Solutions from the community, for the community

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Picture of scenic mural on side of building.Erie, Pa., has been hit hard by the loss of manufacturing jobs, leaving 17% of individuals and 11% of families living in poverty. The dialogue-to-change process has made space for residents to voice their concerns and identify possible solutions to reduce poverty and violence, as well as attract new businesses.

In partnership with Mercyhurst College, the city is working towards a multifaceted solution to their waning economy. The program was launched in the heart of the city and has spread to six of the suburbs in the last five years.

Early childhood became the focus of one of the action teams because many children are falling short academically. In a partnership with local school leaders, the team developed the “6 Steps for School Readiness” workbook so parents can increase their child’s learning potential. Since they began distribution four years ago, early childhood education enrollment has increased 3% in Erie, while it has declined in all other Pennsylvania counties.

In an effort to eliminate barriers families face to accessing quality health care, an action team is working to establish school-based health care centers for low-income children. Multiple locations applied for federal grants and received a combined $970,470. They hope to open the centers in the fall of 2012.

Night-time violence is also a key concern for local residents. In an effort to increase safety, an action team partnered with the local government to improve lighting around the city by replacing broken streetlamps and trimming branches that obstruct the light.  After the program started in 2008, reported robberies decreased from 317 to 121 in just one year.

These are just a few of the remarkable changes happening in Erie.  Every new round of dialogues brings forward new ideas. The city has created a sustained program which will continue to find innovative ways to help residents make their voices heard and take action.

Read more stories of communities addressing poverty.


This story is formatted as a one-page printable handout! Use it to inspire community members at your next meeting, or share it with potential funders to show them what's possible.

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September 20, 2013

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For more than 25 years, Everyday Democracy has worked with communities across the country to foster a healthy and vibrant democracy – one that is characterized by strong relationships across divides...

Dialogue to Change

Our ultimate goal is to create positive community change that includes everyone, and our tools, advice, and resources foster that kind of change. Whether you’re grappling with a divisive community issue, or simply want to include residents’ voices in city government, Everyday Democracy's Dialogue to Change process, using a racial equity lens, can help.