Neighbours Taking a Strengths-Based Approach to Increase Emotional Well-Being in Their Community

Neighbours Taking a Strengths-Based Approach to Increase Emotional Well-Being in Their Community
A few months ago, I had the opportunity to facilitate a Neighborhood Project Lab at the Chestnut Resource Center, a small Kansas City-based non-profit that works to connect neighbours to resources. This is a story about how a group of neighbours worked together to train themselves and others in mental health first aid.  


The Hopeful Neighborhood Project

Facilitating these labs is a large part of my work with The Hopeful Neighborhood Project, where I serve as a Neighborhood Project Coach. It’s my job to help everyday neighbours use our tools and resources, which are based on ABCD principles, in their neighbourhoods. Our labs are highly interactive and guide small groups of neighbours through The Hopeful Neighborhood Project process. Through the labs, participants plan a real, hopeful project that increases their neighbourhood’s well-being.  

Labs are a commitment — they are six hours, spread over two or three gatherings. They require active participation and a willingness to think creatively about your neighbourhood. Our friends in Kansas City did not disappoint us! It was a delight to get to know them as they took a deep look at their neighbourhood. 


Thinking About Possibilities

Mid-way through the lab, we ask participants to take a step back and consider all the information they’ve gathered: their individual and neighbourhood gifts, the results from a neighbourhood well-being survey, and data they’ve discovered through research. At this point, everything is on the walls around the room and it’s easy to begin making connections. We ask the group to write several “Possibility Statements,” where they imagine the possibilities in their neighbourhood based on the connections they observe. 

While there were several great possibilities presented, one clearly stood out. Through the lab, this group discovered that Keisha is a social worker whose work is to train medical professionals in mental health first aid. The group also learned that the emotional well-being of their neighbourhood ranked lowest on the surveys they completed. After some discussion and many questions, the group had a plan: they would first train themselves and then their neighbours in mental health first aid. 

Just before the holidays, I joined the folks from Chestnut Resource Center via Zoom to check in about their project. So far, they’ve trained twenty people – this means that twenty people in their neighbourhood are prepared to respond if someone is experiencing a mental health crisis. They have two more training scheduled for early 2023, further expanding the network of trained individuals in their neighbourhood. 


Sharing the Impacts of the Training

I asked the group of neighbours how the training has impacted them, and this is what they shared: 

I was waiting at the bus stop when I noticed someone in the intersection having a crisis. I was able to assess the situation and escort the individual to safety and connect them to a free counselling resource.” 

I was on the phone with my husband who was parked in his car in NYC and there was a commotion. He said ‘there is some crazy woman in the street,’ and I immediately corrected him – that is not helpful language. Because I had just left the training, I knew exactly what questions to ask so that he could assess the situation and be of help if needed.” 

Because we did the training as a community, the discussion was rich; it was specific to our neighbourhood. Not only are we trained in how to respond, but we had a lot of conversations about how to decrease stigma and fear, and how to use more hopeful and inclusive language.” 
Facilitating a lab for these neighbours was an honour – I’m so grateful for the opportunity to help people discover the gifts, imagine the possibilities, and pursue the common good. If you’re interested in bringing a Neighborhood Project Lab to your community, you can apply on the web at Because of a generous grant, we are able to offer these labs free of charge to neighbourhood groups in the USA and Canada. 

The Hopeful Neighbourhood Project logo


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