Network Center For Community Change Strives For Stronger Neighborhoods

Dana Jackson, Executive Director for the Network Center for Community Change.

Dana Jackson, Executive Director for the Network Center for Community Change.

The Network Center for Community Change is a movement to organize, mobilize and advocate for an equal, fair and just society. As a nonprofit organization driven by a network of over 5,000 members who live, work, worship in or care about Louisville’s urban neighborhoods, they cultivate new leaders, advance education opportunities and contribute to stronger neighborhoods. Part of that work is addressing the social determinants that play a critical role in the health outcomes and life chances for people and places that have been historically marginalized. Dana Jackson, the Executive Director for the Network Center for Community Change, shares more about her organization and its works.

Lori Kommor: Can you tell us more about what the Network Center for Community Changes does?
Dana Jackson: Specifically, what we are doing is organizing. We are going door to door, talking with people about what matters. This year, we knocked on hundreds of doors in Louisville to share information and opportunities. We are engaging neighborhood leaders committed to making change. We have over 200 (volunteer) Power Members who are skilled at community organizing and connecting people to resources. We are working with young people, providing leadership training on personal accountability and resilience and leading in your community. Over 160 people gather on the third Thursday of each month for Network Nite. There they share what’s new and good in their lives, learn about new opportunities for change and share a meal together. We are building a movement of people who know each other, care for each other and support each other in making personal, family and community change.

Kommor: What is our biggest community challenge to being a healthier city and how can we overcome this?
Jackson: I was really honored to be part of the Greater Louisville Project’s Health Advisory Group that contributed to the special report “Building a Healthier Louisville.” This report accomplished a couple of really important things: first, it tied the health of Louisville’s residents to our progress and competitiveness as a city. Second, the report showed us that place really matters when we talk about the predictors of health, as do income and race. These factors should not be what determine health and life expectancy. It’s right to expect that our genes or our behaviors affect those things. But the race of the family we are born into, or the neighborhood we grow up in or the amount of money our parents make determines our health and life expectancy – that should be unacceptable. That’s not the Louisville we want to be.

I think the good news is that as a whole community, we should be able to change this picture. The most powerful thing the NC3 is doing to contribute to positive change in Louisville is the Network itself. The power of 5,000 members committed to individual, family and community change makes a whole lot of things possible.

Kommor: Are there examples from other communities that Louisville should explore?
Jackson: At the Network, we are big fans of the “Walkers and Talkers” model of sharing health and health care information. This is not rocket science. It’s just people talking to people about what matters. So in New Orleans, Walkers and Talkers – neighbors who were trained and armed with good information – went door to door and signed over 7,000 up for Medicaid. This was especially critical in the years right after Hurricane Katrina.

In Texas, the Promotoras (community health workers) are another model that works. Like the Walkers and Talkers, residents of highly affected communities are trained and supported to carry information, opportunities and messages into communities. Promotoras are also bilingual liaisons between health care providers and people in the community.

Models like these recognize that the most trusted voices in the community are voices of the community. That is certainly our experience in the Network. Whether we are going door to door to talk about education opportunities, weatherization and home repair opportunities or health care opportunities, it matters that neighbors talk to each other.