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Model Practices


San Jose, CA: Strong Neighborhood Initiative
The Strong Neighborhoods Initiative is a neighborhood-based civic engagement initiative, first established in 2000 by the City of San Jose. From the beginning, much of the Strong Neighborhoods initiative’s identity and purpose was tied to an $80 million redevelopment fund.[i] With the local redevelopment agency as a partner, the city developed a program that empowered residents from 19 low-income and ethnically diverse neighborhoods to propose and prioritize improvement projects in their neighborhoods. San Jose invested $104 million to implement more than 75 percent of the resident-proposed projects.[ii] Even with the economic downturn and the dissolution of redevelopment agencies, the city has been able to sustain a level of community engagement through a Neighborhood Council. The city council has now made the Neighborhood Council a permanent part of its decision-making process. To learn more:

Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN: Building Local Capacity Through Regranting
Members of the Corridors of Opportunity regional planning consortium in the Minneapolis-St. Paul region of Minnesota re-granted $750,000 from their $5 million dollar grant to community organizations along the light rail corridors to engage the low-income communities, communities of color, and immigrant communities that are most impacted by the proposed expansion of the light rail system. A team of three engagement and equity-focused local intermediaries managed the RFP and granting process. After the first round of grants, 10 community organizations were awarded an average of $30,000 to engage their constituencies in the region’s plan for development along these new transit corridors. With these grants, organizations with deep reach into low-income communities, communities of color, immigrant communities, and the disability community have been able to engage their constituencies in shaping future investments around transit stations. To learn more: Engage Twin Cities

San Mateo County, CA: Community Collaboration Children’s Success (CCCS)
Using a place-based, trauma-informed approach, the CCCS team works with youth and families to identify barriers to success and address long-standing sources of risk. Through creative community building activities and data collection methods, community members share perspectives and solutions, identifying priority interventions to support youth success and creating neighborhood plans in four San Mateo County neighborhoods. To learn more:

The CCCS Neighborhood Action Plans are available here:

North Fair Oaks, CA: North Fair Oaks Community Plan
North Fair Oaks is an unincorporated area of San Mateo County located near Redwood City, Atherton, and Menlo Park. In 2011 San Mateo County adopted the North Fair Oaks Community Plan as a long-range planning tool for the area for the next 25 to 30 years. The plan update process was completed with broad community engagement that included multiple workshops and community forums and outreach through stakeholder interviews neighborhood groups, mailings, newspaper noticing, online noticing, and public hearings. The update process was overseen by a steering committee comprised of members active in the North Fair Oaks community and a Technical Advisory Committee representing government agencies. This robust planning process was able to bring together diverse groups and stakeholders to together create a long-range policy plan for the North Fair Oaks area.

San Mateo County, CA: Home For All Community Engagement Model
Home for All is a San Mateo County initiative to address the job-housing gap, with the goal of increasing affordable homes and the diversity of types of homes available. As part of this initiative, San Mateo County has utilized a robust community engagement process to connect with different communities across the County on their housing needs and concerns. The pilot program started with just four cities: Burlingame, Half Moon Bay, Portola Valley, and Redwood City. These cities each received support from a consultant to focus on community engagement around a housing issue impacting their city. The cities also received funding for the events and resources, as well as policy support. Additionally, the community engagement process built-out a Learning Network that was open to all cities, places, and partners who wanted to learn from the community engagement model. Here the County hosted meetings to showcase and share information on what worked, and what could be improved, as well as new areas on how to message housing issues, mobility (transportation), and funding. Overall, the model has been very successful for engaging residents with housing issues, and Home For All has been able to make progress closing the jobs-housing gap.
Community Engagement Resources for the four Pilot Cities:

East Palo Alto, CA: General Plan Health and Equity Element 
In 2016 East Palo Alto adopted their General Plan update, but the update began in 2012 with the desire to have inclusive community engagement with the process. A General Plan is a California legal requirement that is meant to serve as a long-term planning guide for future growth. There is flexibility in what can be included in a General Plan and how the update should be conducted, but California requires each General Plan contain seven elements: Land use, circulation, housing, conservation, open space, noise, and safety. East Palo Alto, like a few other California cities, chose to include additional elements (or chapters) in their plan, one of them being Health & Equity. East Palo Alto used community engagement processes to determine what would be included and how the element would serve their community. In creating this element, numerous stakeholders from the community and organizations were brought together, as the consultant hosted workshops and was responsive to community input. Ultimately the final product was community lead and a blueprint for improving health conditions for all East Palo Alto residents. 

Link to General Plan:
Link to Health & Equity Element:


[i] Christopher Hoene, Christopher Kingsley, and Matthew Leighninger, “Bright Spots in Community Engagement: Case Studies of U.S. Communities Creating Greater Civic Participation from the Bottom Up.,” 2013,
[ii] “San Jose’s Strong Neighborhoods Initiative Empowers Residents,” Institute for Local Government, accessed January 22, 2018,