January 29, 2020

Culture and Healing as a Holistic Approach to Community Development

In summer 2019, Enterprise’s Northern California market launched the cultural resilience program as a continued commitment to holistic community development. The program, led by Brandon Jones, works to safeguard and uplift the cultural knowledge, tools, and existing healthy practices that allow residents to be resilient amid rapid development and external stressors. 

Why is Cultural Resilience Important?

Historically, the housing sector has evaluated community development impact through the lens of number of units produced or preserved. However, research indicates that brick and mortar alone does not cultivate or maintain thriving, sustainable communities. This narrow approach to housing fails to account for the collective lived experience of residents and nuanced cultural dynamics which are imperative to fostering a sense of home and belonging.

Housing and community development without a comprehensive understanding of the complexities of culture—or merely restricting it to decorative elements as is the common industry practice—has significant potential for harmful community disruption, cultural erasure and perpetual trauma. 

Cultivating Solutions

At Enterprise, we view ourselves as a cultural organization with enormous impacts on the communities we serve. As part of the HOPE SF public housing redevelopment we work to do this with many partners, including residents and our national Culture and Creativity Team.

The Cultural Resilience program operates with three distinct grounding principles:

  1. Cultural expression of all kinds is not only a dynamic tool for personal and community transformation, but also is a fundamental human right. 
  2. How people experience and navigate their natural and built environment plays a central role in how they relate to themselves and others, which impacts social cohesion and general wellbeing.
  3. Even the most well-intentioned organizations can still perpetuate collective trauma and oppressive systems within communities. Therefore, we must remain self-critical and reflective. 

A Cultural Resilience Approach

By prioritizing healing-centered engagement and trauma mitigation, the Cultural Resilience program helps developers and practitioners reimagine what is possible within community development. This effort involves investing in creative ways to employ community participatory practices and deep critical action regarding how development organizations can remove – not create – barriers for resilience.

We approach this work through the following strategies:

Advance Community and Cultural Equity – Support the cultivation of systems and projects that allow residents to articulate, own and then leverage their own legacies and narratives by: 

  • Forming a new HOPE SF Community Arts & Culture Council 
  • Facilitating community narrative and storytelling working groups
  • Providing technical assistance for public art master planning 

Steward Organizational Development with Cultural Lenses – Explore how internal processes and programing for the development and preservation of the built environment can support and reflect – rather than stifle and eradicate – cultural values and identity in communities by: 

  • Launching a cultural evaluation and data collection on cultural indicators
  • Developing a cultural resilience framework
  • Delivering technical assistance for creative placemaking

Facilitate Collective Healing – Create tools and opportunities for shared or collective healing-centered engagement and trauma mitigation by:  

  • Undertaking an inventory of healing-centered engagement 
  • Convening HOPE- SF ‘Community of Practice’ sessions for developers and property managers
  • Offering trainings
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