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Since our inception, Neighborhood Associates Corporation (NAC) has dedicated itself to the proposition that affordable housing is a matter not simply of place or policy, but of people and possibilities. We ally with affordable housing communities to help maximize their own assets of resident talent, community memory and aspiration, intergenerational energy, and strengths for achieving collective change according to their own priorities. Through our initiatives, we have seeded tenant associations, planted community gardens, cultivated neighborhood pride, grown civic participation, and nurtured creative contexts for whole-family learning,


However, challenges persist and many of them involve repairing breaches not merely in trust and policy, but within the guiding narratives that shape public perceptions of affordable housing and the people who live there. It is this fundamental breach in perception, and consequently in action, that the Repairing the Breach Institute seeks to understand and address. But to do this, we need new narratives grounded in new approaches and new perspectives. I would like to suggest that one way we can achieve this is to frame the Institute’s work and collective voice through the lenses of human ecology and Public Kinship.


A human ecology-centered approach could provide ways for the Institute to shape its work and its messaging less around data than around the exploration of social, cultural, civic, and environmental factors. This, in turn, can lead to a more holistic understanding of how neighborhoods and families respond to systemic factors and shape their own stories around the challenges and opportunities those factors present. Public Kinship, a concept organically connected to that of “repairing the breach,” provides us with a dynamic and positive set of practices for trust-building, leadership, and civic storytelling that we can cultivate across multiple sectors.


As a group of expert practitioners and thinkers, we could begin to orient the Institute by, first, asking ourselves individually: how do we see our own fields of expertise and interest when we look through the lenses described above? What do you see your contributions to this initial effort being, and how do you propose to carry them out? What do you need in order to achieve those goals?


From asking these questions of ourselves, we can move on to address, together, the questions that will help us make the Institute relevant and sustainable:


  • What would a truly holistic, system-wide vision of affordable housing look like?

  • How can we engage communities and neighborhoods in order to attract the support and collaboration of residents?

  • How can we engage funders in order to attract material support for research and initiatives?

  • How can we engage thought and sector leaders in order to attract the kind of recognition necessary for systemic change?


In the long run, policies regarding housing and related issues that are not rooted in affirmative, solutions-based approaches cannot adequately address the real lives and voices of real people, let alone reorient larger public perceptions, which are often unfriendly to the populations we seek to support. The Institute has the potential to show that these affirmative approaches can work in many ways, and that we each bring rich forms of experience — in public health; in community engagement; in asset-building and leadership -- that can intersect purposefully toward new narratives and new strategies for repairing the breaches that impede progress for all.





1101 30th St NW, Fourth Floor
Washington, DC 20007

Office: (202) 333-8447

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