NCLB is a comprehensive response to putting a strategy development process in place at the grassroots level. Communities are diverse and dynamic. No two communities are alike, nor will any community stay the same forever. There is no universal solution to community development that could be used as a blueprint for all communities. It is thus necessary to put a strategy development process in place that looks into key areas and help the community members identify, prioritize and address their problems on a regular basis.
The No Community Left Behind (NCLB) approach provides an enhanced focus on neighbourhood means improving the community’s voice, giving local residents more say over what happens where they live. The four key factors that impact their lives and community’s health are their social environment, physical condition and the infrastructure, their economic status and the services that they receive from various agencies, different levels of government and other service providers. Based on this, the four key interconnected components of the NCLB approach and assessment, planning and progress monitoring are: Social, Physical, Economic and Service.
Social: The well-known concept of “social capital” is key to understanding how the social environment can affect a community’s health. Weak social and political networks make it difficult for communities to organize and work for the collective good. A community with strong social networks is better able to advocate for itself, its residents better able to control their individual and collective futures.
Since social mobilization and community engagement is key to effecting changes to any of the four identified areas, it is recognized as the encompassing component of the NCLB approach.
Physical: The physical features, infrastructure, facilities, and housing conditions of a community influence the health of residents in many ways. The link between health and the “built environment”—streets, housing, businesses, schools, parks, and patterns of regional growth and change—has become a new focus for public health and planning officials. Hence it is one of the core components of the NCLB strategy.
Service: The inequitable distribution of health, education, law enforcement, sanitation and recreation opportunities and services in some neighbourhoods can negatively affect the health of a community. The community assessment phase of the NCLB process focuses on identifying risk and protective factors regarding service provision in the designated communities. Different types of risk factors the NCLB planning process takes into account are: Lack of access to necessary healthcare services, culturally inappropriate and poor quality services, prevalence of violence, isolation, reluctance to seek needed services, and unavailability of some basic services.
Economic: The economic environment, economic status of residents, employment opportunities and working conditions in a community have a critical impact on health. Independent of the impact of each individual’s income on his or her health, the economic environment of a neighbourhood has its own physical and psychological impact. Community Economic development is the key to neighbourhood revitalization. That’s why the NCLB approach considers community economic development (CED) as one of the core areas of the overall strategy. See the neighbourhood restoration component in the following section which addresses the economic health of the community in greater detail.
When the NCLB approach is implemented in any neighbourhood, the situation is thoroughly assessed from a social, physical environment, service provision and economic status perspective. Different communities are at different levels, facing exclusive issues with diverse influencing factors. When the community enters into the strategic planning process, it identifies core areas for its Community Action Plan.
The following is an example from the Banff, Russell Heights, Confederation Court and Heatherington communities in South East Ottawa. Due to similar ownership and almost similar issues and concerns, the core areas identified for interventions were the following: Social and physical environment in these communities were mostly affected by crime, violence and drug issues. In conjunction with this was the need for service alignment according to the most prioritized needs and concerns. Therefore, law enforcement, community policing prevention and empowerment, and neighbourhood restoration were selected as the core components for action in these communities. Social Mobilization remained the encompassing component.
Law enforcement and community policing represent the correctional aspect of the strategy. Intervention, empowerment and neighbourhood restoration represent the preventive phase. Community policing would be involved in both corrective and preventive activities and would serve as a bridge between the two components.
Experience shows that in most vulnerable communities, neighbourhood deterioration, low income and fear of crime, or existence of criminal elements, are usually the major concerns. These issues prevent the community from mobilization and organization in the first place. In such situations, the community crime and neighbourhood deterioration problems cannot be fully addressed with piecemeal solutions. Therefore, the NCLB strategy for such neighbourhoods is a multi-level strategic plan that would include four basic components besides the encompassing component of social mobilization:
- Law enforcement;
- Community policing;
- Prevention, intervention and neighbourhood restoration;
- Neighbourhood restoration.
Law enforcement and community policing represent the “curative” or correctional aspect of the strategy. The focus of community policing is to improve the relationship and accountability between law enforcement and residents. It builds bridges and establishes trust between the community and Ottawa Police Service. Prevention, intervention, treatment and neighbourhood restoration represent the “preventive” components.
Law Enforcement: Law enforcement goals are the identification, arrest, prosecution, conviction and incarceration of violent criminals and drug traffickers operating in the partner communities. Some of the law enforcement initiatives in the NCLB sites focus on special enforcement operations such as assigning special neighbourhood officers, offenders-focused approach, intensified drug and gang watch and elimination of gang activities in these areas.
City by–law plays an effective role in problems such as nuisances, noise, graffiti removal etc.
Community Policing: The goal of community policing is to establish mutual trust between Ottawa Police and community members. It aims to raise the level of community involvement in crime prevention and intervention activities to solve gangs and drug-related problems (to name a few), in neighbourhoods and enhance the level of community security. Activities focus on increasing community and police informal interaction, police visibility in the neighbourhood and developing cooperative relationships between the police and residents in the target areas.
Foot patrols, cooperative problem solving discussions, victim referrals to support services, police formal presentations, interaction with youth and nuisance abatement activities increase positive interaction between the police and the community. Community-orientated policing bridges the curative and preventive strategies. OPS officers obtain helpful information from area residents for curative efforts while they help the community members with community revitalization and prevention resources.
Prevention, Intervention, and Neighbourhood restoration: The prevention, intervention, and neighbourhood component of the NCLB strategy would address the needs of the community and help prevent crime and violence by addressing the risk and protective factors associated with drug abuse, violence, and crime. The coordinated efforts of law enforcement, social service agencies, private sector businesses and residents help improve provision of services. Prevention, intervention and neighbourhood restoration include youth services, after school programs and Youth Council activities. Youth Councils can be established and linked to other councils in adjacent communities for coordinated activities and supported from youth service agencies and the city.
A meeting place, such as a community house in the Ottawa Community housing (OCH) communities or a community centre is the best place to organize and deliver an array of youth and adult-oriented services in a multi-service centre setting. Every NCLB site needs to have access to at least one such meeting/activities and activities space.
The neighbourhood restoration component of the NCLB strategy is part of the Economic development strategy. It is designed to revitalize distressed neighbourhoods and improve the quality of life through economic development and a revitalization of the community’s health and wellness. Neighbourhood restoration programs help to improve living conditions, enhance home security, allow for low-cost physical improvements, develop long-term efforts to renovate and maintain housing, and provide educational, economic, social, recreational and other opportunities. The neighbourhood restoration component also looks into the possibilities of community economic development (CED) opportunities for the residents.