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Community Planning at a Glance

An introduction to Equitable Development turned upside down, 2021

“We cannot create what we can’t imagine.” - Lucille Clifton

The goal of this type of community planning: to assist organized community collectives to advocate and organize for social change in the structures and institutions that perpetuate racism, poverty and health disparities, and with a focus to promote development of community determined, accessible, safe, affordable and stable housing. 

Demographics of the neighborhoods 

The Globeville and Elyria-Swansea (GES) neighborhoods in Northcentral Denver are home to ~11,000 residents. 

  • About 87% Latino

  • Approximately 40% born outside of the United States

  • 30% are monolingual speakers of their native language (that is not English)

  • Owner-occupancy rate is 45%, with 74% of homeowners having lived in their current residence between seven and ten years

  • 61% of GES residents earn less than $25,000 a year

  • 94% of school-aged children in the neighborhood qualify for the National School Lunch Program 

  • 51% percent are unemployed or retired

  • 75% have a high school diploma or less

  • 90% of GES residents want to remain in their community.


Why we created "We Decide the Future" 

"We Decide the Future: Equitable Development Upside Down" is a tool aimed to put the control and power into the hands of those historically harmed by racist policies and investments. 

In this project we offer an approach for neighborhood groups through community organizing and collective, relational power to challenge harmful policy, and to inform ourselves (and our communities) in order to create collective actions that directly address the drivers of displacement through community-determined programs and projects. Until policies and programs are implemented to correct historical harms and provide a path forward for most-impacted neighbors to be healthy and well in place, our current economic systems, including the housing market, will continue to proliferate structural, intentional, and systemic racism within our neighborhoods, leading to greater destabilization of public health and society as a whole. 

Mainstream, market-based, models of modern development target this historical legacy of spatial and social marginalization, and often work to conceal the legal and policy mechanisms that function to exploit communities of color. Today’s wave of gentrification and displacement allows investors and developers access to land in communities of color, and gives developers a large profit-motive to invest in these areas with prices that have bottomed-out after decades of divestment, environmental exploitation and neglect. Under the current extractive models of development, often presented through seemingly “objective” economic market terms, Black and Brown communities, like Globeville and Elyria-Swansea, are the targets of extraction, and the current neighbors are not the intended beneficiaries of these public and private development. Instead, while cities like Denver continue to celebrate and promote urban development and renewal, the health and stability of communities of color again are disrupted, negatively impacting the well-being of children and families across the neighborhoods. We understand the importance of being  open to collective, power-sharing efforts to explore, determine and build collective partnerships that create viable solutions within the current economic and political system, however, many, if not most, policies and strategies do not address the root causes of the problem and therefore do not offer viable solutions that bring material benefit or relief to communities at high risk of displacement.

Purpose of this project: A Tool to Catalyze Community Analysis Toward Collective Action

GES Coalition's organizing work is based on group-centered, power-sharing collective leadership between neighbors. This work is supported by staff organizers and is built on a collectively-written strategic framework that addresses anti-displacement measures and equitable development through an equitable process-- one that centers collective self-determination and community stewardship. "We Decide the Future" was designed to offer guidance and lessons learned from the lived experience of the GES Coalition. It is a framework to initiate collective research and analysis that are utilized by organized neighbors to identify collectively-lived problems and to support catalyzing neighborhood energy into collective intervention and action.

Specifically, the purpose of this Workbook is to provide organized communities with a framework to analyze new investments and development that impact their neighborhoods, and to ignite a process of collective research and discovery of community-determined solutions, tools and organization. The purpose of these collective tools is to instigate transformative relationships that restore power back to the community. This workbook is the product of community organizing around anti-displacement and community stewardship campaigns in Globeville and Elyria-Swansea over the last decade, and is offered as a community action tool and workbook. We imagine a world where many worlds fit, and this knowledge can light a collective fire to build a world better than the one where we live today.

We reject any solution that does not benefit neighbors most impacted by these systemic harms. 

We reject solutions that do not center those harmed by the violence of colonization, redlining and displacement. 

Although "We Decide The Future" has a particular focus on housing and displacement, we locate our neighborhood struggles in a much bigger fight against the ongoing violence of colonization and its current form of neoliberal policy today. We know this unbroken chain of extraction is rooted in the economies of racial capitalism, genocide, land grabs, slavery, and mass criminalization of poverty. Our community organizing strives to build solidarity with other communities who are organizing against these very same roots of structural violence. With a growing set of collective tools, tactics and resources, we know the energy of a few neighbors here and there can coalesce into strategic community action and meaningful intervention that brings greater benefit and stability for all. In this way, "We Decide The Future" was designed to help organizing neighbors to think through how to best strategize collective action in response to new and upcoming neighborhood public and private investments, development and market conditions that destabilize communities through investments that are driving extreme market speculation, further compounding and exacerbating historic and wide-spread involuntary displacement of communities of color.

  • This collective analysis tool is meant to be adapted to each neighborhood's own, unique context, and is meant to be used by organized communities who use or seek to adapt collective power-sharing and initiate (or continue) collective action between neighbors.

  • This tool also aims to serve as a type of catalyst with the goal to highlight historic extraction as an ignition point, and turn existing community energy into strategies for building on a series of activities, including writing a collective vision, completing collective research on solutions, collective capacity building, and organizing for collective action.

  • We developed this tool with the intent to share our collective learning, and support organized communities to move anti-displacement strategies through collective action, and was created specifically to be adapted by similarly impacted communities across the Denver metropolitan area, and may be adaptable to organized groups located across the state of Colorado and the greater U.S.


Who "We Decide The Future" is for: With this understanding of these organizing principles and historic economic and political conditions, we hope that "We Decide The Future" will be a useful tool for a community at all stages of building collective power, including specific support for:

Within "We Decide The Future" you will find:

  • Our process to collectively identify and organize action on issues identified by those most impacted in the community

  • Strategies for effective community organizing that work to keep people in their homes and provide in-roads for organized community to have a sizable impact on development projects and policies 

  • Community data that illustrate the dire effects of historically racist policies within the GES neighborhoods

  • The Lens Equity Tool, a tool for organized community to initiate an equitable process for gaining material community benefits through community campaigns/coalitions that center the collective self-determination of neighborhoods, including advocacy, community organizing, collective leadership, and community stewardship, and how they are connected to (opposing or creating) new and upcoming investment and development in the neighborhoods 

  • A call to action to unite against displacement, a call that means learning new ways to care for each other, new ways to fight for our neighbors, and new ways to organize neighbor-to-neighbor (and neighborhood-to-neighborhood) in the vision, spirit and tradition of community power and community defense.   

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