma-informed change—who are able to bring trauma-informed principles to their work, train additional staff, and help shape organizational culture and priorities.
In the spring of 2018, NKCDC and Impact Services began a pilot phase of block-level projects and evaluation. Trauma-trained resident leaders collected 150 baseline surveys as part of an evaluation process designed with Rutgers University, and began community conversations on a few target blocks. We held meet-and-greets with neighbors and offered low intensity activities, such as wreath-making, to help people get to know one another. The community conversations are ongoing, and we are implementing a trauma-informed approach to help neighbors decide what projects to implement on their blocks.
Connected Community Toolkit
Connected Community: A Trauma Informed Community Engagement Toolkit aims to improve the quality and effectiveness of community-based work in neighborhoods that experience high levels of trauma. The curriculum is designed to both teach participants about trauma and to build the skills necessary for them to lead workshops of their own. The toolkit is free and accessible at traumainformedcommunity.org.
Healing Communities Guide
Between 2018 and 2019, NKCDC was one of six community development organizations convened by NeighborWorks America for a a learning community about trauma-informed community development. This guide is an introduction to trauma-informed practices, and why they are increasingly being adopted by development organizations.