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In May 2012, LISC Jacksonville introduced the comprehensive community development model to Jacksonville, with EPIC Communities: Empower People...Inspire Change. The program's five pillars include:
Based on a model that has been successful in 111 neighborhoods in 29 cities across the country, Jacksonville introduced the EPIC Communities Initiative in two neighborhoods -- Historic Eastside/Springfield and Northwest Jacksonville. The convening agencies leading the work in each neighborhood are Operation New Hope in Historic Springfield and Historic East Jacksonville and Northwest Jacksonville Community Development Corporation in Northwest Jacksonville.
As evidenced by the success of the national model, the most enduring, effective plans for sustainable communities emerge from a "bottom up" process. This initiative guides the people who live and work in a neighborhood in a process that enables them to create, design, develop and implement their own community's redevelopment solution rather than asking them to merely implement the dictates of outside sources who supposedly "know their needs better than they do." Historically, top-down processes have failed, because they do not involve the people they are designed to serve.
From May-September 2012, program facilitators in the two EPIC Communities gathered information by listening to more than 400 neighborhood residents, business owners, and individuals who work in the respective communities. They gathered information through individual interviews, focus groups, listening tours and historical research. On September 29, 2012, each convening agency invited everyone involved to a neighborhood-wide meeting to discuss the results of the research; use the "findings" from the research to create a vision for their neighborhood; develop goals, strategies, action plans that include key measures of progress; and identify a list of potential community partners. Following this "visioning" day, the leadership from both neighborhoods conducted a series of community forums to refine the proposed recommendations and craft a final Quality of Life Plan for each respective neighborhood.
To date, the progress is impressive. Accomplishments include:
In 2014, LISC played a crucial role in the establishment of Groundwork Jacksonville, the local affiliate of Groundwork USA Trust. Groundwork USA is a nationally recognized organization focused on reclaiming polluted urban environments. Groundwork Jacksonville will lead the initiative to “clean up” and improve the Hogan’s Creek waterway system, a major pollutant of Jacksonville’s Historic Eastside and the source of many of the community’s environmental challenges. This waterway improvement is a major focus of the Quality of Life Plan for the Springfield / Historic Eastside neighborhoods developed through LISC’s EPIC Community Initiative. The national relationship between LISC and Groundwork Trust was instrumental in generating their interest in our city and influencing the establishment of a local office in Jacksonville.
LISC again enlisted Northwest Jacksonville CDC and Operation New Hope to join with United Way as part of the 2016 Martin Luther King Day of Service celebration. In addition to over 500 volunteers from United Way and Hands On Jacksonville, volunteers from each community worked on twenty projects designed to improve their respective neighborhoods.
Momentum for the work in the EPIC neighborhoods continues to build as residents see the progress that they have made. Please read the progress reports which can be downloaded below.
In the future, LISC plans to explore expanding the EPIC Communities model into other urban neighborhoods in Jacksonville.