Where are they now? Building Community Capacity in Carrick and Knoxville

Nov 29, 2018

Neighborhood Allies’ overarching goal in building community capacity is to position residents to move upward with the economic development of their community. In Carrick and Knoxville, our capacity building focused on increasing the ability and effectiveness of two community-serving organizations to respond to community concerns, share knowledge and skills, and collaborate with residents for impact.

In Spring 2018, Neighborhood Allies invested in building the capacity of two South Hilltop-based community organizations, the Carrick Community Council (CCC) and the Knoxville Community Council (KCC) to help them strengthen their organizational structures. The Hill Group Inc.a management consulting firm focused on strategy, operations and measurement, was deployed to each organization to help increase their capacity and to develop and strengthen their overall organizational structures. Over the course of six months and four strategic sessions, the Hill Group was able to aid each council in creating or revising a mission statement, vision, values, a detailed two-year strategic plan, by-laws, and a communication plan. 

Each 3-4 hour session focused on a different topic of organizational development – strategy, structure, communication, and reflection. In between sessions, the Hill Group and the leaders of each council also held bi-weekly phone calls to discuss progress.

“The first step in this project was getting to know and better understand the Carrick and Knoxville communities so that we could build meaningful relationships with them.”

– Jordan Palitto, The Hill Group

During the first session, the management consultants asked each group to imagine their community without their organization in it. They then instructed them to brainstorm ways in which their organization could improve that community, inspiring them to realize how important their community councils are and can be to the neighborhood and its residents. This brainstorming session served as the impetus for success during the project and provided thoughtful content for the groups’ mission statements and strategic plan. Two more sessions on structure and communication followed where the CCC and the KCC gained important knowledge and skills that would aid them in their journey to becoming stronger community groups. Topics reviewed during these meetings included governance best practices, capacity assessment tools, an overview of by-laws, and communication strategies for unique stakeholder groups. 

The CCC and the KCC talk about collaboration between their communities. | Photos provided by The Hill Group.

For their final session, the CCC and the KCC came together to reflect and plan for the future. At the meeting, the two groups realized that they had a great opportunity for collaboration.

“That was one of the best meetings we had,” said Dr. Sherry Miller Brown, president of the CCC, of the joint reflective session. “We realized that we have some of the same problems and that we can work together to begin solving them.”


“It’s nice to know that, when doing this community work, we’re all dealing with the same types of issues.”

-Sharlee Ellison, President of the KCC

“Issues don’t stop at borders. By working together, the CCC and the KCC were able to see how their priorities overlap,” said Jordan.

Armed with their newly crafted strategic plans, the two councils set out to strengthen their communities from the ground up with the help of their fellow community members.

Courtney from The Hill Group talks to the two councils about strategic next steps. | Photos provided by The Hill Group.

For example, at one meeting following their final session with the Hill Group, the CCC asked attending residents to complete a “wishing well list” of things that they would most like to see happen in the Carrick community. Using their strategic plan and the items on the wishing well list, they are beginning to develop specific initiatives within their organization.

In addition, the CCC is working to restructure their organization and have just added 12 new members to their board. The first meeting of their full board will take place in early December.

On the other hand, the KCC is working towards obtaining their 501(c)3 designation and delving deeper into their strategic plan to outline their goals and aspirations for the upcoming year.  As part of their commitment to continued collaboration, they also plan to work closely with the CCC on a joint event for their communities in 2019.

The CCC and KCC plan to meet regularly to share best practices and to build community between their two neighborhoods for years to come. Follow the Carrick Community Council here. Follow the Knoxville Community Council here.

This project was supported internally through a CDBG grant from the City of Pittsburgh.

Top Header Image Photo Credit: Prototyping Larimer Stories by artist John Peña, photo by OPA