EmpowerLA Awardee North Hills East Neighborhood Council (NHENC)was only certified in December 2010, but they have been busy reaching out to their community to fulfill the mission of Neighborhood Councils. Their Board members and volunteers have been working hard to promote citizen participation in government by trying different methods to spread the word about the Neighborhood Council to their diverse, majority Spanish-speaking community.
They’ve built and strengthened relationships with schools, parent centers, non-profit community organizations, and law enforcement in the area. They’ve also held outreach events, such as the Youth Art Contest, Earth Day Clean-Ups, and Educational Resource Fairs, so they can get to know their community face to face, to bring neighbors together, to foster a sense of community and pride for North Hills East, and at the same time, to educate them about the NHENC and their purpose.
The NHENC has made the following efforts to uphold the Neighborhood Council ideals of inclusiveness, non-discrimination, transparency, and independence:
1. They provide professional translation services at every Board meeting. While this is a huge portion of their budget, they show their constituents respect by using a professional Spanish interpreter and providing audience members with audio tools;
2. They established a Code of Civility in English and Spanish that provides standards in how they treat one another and show respect for all;
4. They do the same with their bilingual outreach materials, such as the banner, flyers, outreach brochures, and newsletters. They create quality materials as a way to demonstrate to the community that quality is what they deserve, no matter what their income, background, education, race, or ethnicity;3. When planning their website, they developed English and Spanish pages simultaneously and sought a web master who had experience in developing websites in English and Spanish (as well as internationally). Thus, their Spanish pages were not created as an afterthought and content was not “auto-translated” using free programs that often mis-translate messages;
5. Their agendas and minutes are in English and Spanish and can be found on their website along with other important Neighborhood Council documents.
5. The Council’s Public Safety Chair promotes the independence and empowerment of neighborhood watch groups and block captains to reduce crime and graffitti and have also built strong relationships with the senior lead officer for the area;
6. In addition to outreaching the traditional way, face-to-face at meetings and events, NHENC acknowledges that a huge percentage of their stakeholders are children and teens, and they tend to use different ways of communicating. Therefore, they use their website, Facebook page, Twitter account, and blog as ways these individuals can learn about and communicate with the NHENC. Their web presence has become so strong over the past year, it has drawn many viewers and participants not just from other parts of Los Angeles, or the U.S., but from other countries as well.
Congratulations to the North Hills East Neighborhood Council for increasing civic participation in their community and making government more responsive to local needs!