Quality of Life Planning

Planning is one of the most important steps a neighborhood can take to become healthier, safer, and economically stronger. A quality-of-life plan is like a roadmap: it’s how you get to your goal of becoming a great neighborhood.

Creating the plan isn’t easy. Neighborhood planning requires meetings, strategy sessions, and reaching out to neighborhood residents, churches, schools, business leaders, and other stakeholders to make sure it is a plan your entire neighborhood will embrace. You have to consider all sorts of factors, from land use to education to public safety to the quality of housing to health care and beyond. It can (and probably should) take months to bring a plan together.

But it’s worth it. Through planning, you can develop a guide for the growth of your neighborhood. You see not only where you want to go, but how you can work together to get there.
A quality-of-life plan captures the vision of residents and turns your goals into achievable projects and programs. It’s not planning for planning’s sake, but practical planning driven by real community needs—that leads to real, visible results.

Also, a quality-of-life plan is living document. It’s not static: it changes and grows as your neighborhood changes. That’s because it’s important to begin taking action while you’re planning. An important part of creating your quality-of-life plan is finding meaningful actions you can take now to start making your neighborhood great.

Quality of Life Planning Council

In Indianapolis, a group of advocate organizations have come together to offer guidance and support for neighborhoods pursuing quality of life plans.  The council of public, non-profit, and philanthropic organizations also help verify that the defining characteristics of a quality of life planning process are achieved to ensure that a quality of life plan is really a collaborative, comprehensive effort.  

Great Indy Neighborhoods Initiative

The Quality of Life Planning concept was first demonstrated through the Great Indy Neighborhoods Initiative (GINI), a three-year pilot program launched in 2007.  GINI was a set of initiatives established to support neighbors working across traditional boundaries to collaborate on issues affecting their neighborhood. 

A partnership of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, the Indianapolis Neighborhood Resource Center, the City of Indianapolis, and a Steering Committee of community leadership, the GINI process revolved around 11 Principles of Healthy Neighborhoods.

Civic

  1. Leadership: Healthy neighborhoods value and cultivate skilled leadership and an active citizenry. Healthy neighborhoods possess a complement of local organizations, civic associations, religious communities, and/or community development corporations composed of the diverse, local array of racial, ethnic, and economic constituencies.
  2. Vision: Healthy neighborhoods foster the creation of a “future community vision” and develop a holistic set of neighborhood strategies to achieve that vision. The ability to collaborate across barriers and sectors to successfully implement these strategies is recognized and valued.
  3. Collaboration: Healthy neighborhoods exist within a metropolitan setting where governments and the private, philanthropic, and independent sectors value and provide coordinated support for neighborhood association formation and growth, local leadership development, and holistic community development initiatives.

Social

  1. Services: Healthy communities maintain the highest standard of health and human services.
  2. Education: Healthy neighborhoods place a high value on intellectual and moral education. All local institutions and social structures take extraordinary measures to provide support to local schools. Parents and adults actively participate in the education of children. Children and young adults are involved in neighborhood associations and other local leadership forums that offer civic responsibility training.
  3. Culture: Healthy communities offer a wide and varied array of artistic, cultural, recreational, and spiritual programs and venues to enrich the quality of life, nurture local talent, and foster creativity.

Physical

  1. Safety: In healthy neighborhoods, police and citizens partner together to create a safe, crime-free environment. Healthy neighborhoods create safe and nurturing venues for children.
  2. Environment: Healthy communities manage and invest in local properties and the common environment to maintain the community’s aesthetic and physical quality.
  3. Housing: Healthy communities offer attractive housing as a community asset and a wealth-building opportunity for local families.

Economic

  1. Business Diversity: Healthy communities possess a complement of retail and professional services.
  2. Economy: Healthy communities have an integrated economic relationship with the surrounding region that provides both producers and consumers and generates economic opportunity. Healthy neighborhoods provide a setting where individuals can participate in the economy, either in the workforce or through entrepreneurial activity.

The Demonstration Initiative provided targeted support for six neighborhoods to conduct a quality of life planning process.  This support included: operating support for neighborhood staff dedicated to community engagement, the planning process, and plan implementation; technical support for the quality of life plan; financial and technical assistance for organizational development; and seed funding for plan implementation.  Key components of the Demonstration Initiative included each neighborhood: selecting a “convening organization” that would be charged with fiduciary responsibility for the planning process; a lengthy community engagement process that sought to bridge traditional neighborhood divides while increasing plan ownership; and a resulting workplan in which a person or organization was assigned responsibility for each and every item.  The resulting neighborhood-driven plans were subsequently adopted by the City of Indianapolis as policy documents. 

The Engagement Initiative provided support for all Indy neighborhoods seeking to strengthen neighborhood leadership and neighbor-driven ideas.  Through community building training, technical assistance, and competitive grants, the initiative sought to improve the social capital in neighborhoods, engage diverse stakeholders around neighborhood issues, and empower residents with support for ideas and projects they developed.

Partnership support for the Great Indy Neighborhoods Initiative formally ended in 2010, transitioning into the Quality of Life Planning Council (see above).  

GINI Evaluation
So what changes occured in the neighborhoods?  What worked?  What didn't work?  And where do we go from here?  Those are the topics addressed and summarized in a 2011 program evaluation.  You'll see how GINI began, what our initial challenges were, how the program worked, and what it accomplished--along with lessons learned and a roadmap for community development in the future.  Download the evaluation summary and complete evaluation report here.  

Quality of Life Planning Resources

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