The idea for One Vestavia originated from a service project given to a group of citizen volunteer leaders participating in the 2008-2009 class of Leadership Vestavia Hills. The service project called for the group to determine 3 things:
1) Was the community of Vestavia Hills experiencing a decline in social capital (a phrase defined and researched by Harvard Public Policy expert Robert Putnam in the 1995 book, Bowling Alone and in the follow up book, Better Together 2003)?
2) If so, what was the cause for the deterioration of citizen participation and participation in civic engagement, economic and community planning participation, volunteering, and community services in Vestavia Hills (an indicator of social capital decline)?
3) Was there any evidence that a decline in social capital related to recent declines in economic development, failed small businesses, increased blighted areas, and non-sustainable community growth (issues that the community of Vestavia Hills appeared to be experiencing over the past 5-10 years; the city has experienced several failed minority small businesses, a failed large development, increase in vacant buildings and commercial spaces, increase in condemned buildings, and criminal activity)?
The project group contacted the Seguaro Seminar at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government http://www.hks.harvard.edu/saguaro/index.htm as well as Better Together www.bettertogether.org , an initiative run by the Seguaro Institute (both of these groups were created to further study and research the findings of Robert Putnam).
The organizations above gave the group a framework for assessing the above 3 questions – including a list of indicators to look for that would indicate if a community was experiencing a decline in social capital as well as research relating to how this decline can and does affect sustainable economic development, employment (especially among minorities and youth), overall civic engagement, small business success (especially among minority owned business), neighborhood health, and inclusion of minorities in community planning, leadership, and civic engagement. Using this information, the group conducted surveys and studies over a 5 month period. In summary, the group found that the answers to the above questions 1 and 3 were “yes” and then decided to make recommendations for solutions to the identified problem (question 3).
The solution was to form One Vestavia as a charitable
organization responsible for enhancing
the quality of life for all residents in Vestavia Hills by guiding and
supporting sustainable physical, social, civic, and economic development.
2531 Rocky Ridge Road
Vestavia Hills, AL 35243