Neighborhood Based Organizations, Latinos, and the Community at Large: A Case Study in Walla Walla Washington

Alisa Larson-Xu

Download PDF
I examined the impacts of neighborhood-based organizations (NBOs) on the general community where they work. My goal was to understand if the improvements made in poor and mixed race neighborhoods can lead to benefits for the community at large. I focused specifically on Commitment to Community (C2C) in Walla Walla, Washington, and their work with largely Latino neighborhoods.

Methods: I began my research by assessing previous scholarly material that pertained to NBOs’ effects on neighborhood quality as well as the needs and citizenship capacities of Latinos. I measured the impact of C2C in specific neighborhoods by participant observation and by conducting a survey. Because scholarly research connected academic achievement to neighborhood environments, I analyzed data on academic achievement in Walla Walla in relation to neighborhoods. I critically assessed the methods used by C2C and other NBOs, also using previous research as a guide. Finally, I interviewed key government representatives to understand the at-large community’s perspective and support for neighborhood improvement through NBO activity.

Findings:  C2C has had great success in fostering sentiments of empowerment that lead to tangible changes in neighborhood quality of life. The organization has the potential to improve social indicators, such as educational success, as it promotes and develops role models and good academic practices, which previous scholars have shown are central to educational achievement. Crime has decreased in all neighborhoods where C2C is involved. Although the wider community supports C2C, leaders were unresponsive to the fact that C2C improved Latino participation in the community. In fact, many government representatives disliked the idea that C2C would cater to any Latino interests because it would favor one group over another. Furthermore, C2C also showed hesitation in representing the Latino population as such, since their objective was to represent everyone living in the neighborhoods, not just Latinos.

Recommendations: Policies and decisions made by both the government and C2C must be representative of the people they serve, 20 percent of whom are Latino. Ignoring Latino culture, assets, and issues within a neighborhood context translates into ignoring a fifth of the community. Government entities should fund C2C for their ability to spark civic engagement and for their success in improving social indicators, which saves money and benefits the community as a whole. Lastly, I recommend that C2C and the government support the creation of an organization that serves specifically the Latino community.

Community Partner: Teri Barila, Walla Walla Community Network

Twitter Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Technorati Facebook Email

Comments are closed.