Community Connect Part 1 – An Experiment

We kick off a new series on The Citymaker – a series of journal posts by Uta Dietrich, Senior Manager-Urban Solutions, Think City, who is working on Community Connect, a project managed by Think City, supported by Citi Foundation and implemented by Yellow House KL, to connect the homeless with the business community in a mutually beneficial way.

Malaysian Cities are no different from most other cities around the world, developed or not, in that they are places where we can observe people experiencing exclusion in various forms. NGOs or CSR programmes mostly look at an issue or a particular target group they want to tackle, it could be young people, recycling, greening, women, etc.

Community Connect is part of a wider social inclusion programme, working on a defined space to address the needs as identified by data and community feedback.

Using a place-based approach has some unique advantages because it can operate very closely with a defined community; it forces diverse parties to communicate, is likely to throw up some innovative strategies; and encourages business, civil society and government to join forces for a common outcome.

Our Community Connect pilot is based on almost two years of surveys, data collection, community engagement and other urban rejuvenation projects in that same space. It focuses on bringing together people sleeping rough around Bangkok Bank in downtown KL with local businesses to test if people helping each other can lead to mutual benefits – for the homeless, an exit strategy to sleeping on the streets, and for the shop owners, a boost to sales.

Street friends sleeping rough around Bangkok Bank may receive opportunities to find casual work if the Community Connect project succeeds. Image: Think City

How does it work?

Community Connect uses a two-pronged approach: people sleeping rough and using the streets as their home participate in activities to clean the areas they use not just for themselves, but for the surrounding businesses and visitors. Businesses, in seeing this, may be propelled to offer casual jobs to them. Getting to know each other in this manner could reduce prejudices and together, they support each other. For the homeless, in creating an exit strategy to homelessness, and for the store owners, to create a welcoming environment for customers.

Who is involved?

Community Connect’s self-help approach to social inclusion is funded by Citi Foundation, managed by Think City and implemented through Yellow House.

Why this journal?

We want to take you on the journey with us, sharing what we are doing. Some of it will work better than expected, some of it will not work at all as planned. Writing as we are going, will also help us document the many decisions to make when trying something new and to not forget the lessons.

In addition, we would like to give an opportunity to street friends and partnering businesses to share how they are experiencing this project and if there is interest, we could open up discussions on a number of issues relevant in this context.

We also encourage you to share your views or suggestions with us.

If you think others might find this journal useful, please feel free to share.

@mythinkcity @citi @yellowhouseKL