Join CUTgroup + Add Your Voice!

We’re excited to announce the formation of Cleveland’s Civic User Testing Group, also known as CUTgroup. This is an exciting opportunity to learn about technology and help shape the way it impacts our lives. If you opt-in and participate, you’ll be compensated for your time.

About the Grants

Neighbor Up Action Grants invest in everyday people creating an extraordinary world right where they live. Grants range from $500 to $5,000, and are meant to spur small, grassroots community projects. Find out more about applying for a Neighbor Up Action Grant.

Cleveland International Film Festival

We’re happy to partner with the 44th Cleveland International Film Festival, which will be held March 25 – April 5, 2020 at Tower City Cinemas and other locations.

Stay up to date by visiting When tickets go no sale, you can use the code NUP (that’s for Neighbor Up!) to receive $1 off per ticket purchase.

See you at the movies!

Listening Sessions: Tax Abatement Policy

New Listening Session added for January 8th from 6:30-8:30PM @ Downtown Cleveland Alliance, 1010 Euclid Ave. Floor 3!

We have joined work the City of Cleveland is doing to assess its current residential tax abatement policy.

Our goal?

Neighbor Up members want to gain knowledge, advocate for neighborhoods and create more viable pathways for residents to influence city policy.

How will it work?

The City of Cleveland has chosen to study its current residential tax abatement policy and, if necessary, recommend changes to City Council in 2020. This study is one component of the City of Cleveland’s Equitable Community Development Strategy that aims to cultivate more racially and economically inclusive neighborhoods with affordable housing through strategic, citywide policies.

As part of the work, multiple research firms are doing a comprehensive study on the impact of the existing tax policy and analyzing data from developers, community development corporations, and lenders.

The city’s study planning team also wanted to talk with Cleveland neighborhood residents, and we are leading that work along with Leverage Point Development.

From now through mid-December, we will be hosting Listening Sessions across Cleveland. During these sessions residents can learn more about the current residential tax abatement policy, share how it has affected them, and weigh in on what they would like to see moving forward.

Listening Sessions

The current schedule is as follows (more sessions may be added later):

  • 11/18 from 6-8PM @Life Skills Center, 13407 Kinsman Rd.
  • 11/19 from 6-8PM @ASIA Inc. 3631 Perkins Avenue, Suite 2A-W
  • 11/25 from 6-8PM @Julia de Burgos Cultural Arts Center, 2800 Archwood Ave.
  • 11/26 from 6-8PM @Mary Queen of Peace, Parish Center Upper Hall, 4127 Pearl Rd.
  • 12/3 from 6-8PM @Neighborhood Housing Services, 5700 Broadway Ave.
  • 12/4 from 6-8PM @Gunning Rec. Center,16700 Puritas Ave.
  • 12/10 from 6-8PM @3rd Space Action Lab, 1464 E 105th St.
  • 12/11 from 6-8PM @Cornucopia Place, 7201 Kinsman Rd. Suite 103b
  • 12/12 from 6-8PM @LGBT Center of Greater Cleveland, 6705 Detroit Ave.
  • 12/17 from 6-8PM @Urban Community School Gathering Room, 4909 Lorain Ave.
  • 12/18 from 6-8PM @Pilgrim Church, 2592  W. 14th St.
  • 1/8 from 6:30-8:30PM @ Downtown Cleveland Alliance, 1010 Euclid Ave. Floor 3

Find a flier with all the session dates here.

If you feel strongly that you would like an individual interview, please contact Kaela at


Once the Listening Tour and accompanying interviews are complete, the results will be compiled into a chapter to be included in the study. The current timeline is projected to be:

  • September – October : Researchers perform interviews, data analysis, and economic impact analysis
  • November – December : Residential interviews and focus groups are held throughout the city
  • November – January : Draft analysis, interim  reporting, and initial recommendations are put together in a report
  • February : Two larger community meetings will be held to share recommendations and receive feedback
  • March : Final report and presentation to Cleveland City Council

If you would like more information or have questions, please contact Kaela Geschke: or 216-965-1859.


Many of us have seen the statistic: 66 percent of Cleveland adults are functionally illiterate, meaning they struggle to read bus schedules, medicine bottles and other everyday information.

One woman working to improve adult literacy in Cleveland compared reading to breathing – those of us who can read don’t really think about it, but it is reading that sustains us and connects us to information, jobs and other opportunities. For those of us who can not read, much is out of reach.

Luckily, there is a shared desire among grassroots leaders and others working with adult literacy to connect and strengthen efforts – all with the goal of improving life in our city.

We will be spending the next year building community with those dedicated to this cause.

As part of our work, we will be taking the lead in designing a new cohort experience — called an Innovation Team — to include readers and non-readers who care about this issue. We will be using the emerging social science of Community Network Building to weave together these diverse community stakeholders for mutual support and action. We will be collaborating across neighborhoods and organizations, and surfacing and testing out new ways to make Cleveland a city where we all have the power to read.

Apply to join us

If you’re interested in joining, fill out this application, call 216-264-9858 or watch the video above.

Next year, we will offer $60,000 in small grants of up to $5,000 each to support action projects in the field of adult literacy.

We love the energy among the leaders we’ve already meet — people like Shawn with Literacy in the H.O.O.D., Dawn with Comics at the Corner, Rhonda with Hough Reads, Barb with Lakewood Reads, Mahogani working in Slavic Village, Zulayka and Carlos at Esperanza, B.J. with Freedom Schools, Zack with Writers in Residence, Ebony with Literacy Innovations, the folks at 2-1-1 — and we’re looking forward to meeting and learning from more leaders in Cleveland and making change!

If you care about adult literacy and are ready to take action, you can also reach out to Lila or Lj.

Shop Local Holiday Bazaar: Support hyperlocal Cleveland small businesses with intentional spending

Neighbors in the Buckeye-Shaker community have organized a Holiday Bazaar featuring everything from soap-makers to craft-makers.

Shop local from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. this Saturday, December 21 at Fairhill Partners, 12200 Fairhill Rd.

The purpose of the Holiday Bazaar is to connect budding community entrepreneurs to customers, said Julian Khan, one of the organizers. Most vendors are residents of the Buckeye-Shaker and Mt. Pleasant neighborhoods.

“We’ve been asking ourselves some questions: What does intentional spending look like? Does that mean more jobs in your neighborhood? Can we transition more Want-trepreneurs to Entrepreneurs? That’s what we’re trying to do here. We’re connecting Want-trepreneurs to a customer base that can help to transform them into entrepreneurs.”

The event is free and open to the public. More than 20 vendors will be on site featuring artists, painters, youth entrepreneurs and a Vegan Vendor Village pop-up restaurant section.

Vegan Vendor Village will include:

  • Baba Yaga’s Green house Café
  • Damn Good Vegan, LLC
  • Rosemary’s Vegan Daughter
  • Sol Bowl Popup Café.

Announcing $180,979 in funding for 65 projects in Cleveland and East Cleveland

The Neighbor Up Action Grant Committee approved $180,979 in grants to support 65 projects in Cleveland and East Cleveland neighborhoods. Cuyahoga Arts & Culture, the local public funder for arts and culture, will co-fund eight of the resident-led arts and culture projects through a partnership with Neighborhood Connections. Cleveland Climate Action Fund will fund five of the projects through a partnership with Neighborhood Connections.

Highlights of the grants include:

  • Click Collective’s* East Cleveland: A Photographic Journey of Resilience and Rebirth is organizing a photography project throughout the neighborhood that shows the positive images of East Cleveland.
  • Teen Start’s Minorites in Construction Program will connect unemployed or underemployed young African-American men, ages 18 to 34 years old, who are interested in construction, with workshops and hands-on training in basic construction and maintenance.
  • The Muslim Writers Collective* will create a poetry collective for Muslim-identifying and Muslim heritage artists, which is womyn and queer-led and based in Sufi practices of worship and divine communion and creative practice.
  • Gordon Square CPR is a group of neighborhood paramedics who will train 100 persons in CPR, AED, Naloxone treatment, and Stop the Bleed. They will also place four more public access AED stations throughout the community and provide free training to individuals in the neighborhood.

*Co-funded by Cuyahoga Arts & Culture

“Together, people have the power to make real change and they’re doing it,” said Tom O’Brien, program director of Neighborhood Connections. “Residents from Cleveland and East Cleveland have innovative ideas and a small amount of funding can make those ideas a reality.”

Since 2003, Neighbor Up Action Grants have invested more than $8.1 million in more than 2,500 resident-led projects. 

Cuyahoga Arts & Culture invested $75,000 in Neighborhood Connections in 2019 to support additional community-based arts and culture activities organized by and for Cuyahoga County residents.  Through this partnership with Neighborhood Connections, CAC has co-funded 340 resident-led arts and culture projects in Cleveland and East Cleveland since 2013.

“Arts and culture have the potential to transform a neighborhood,” said Jill M. Paulsen, CAC’s interim CEO and executive director. “Through our partnership with Neighborhood Connections, we’ve shifted power to hundreds of groups of residents who are using their creativity to energize and change our community for the better.”

See a complete list of grants awarded here.

The grants, called Neighbor Up Action Grants, are offered to groups of residents in Cleveland and East Cleveland to do projects that improve the quality of life in their neighborhoods. Groups are encouraged to work with partners and to propose creative solutions to challenges in their community. The next deadline to apply for a grant is Friday, February 14, 2020. Find out more information here.

Community Network Building: A new model of leadership

Community Network Building is the strategy behind Neighbor Up, and yesterday we had a chance to talk more about what’s possible when you Neighbor Up during the 400 Years Summit hosted by First Year Cleveland and the the YWCA Greater Cleveland.

Check out our presentation here as well as these posts about the practices we use in Neighbor Up to level the playing field and take action: New & Good, Business of the Network and the Marketplace.

Community Network Building emerged from work done by Trusted Space Partners. Read some of what they have written about it:

Building Community in Place

9 Leadership Practices for Community Networks

Community Network Builders Convening

Buckeye-Shaker Listening Project

We have been listening to residents and others in the Buckeye-Shaker neighborhoods for the last two months as part of work with the city of Cleveland and the organization Burten, Bell, Carr Development, Inc.

Burten, Bell, Carr Development, Inc. is a nonprofit called a community development corporation. It is focused on revitalizing the Kinsman and Central neighborhoods. Because the neighborhoods of Buckeye-Shaker, which include the Woodland Hills, Buckeye, Larchmere, Ludlow and Shaker Square communities, no longer have a community development corporation of their own, Burten, Bell, Carr Development, Inc. (also called BBC) has been asked by the city to consider adding staff and working in Buckeye-Shaker, too. As part of that process, we talked with residents about what they would like to see.

We had conversations with 60 people from various areas of the neighborhood and also met with 18 neighborhood groups. Here is our report to the community with what we heard from residents.

We have made the following recommendations to the city and Burten, Bell, Carr Development as the process moves forward based on what we heard from residents:

1. Great Opportunity: An effective, fully-functioning community development corporation is an opportunity for the neighborhood;

2. Trust Building: Be intentional about building trust between Burten, Bell, Carr and neighborhood residents;

3. Shared Responsibility:  Develop ways that Burten, Bell, Carr and the community can work with one another and create together what they care about;

4. Move Towards Local Governance: Important that BBC and the community move towards building local governance and ownership. This takes time.

5. Equity and Inclusion: In resource allocation, planning, and decision making, there needs to be shared power across all neighborhoods. “Level the Playing Field”.

6. Unity Across Neighborhoods: Bridging relationships across neighborhoods; branding as one community, many neighborhoods.

If you’re interested in talking more about this, please join us at Buckeye-Shaker Network Night from 6 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, November 20 at Fairhill Partners, 12200 Fairhill Road.

Citywide Network Night draws 100+ people

Citywide Network Night launched last week with an overwhelming turnout and a warm welcome! Excitement filled the room as longtime Neighbor Up members reconnected and new folks were invited to Neighbor Up. Special thanks to ioby for hosting us at the Midtown Tech Hive.


The next Citywide Network Night is Thursday, December 5 with dinner starting at 5:30 p.m. and event kick-off at 6 p.m. Looking for details coming soon!


The Community Conversations part of the evening (also called Business of the Network) is a chance to explore topics that matter to you, find potential collaborators, and plan for action together. Last week’s conversations included: 

How have the changes in the housing market affected you and your neighborhood?

This group discussed economic and cultural changes of concentrated development, including who has been displaced, strategies for keeping residents in place, and solutions for getting involved. Join the action by contacting Kaela:

How do we ensure the homeless community is represented in local politics?

This group identified reoccurring barriers, potential groups to plug into, and brainstormed ways to take action. Join their work by contacting Muneera:

How can we convene and build community support among those doing Racial Equity work? 

This group is focused on creating a supportive and welcoming network of those already involved in racial equity work and those new to it, whether paid or not. Several ideas surfaced that night, including book clubs and site visits, caucuses, and a supportive learning exchange. Join the action by contacting Greg: or Tony: 

What are best practices for creating community awareness of available resources and services?

This group decided to identify target audiences. Get more information by contacting Ilinda Reese: 216-323-5601

What are some best practices for hosting a community event?

This group discussed starting by building relationships with diverse community members who can help. Some of the group members will meet again to strategize with Pastor Quincy.

How can we create a forum for community building and encouraging authentic engagement in our city?

Finally, a group of visitors from Jackson, Michigan held a conversation about creating a forum for community building and encouraging authentic engagement in their city. Neighborhood Connections hosted them the next day to discuss how to use what they learned.


During a high-energy portion of the night called the Marketplace, dozens of attendees were able to exchange resources, skills, and knowledge. Here are a few examples:

  • Diane found 3 twin beds and mattresses for one of her neighbors
  • Ashley connected with 4 potential new board members for the Tamir Rice Foundation
  • Gwen met several artists who are interested in displaying art work at her gallery


Want to learn more about Community Network Building and how you can use it to act on what’s important to you? Join Erika for Action Clinic, the 1st Tuesday of every month or contact her at

Notes from Arts & Culture Network Night

Thank you to everyone who attended Arts & Culture Network Night last week!

More than 65 people made connections, shared resources, and discussed topics important to them. This quarterly gathering is sponsored by Neighbor Up and Cuyahoga Arts & Culture, but it is hosted by a team of volunteers. Thank you to the wonderful volunteer team that made last week a success! If you’d like to join the team, we’d love to have your help. There are a number of ways to get involved and it doesn’t require a long-term commitment. Contact Lj to learn more.

Save the Date

The next Arts & Culture Network Night will be on Thursday, November 7th from 6 to 8 p.m. at NewBridge Cleveland, 3634 Euclid Ave.

Mark your calendars and share on social media now. Find the Facebook event here.

Business of the Network

Business of the Network Conversations are a chance to explore topics that matter to you, find potential collaborators, and take action together.

  • Charlotte hosted a conversation about how to bring art activism to a community that is resistant. 
  • Sara hosted a conversation to brainstorm ways for art and culture to foster social enterprise and generate income in underserved communities. Collaboration came up as a key component. Two people even found a common interest and decided to work together on a youth mural project. 
  • Dawn hosted a conversation to learn what arts and culture projects people are dreaming about for their community. As the Action Strategist for ioby Cleveland, Dawn was able to connect participants to potential resources. If you have an idea that needs funding, learn more about crowdfunding with ioby.
  • Bj hosted a conversation about the ways arts and culture can be used to bridge economic and racial divides. Recognizing that music is a great tool to bridge perceived difference, this group talked about sharing resources to hold pop-up events. 


Marketplace is a high-energy exercise that’s all about abundance. It reminds us that everyone has something to offer and that we have more resources at our fingertips that we realize. 

For about 20 minutes, participants take turns making a request or an offer. Here are a few examples from this event: 

  • Tony offered a ride to the exhibit Through Darkness to Light on Sept. 19th. Carpool from Neighborhood Connections leaving at 4 p.m., returning at 9 p.m. Free admission to the exhibit that day!
  • Ed offered free children’s books through his work with the Kids Book Bank.
  • Mark requested point-and-shoot cameras for use on a Photovoice project with youth in the Central neighborhood.
  • Sara requested donation of unique raffle items for her upcoming fundraiser. On the spot, one artist donated one of her original paintings!

We also have a table at Arts & Culture Network Night for people to share their events. Check out this Facebook post for links to those events.

“Neighbor Up Spotlight” podcast

“Neighbor Up Spotlight,” a podcast telling the stories of unsung heroes in Cleveland, is kicking off Season 3. Hosted and produced by Cleveland resident Carol Malone, the podcast focuses on members of Neighbor Up, a network of about 3,000 Greater Cleveland residents making positive change in their neighborhoods. Each episode is like listening in on a kitchen table conversation between Carol and her guest.

Season 3 launches with a conversation between Carol and Johnny Wu, co-founder of the Cleveland Asian Festival, which celebrates its 10th year May 18 – 19, 2019.

Neighbor Up was launched and is supported by Neighborhood Connections, the community-building program.

Carol had the idea for “Neighbor Up Spotlight” after volunteering for three years as a member of the grant making committee. Neighbor Up Action Grant committee members review grant applications, interview applicants and make all funding decisions.

“I met so many sincere and passionate citizens who were creating programs and activities for their neighborhoods and neighbors,” Carol said. “Now I have the opportunity to create a podcast to showcase residents who are making positive contributions to their communities.”

“Neighbor Up Spotlight” is produced by Neighborhood Connections in partnership with Bad Racket Studios and funded by a grant from the Minority Arts and Education Fund, a supporting organization of the Cleveland Foundation.

Tune in and listen to “Neighbor Up Spotlight.” You can find us on Soundcloud and iTunes. Your support is appreciated!


Racial Justice Matching Fund

We’re committed to supporting Clevelanders standing up for racial justice and we’re teaming up with ioby to create the Racial Justice Matching Fund.

Notes from Arts & Culture Network Night

Thank you to everyone who joined us for Arts & Culture Network Night, in partnership with Cuyahoga Arts & Culture. More than 100 people attended the high-energy gathering meant to connect artists, folks from arts organizations and other community members throughout the county. 

This was the first Arts & Culture Network Night of 2019, and we are happy to report that Arts & Culture Network Night will be back June 5, 2019!

Join us from 6 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, June 5 at NewBridge Cleveland, 3634 Euclid Ave.

Parking in lot behind building and across the street at the Masonic Temple.

How does it work?

Using Neighbor Up practices, each Arts & Culture Network Night starts with “New & Good” where anyone can share something new or good happening in their lives. After a few people share their good news, the room buzzes with positive energy.

We then have “Business of the Network” when anyone in the room can propose a topic to discuss in small groups for about 20 minutes.

During the “Marketplace,” anyone can make a request for assistance or an offer.

We close the night with “Bumping & Sparking,” a time when participants can follow up with each other and make connections.

Read on for details from Arts & Culture Network Night at the Agora.

Business of the Network

Business of the Network conversations included:

Gilder: How can we engage with the county and other officials to speed up change in the county jail?

LaToya: How are you contributing to the solutions in your neighborhood?

Kate: What can we do to make the arts community more inclusive?

Ryan: What made you say yes today?

Robert: How can I make the most of my art project at the library in Mt. Pleasant?

Kenneth: What are some sustainable fundraising methods for nonprofits?


Marketplace offers, requests & declarations included:

 Name   Request, Offer or Declaration
Rachel Apply Exhibits
Robyn R. Recommendations for an
Kate Request to continue the
conversation about creating an
inclusive Arts & Culture
Kate Zygote Press – Open Call for
Lila Artists of different media
Chris Exhibition Space
Matt Offering Head Shots & Portraits
Aku Looking for drummers
Brittany Artists for Poetry
Ricardo Looking for co-producers for a podcast
McKenzie Tax Advice for Artists
Patrick W. Entertainer
Lillie Bell Funding, Production Assistant
Moises I’m here to Network!
Luis Internships available
Gilder Looking for Artists &
Chris Pianist & Singer looking for
opportunities to perform
Chris Invited folks to join him at
Gwen Please attend the next Cuyahoga Arts & Culture Board Meeting. This is your funding. We need
community to participate.

Prism: A Racial Equity Learning Lab

Prism is our racial equity learning lab, which typically runs twice each year in the spring and summer.

Prism participants explore the historic conflict that continues to shape the United States and determine the fate of all its people.

Racism is examined on four levels: internalized, interpersonal, institutional and structural. Tools to assess the state of one’s organization and community are introduced. Participants also have the opportunity to participate in caucus groups and bridge the chasm between community and institution throughout their Prism journey.

Leaders leave the program with greater self awareness, an individualized plan for beginning to dismantle racism in their neighborhood or organization and greater capacity to do so. They also gain a group of fellow travelers to support them well beyond the structured program experience.

Prism is led by two of Cleveland’s most experienced and dynamic racial equity facilitators: Erica Merritt and Adele DiMarco Kious.


All sessions held 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Minimum registration of 15 for lab to proceed.

Session I: Building Ground
Participants will become familiar with the program components, other participants, terminology and explore historical elements that led to our current context. They will also have their first caucus experience. A caucus component will be built into each session.

Summer date: July 18

Session II: The Story of U.S. 
This session will explore the internalized components of racism including bias, privilege and internalized oppression. We will discuss how the brain
influences our conscious and unconscious biases and share tools for diminishing bias and using privilege strategically. Participants also begin to explore their own racial identity and examine the psychological process through which one attaches to that identity.

Summer date: July 19

Session III: Racing Together
This session will focus on the cross-racial relationships and overcoming the barriers to authentic connection. Session will include tools for managing cross-cultural and difference-based conflict with power/privilege dynamics in mind. Emphasis on restorative community- based practices.

Summer date: August 8

Session IV: System Dynamics
This session will focus on the role that institutional and structural racism play in the organizations and communities where we work and live. We will examine how racism thrives even in the absence of malice or bad actors. Participants will be provided frameworks for examining their community’s/organization’s current state and provided with tools for positive transformation.

Summer date: August 29

Session V: Co-Creating Cleveland’s Future 
This session will support participants in getting clear about the kind of community they would like to live in/organization they would like to be a part of and their role in that transformation. We will explore choice points and the shared power model to dream about Cleveland’s transformation. Whether engaging neighbors, colleagues or organizational partners, strong, equity-based relationships are
essential for co-designing Cleveland’s future. Participants will leave this session with a personalized racial equity plan.

Summer date: September 13


Registration has closed. Join the waitlist to be notified when registration opens for the next session.

Cost to attend Prism is $750, which includes all sessions, meals and parking. Payment by check is accepted at the start of the session, we are working with different free invoice tools, so To receive an invoice or if you have questions, please email Lila,


Erica Merritt

Erica Merritt is founder of Equius Group, LLC a consulting firm committed to supporting individuals and organizations to see and experience the world and their work through an equity lens. She uses her expertise in social justice, team dynamics, individual change and the power of inclusion to help leaders transform themselves, their teams and organizations in powerful and sustainable ways.

Erica has been training, speaking and facilitating around issues of social justice for more than 15 years. She has designed programs and facilitated workshops focused on race and racism, oppression and social change, heterosexism and homophobia just to name a few.

Erica holds a Bachelor of the Arts Degree in Public Relations from Ursuline College and a Master of the Arts Degree in Psychology with a certification in Diversity Management (NTL) from Cleveland State University. She also holds coaching certifications from the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland and the Center for Credentialing Education.

As an engaged community member, Erica serves on the Institute for Creative Leadership’s Advisory Board, Ursuline College’s Graduate and Professional Program Advisory Council, and as Director Diversity & Equity for the Junior League of Cleveland.

Adele DiMarco Kious

Adele DiMarco Kious is the founder and lead steward of Yinovate, LLC. Using frameworks and processes grounded in systems thinking, Gestalt theory, Anthropology, Positive Psychology and Appreciative Inquiry, her passion is working with groups, supporting them to lead transformational change within themselves and the communities and organizations they serve.

She has co-launched three social change initiatives in Greater Cleveland: SOMO (Social-Emotional) Leadership; Change Makers, a dialogue series on race, power and privilege; and City Repair, a neighbor-led empowerment and beautification process. Through her work with sister firm, Currere, Inc., her clients have included The Cleveland Leadership Center, YWCA Greater Cleveland, The Gund Foundation, The Cleveland Foundation, The Cleveland Clinic, The City Club of Cleveland, Cleveland MetroParks, The City of Cleveland, and many more.

Adele has bachelor degrees in Biology and Anthropology, master degrees in Business and Anthropology and has completed extensive training with the Gestalt Center for Organization & Systems Development and the Center for Positive Psychology.