A Qualitative Exploration of Community Capacity Building, Leader(ship) Efficacy, and Local Knowledge

Authors: Andria Blackwood*, Kent State University
Topics: Urban Geography, Qualitative Research, United States
Keywords: Community capacity, self-efficacy, urban studies, leadership, neighborhood effects
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Committee Room, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


African American neighborhoods are often portrayed as debilitated and disorganized. While many of these neighborhoods are indeed resource-poor, they often contain enterprising residents who are committed to supporting their community. This group is frequently populated with a unique cadre of individuals: successful efficacious people who left to pursue personal goals such as education and/or employment elsewhere, but later returned to participate as leaders in community building efforts often working under the radar of more traditional political or social organizations. These individuals, I label as “homecomers,” bring a singular skill set. They know the neighborhood and its history, many of its residents, and can identify community needs and opportunities based on direct experience. Moreover, their forays beyond their community combined with their local knowledge give them access to additional resources and ideas making them distinctively qualified to broker beneficial connections between outside organizations and key neighborhood stakeholders. Utilizing in-depth interviews of community leaders of two African American neighborhoods, this paper explores the cognitive processes inherent in community leadership through these leaders’ unique combination of community building skills, leader-efficacy, and local knowledge. Qualitative content analysis of "homecomer" interviews is employed to explore in detail the cognitive processes inherent in these leaders’ community building capacity. Findings reveal how local knowledge helps create specific leader characteristics that positively influence these unique “homecomer” leaders’ ability to be effective community leaders.

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