Our Storytelling Guidelines

It’s been 7 years since we launched Neighbor Up and, in that time, Community Network Building — once unknown and untrusted — has gained a foothold here in Cleveland and, as Neighbor Up member Bianca Butts said, Neighbor Up has become a trusted ear in the community.

We’re proud of this network of almost 3,000 people committed to making positive change in our city, and the work we’ve all done to create space for people to cross lines of difference, level the playing field, and act together on issues they care about. 

As we move deeper into the practice of Community Network Building, we want to do a better job of telling the powerful stories that emerge when people work together to make change in their own communities. Documenting and telling those stories is both an act of healing and of justice. Historical narratives are often written and disseminated by dominant culture, as a way of maintaining power structures and keeping people who live outside of the dominant culture marginalized and subordinate. We support storytelling that works from a sense of abundance and that recognizes the power of individuals and communities. This pursuit is called “narrative justice.”

Grounded by our Vision, Mission and Values and inspired by our friends at City Bureau and the storytellers Lewis Mehl-Madrona and Barbara Mainguy, we decided to establish Neighbor Up Storytelling Guidelines as we worked on the “Good News Cleveland” project this summer. These guidelines are a way to hold ourselves accountable:

  • We believe in the power of authentic relationships. We cultivate relationships, not transactions. Authentic storytelling takes time, intentionality and space to evolve. We resist rushing this process.
  • We take an asset-oriented approach to storytelling. We believe that most of what’s needed to improve our communities already exists within our communities. Recognizing, respecting and connecting those assets is what sparks change — with people, and their gifts, at the center.
  • We produce work that is non-dominant and works to amplify shared power and diminish the impact of positional power.
  • With our storytelling, we create space for interconnected learning and the expression of communal power.

Join us for online community meetings about the city’s Residential Tax Abatement Study

It is been several months since you have heard from us about Cleveland’s residential tax abatement policy. Thank you to everyone who participated in the community listening sessions we hosted with partners earlier this year! Those sessions were part of a study the city was doing about its residential tax abatement policy. Now we are ready to host online community meetings for sharing the study results.

During each meeting, the lead researchers will present the results of the study and review their recommendations; there will also be an opportunity for discussion and feedback. Please register below for the meeting that works with your schedule and the Zoom link for the meeting will be provided after registration.

Register for a community meeting

The City of Cleveland’s Residential Tax Abatement Study

Here is the final version of the City of Cleveland’s Residential Tax Abatement Study we will hear about during the community meetings.

You’ll see that it includes quantitative data on the tax abatements, the economic impact of abatements, feedback from stakeholders, and results from the community engagement in which you participated. It also makes recommendations to the City of Cleveland.

This study is the first step toward any potential changes to the residential tax abatement policy.  The study and its recommendations will also be presented to Cleveland City Council for their discussion and implementation. This means there will continue to be opportunities to advocate for housing policies that works all Clevelanders at a local and state level — your voice is still needed in this process.

If you have questions or need assistance with Zoom, please contact Kaela Geschke.

If you cannot make either of the meeting times the presentation will be recorded and shared here. Read more about our work hosting community listening sessions here.

Neighbor Up Community Building 2020

The Neighbor Up Network and the Community Foundation of Lorain County are offering this training on Community Network Building to those who live in the city of Lorain.

The Neighbor Up Network, located in Cleveland, is a community of about 3,000 members, mainly residents of Cleveland, who have years of experience bringing community members together to create a more just, equitable and inclusive community. With support from the Community Foundation of Lorain County, we invite you to help build a similar network in Lorain. In Neighbor Up, we believe that the most desirable community change is fueled by the interests, energies, and commitment of the broadest array of community members. To create welcoming, inclusive neighborhoods where everyone can thrive, we must engage neighbors in meaningful ways and work together to create the community we want.

You’re invited!

We are looking for 18-20 people who live or work in the city of Lorain, care about this community, and
are able to commit to the six-month training.

As a member of the team, you will:
● Learn more about yourself and the gifts you bring to this work;
● Build relationships within your neighborhood and across the city of Lorain.
● Learn about and practice various approaches to building community, including Asset Based
Community Development and Community Network Building
● Deepen your knowledge about racial equity, the history of Lorain, and the opportunities and
structural challenges to overcome;
● Work with a team of committed community members to overcome challenges and create a
community where everyone can thrive.
● Receive a $200 Visa Gift Card

Who Is Invited to Apply

City of Lorain residents, merchants, employees at institutions who:
● believe that all members of our community have gifts, knowledge, and wisdom to offer;
● are interested in building and bridging relationships to create a strong, interconnected network
in Lorain;
● are comfortable sharing power and working as a team;
● are willing and excited to work in multicultural and diverse spaces with people from all over
● are willing to learn and raise consciousness about structural inequality;
● are open to learning and experimenting with new forms of community building; and
● are willing and able to do some of this work virtually using new technologies.

Commitment of Team Members

● Fully participate in 9 half-day sessions (See dates below);
● Dedicate 8 to 12 hours each month between August and February 2021. This includes scheduled
sessions and some additional time each month;
● Share your experience and knowledge with peers;
● Complete 20 one-on-one conversations with neighborhood stakeholders;
● Develop action plans and prototype small efforts to address an issue that you care about with
others on the team; and
● Assist with planning and outreach for neighborhood and city-wide gatherings in early 2021

Some components may be changed to phone calls and virtual engagement as necessary due
to public health needs.

Training Topics

● Team Building
● Asset Based Community Development and Community Network Building
● The History of Lorain
● Understanding Personal and Community Trauma
● Understanding Race, Equity and Inclusion
● Tactics to Build a Strong Community Network


Application and Selection Process
● Applications Due by Monday, August 10th at 5 p.m.
● Applicant Interviews August 17th through August 20th
● You will hear back from us by Friday, August 21st
● Sign Participation Agreement and join the team!
● The first session is Saturday, August 29th at 10 a.m.

Required Session Dates
All sessions are on Saturdays from 10 am to 2:30 pm with a half-hour for lunch.
● August 29th, 2020
● September 12th, 2020
● September 26th, 2020
● October 3rd, 2020
● October 24th, 2020
● November 7th, 2020
● November 21st, 2020
● December 5th, 2020
● December 12th, 2020
Network Night Pilot:
● Pilot Network Night — January 2021 (to be determined)
● Pilot Network Night — February 2021 (to be determined)


For more information or to ask questions, contact Neighbor Up members Jerry or Lisa-Jean:

The primary contact at the Community Foundation of Lorain County is Assata Cheers.

Meet Lawrence, the new Cleveland Documenters Field Coordinator

We are excited to announce that Lawrence Caswell will be joining our team in August as the Cleveland Documenters Field Coordinator. Lawrence has decades of experience in journalism and community engagement.

He has been following Documenters since its launch in Chicago and brings a wealth of knowledge about not only how Documenters works, but also about Cleveland, journalism and technology. He also has experience podcasting, doing voiceovers, DJing and even comic book writing.

We believe Lawrence has the passion for the work and the creativity and experience to take Cleveland Documenters where it needs to go in the next year and beyond.

Lawrence worked at ideastream for more than 10 years on civic engagement, audience experience and media production. He began as a sound board operator and ended as a producer focused on civic and social media engagement. Before that, he spent eight years as the sound engineer at Beachland Ballroom.

Lawrence, who lives in Collinwood with his wife and daughter, is well known throughout the city. He has been part of our Neighbor Up Community of Practice and is one of the founders of clePlan, or the Cleveland Parent Leadership Action Network, a group of Neighbor Up members who are also parents with children in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District.

Lawrence has bachelor’s degrees from Cleveland State University in communications, English and physics.

His start date is August 3. We intend to host our first Cleveland Documenters workshop online on Thursday, September 3 after learning and training with City Bureau. Stay tuned for details on that workshop or sign up to be notified when we have the details.

We’re excited to begin Cleveland Documenters in partnership with Chicago-based civic journalism lab City Bureau and with support from the Cleveland Foundation and the Visible Voice Charitable Fund of the Cleveland Foundation. Cleveland Documenters will recruit, train and pay Greater Clevelanders to document official committee meetings of the Cuyahoga County and City of Cleveland governments and contribute to a communal pool of public knowledge. Read more about it here.

Join us for a Juneteenth Celebration and Freedom Walk

You’re invited to join us for a day of celebration on Saturday.

The day begins at Benedictine High School, 2900 Martin Luther King Jr., with a Freedom Walk to the Art & Soul Park, 11802 Buckeye Rd., where you’ll find entertainment, resources and a vendor village with free food, voter registration and census information until 5 p.m. Wear your mask – we will be taking precautions for COVID-19.

We’re proud to sponsor this event along with Buckeye Summer Soul, the NAACP Cleveland, residents and Neighbor Up members.

  • 11 a.m. Meet at Benedictine High School
  • 11:30 a.m. Freedom Walk begins
  • 1 p.m. Drum Roll
  • 2 p.m. Car Caravan

Chalk your walk in solidarity

From now though Friday, community members will be walking the Buckeye neighborhood asking families to chalk their front sidewalk in solidarity and celebration. Fill out this form or call 216-302-4108 to request materials or for more information.

“If we want a beloved community…”

The recent murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis has highlighted the history of police violence in the United States and the violent, oppressive systems built and sustained by a lie for over 400 years. We celebrate the hundreds of protests that have challenged police violence and systemic racism, and we know there is a lot of work to do to combat these deeply entrenched systems.

What we’ve been trying to build in Cleveland through Neighbor Up — a diverse group of people sharing power, building trust and acting together — gives us hope. Not a naive hope but the kind of hope that exists on the other side of despair, frustration and anger. Neighbor Up members are an amazing group of people working to make this community a better place, focusing on both LOVE and POWER, with racial and economic justice as central tenets of our work.  

While our work together is much needed during this critical time, we are pausing right now. We are taking some time to reflect and discern where we go from here, individually and collectively. Our original plans for this week have been adapted or postponed. We cannot go forward with business as usual. 

“If we want a beloved community, we must stand for justice”

-bell hooks

While we are paused, we are asking our white members and friends to: 

  • Do some soul searching on how the system of white privilege needs to change and examine your role in it.
  • Ask yourself, “How does white privilege negatively affect me?” and discuss this with family or friends.
  • Before you send that next email, text, or plan, check yourself and ask: “Is this really necessary right now?” People are grieving, shaken, and need time to process. Would it be better to check in with someone and have a conversation rather than conducting business as usual?
  • Take a look at the work you are doing with Neighbor Up and ask yourself our equity prime questions:
    • How are my biases showing up in this work? In my life?
    • How is my privilege showing up in this work? How are the dynamics of power and privilege operating between me, my colleagues of color, and network members of color in this work and in this community right now?
    • How am I/we making space for shared power and authenticity by investing in the gifts, knowledge and skills of people who have been marginalized in my work? In my life?
  • Get ready to gear up. White people need to use their energy, resources, and privilege to change this system in big ways.

To our African-American, black, and Latinx friends:

  • Know that Neighbor Up is with you in solidarity.
  • Know that we recommit to do more, and be more effective, in the continuing fight for racial and economic justice, truth and reconciliation.

Neighbor Up COVID-19 Rapid Response grants for weeks 2 & 3

Neighbor Up COVID-19 Rapid Response grants are providing financial assistance to grassroots neighborhood civic groups as well as small non-profit and faith-based organizations in Cuyahoga, Geauga and Lake counties for efforts related to the provision of needs during COVID-19.

Groups funded this week and last week include:

  • Food Not Bombs will distribute free produce and bread twice a month in Lake County and twice a month in Cleveland. We will work with our neighbors in both western Lake County and on the east side of Cleveland to eliminate food waste by putting it in the hands of people who need it, while advocating for changes in the system that creates food insecurity.
  • Juntos will support vulnerable Latinx households on Cleveland’s west side with direct cash assistance. Ten households will be selected that have not been able to access other forms of cash assistance during the pandemic. All households are low income and priority will be given to those with children, elders or those living with different abilities; and
  • Laundry Love at Leo’s Laundromat will continue providing free laundry services, food, and hygiene items to our neighbors in need in the Fairview Park/West Park neighborhoods while maintaining a safe social distance.

Funds are intended to enable these civic groups and organizations to be responsive to emergency and basic needs requests, providing support for operations, and/or reducing social isolation. Applicants can be 501(c)3 nonprofit organizations or work with a 501(c)3 fiscal sponsor that will be designated to you through this grants program. Grants cover a 12-week period and will be between $500 and $5,000.

For a full list of grants funded this week, click here. If you’re interested in applying for a grant, click here.

Good News Cleveland

Neighbor Up has launched Good News Cleveland, a community-powered web show and podcast focused on how people are helping each other and building people power in these challenging times. Whether you’re working in the community, working in a hospital or making something beautiful — tell us your story! A phone and an idea is all you need to become a Storyteller.

Staying connected during this time of physical distancing

Neighbor Up is about making people-powered change in communities.

Use your civic muscle: check your voter registration and fill out the census.

Please read our post in support of Black Lives Matter and the continuing fight for racial justice in America.

Health and safety are so important to building vibrant community spaces. With that in mind, we are moving our in-person Neighbor Up gatherings to online spaces so we can stay connected, support each other, and learn together while also observing the guidelines to stop the spread of COVID-19. Please join us as we weave together what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called “the beloved community.” To get involved, join us by phone or online at one of our upcoming gatherings.

Neighbor Up members are working in the following 4 areas:



The Listening group is making calls each week to 10 to 15 people – especially those who may be isolated. We are listening to what people care about during this time, sharing information we have and inviting folks to join a virtual gathering and/or get involved in weaving together the community.

Virtual Community of Practice

Another group of Neighbor Up members are hosting an online Community of Practice to bring people together online for mutual support and learning and sharing around community building during this time. Join Community of Practice on Wednesdays by calling in from your phone or through Zoom. Details here.

Virtual Marketplace

Other Neighbor Up community builders are supporting a Virtual Marketplace (just like the one we all know and love from Neighbor Up Nights) to offer mutual support during this time of physical distancing. This is a space to connect, to make a request for or offer of mutual support, or to make a declaration. Text MP to 474747 to enter your request, offer or declaration.

Check out the list of the requests, offers and declarations being made here.

See the News 5 Cleveland story about the Virtual Marketplace here.

Contact us

The Neighborhood Connections office is closed as we observe the guidelines to stop the spread of COVID-19, but staff members are working from home and we are committed to staying connected. Reach us here.

For more detailed and up-to-date information on COVID-19, please click here.

The Virtual Marketplace

The Virtual Marketplace (like The Marketplace) is a high energy, 30-minute exercise that can be used to help people identify and exchange gifts, favors, and advice. However, the Virtual Marketplace is done online. It was developed by Neighbor Up members in response to COVID-19.

It brings to life our interconnectedness by showing that we all have gifts and we all have value. When a diverse group of people gather to engage in real time exchange, we take the time to:

  • see each other as part of a support network
  • learn to ask for what we need,
  • continually explore and reveal the value that we have in our community.

As a result, we increase abundance in our community and build relationships across differences.

This exercise is optimal for groups of 15 to 25, and it’s FUN!


  • 1 Virtual Marketplace Leader
  • 1 Virtual Market Time Keeper
  • 2-3 Virtual Market Scribes


  • A video conferencing platform like Zoom with the capability to call in, too
  • A Google spreadsheet for the scribes to record the offers, requests and declarations

Before You Start!

  • Someone (possibly the scribe) can be sharing music at the beginning so it’s not quiet when everyone enters. You can do this by going to “Share” at the bottom of the screen → Advanced→ and clicking Share computer sound. 
  • Tips for Market Place Leaders:
    • It is helpful to have 2 people tag-team the hosting role so that multiple people can share the responsibility of guiding through this together. We usually have one person handle the Welcome, Intros and Marketplace instructions; another person handles the Virtual Tips and Responsible Community Building sections. The Virtual Tips & Responsible Community Building are a little bit easier, so they are a great first step for someone interested in hosting. Decide who is going to do what part before you start.
    • Also remember to make the Scribe a co-host of the event so that person can share their screen if asked.
  • Tips for Scribes:
    • It helps to have 2-3 Scribes 
    • Decide who will be in charge of collecting which information beforehand. For example, someone may want to be in charge of collecting the offer/request while someone else collects the matches and contact information. 
    • Have the Virtual Marketplace sheet  up and ready before you start. Please make a copy of the Template Tab to use for your Marketplace. Follow the instructions on the Welcome Tab to make a copy. 


  • Thank you SO very much for joining us today! My name is_______ I’m a member of the NUp Network!
  • Who else here is a member of the Network, raise your hands or get a heeey!
  • If you aren’t a member, we are also happy to have you! 
  • Today we are here innovating together by taking the Marketplace, an activity many of us know and love, virtual! So we ask for your feedback later, and your patience now.
  • One of the core beliefs of Neighbor Up is that everyone has something to share, some way to participate in community.  We all have skills, talents, and knowledge to offer the world and each other. 
    • The Marketplace is a simple practice that gives us a chance to make requests, offers and declarations. It’s our way of making sure we support each other. 

Virtual Tips

(It’s good to read this verbatim)

And now for some quick tips on using Zoom so that we can flow a little more easily. If you are a Zoom expert already, we thank you for your patience as we bring everyone along to participate:

  • Muting: Unlike many zoom meetings, we invite you to keep your mic unmuted! However, if you have a lot of background noise, you may want to mute your mic from time to time until you are ready to talk.     
    • To mute yourself you can hover over or tap the bottom of the screen and select the microphone button. If you are on the phone you can press Pound 6 to mute and unmute. If you are on the computer, hitting the spacebar and holding it down while you talk will unmute your microphone
    • If it’s too loud we may ask you to mute yourself. No offense. 
  • Chat Function: To maximize your participation, please open the chat function by maximizing Zoom on your screen and then hovering over and clicking the “chat” button on the bottom of your screen. You should then see a chat bar on the side of your screen. If you are on your phone, you can tap in the bottom right corner of your screen to get the chat function.
  • Video does eat up your battery, so turn it on and off if necessary or be prepared to plug in and charge. You can turn off your video by clicking on the camera at the bottom of your screen.
  • If the screen is freezing or the sound is cutting out, consider stopping your video. You can still see us and hear us, and we can hear you when you’re not muted.

If this is too much for you, just know that it’s okay. You don’t have to worry about any of these details. Just hang in there. We’ll help you as we go along. If anyone is new to Zoom, feel free to raise your raise hand now and we will do our best to support you! 


Before we get started we are going to see who is on the call today! When someone passes to you, please say your name and your neighborhood and then choose someone to throw it to next. As this happens our scribe ___________ will be writing down your name and neighborhood to set us up to connect later. I will start, my name is _______ I live ___________, and I am going to throw it to____________.

*Go around to everyone, starting with known Network members so people can see how it works. Make sure to remember the folks on the phone. If someone forgets to pass it to the next person,  prompt them to do so or do it for them. 

*Right now the Scribe is adding each name to the Marketplace Place spreadsheet. This is important because it gets everyone’s voice in the room and participating.

Responsible Community Building

  • Before we dive in, we want to make sure that as we continue to build community during this time of physical separation, we are doing it safely
  • Here are some guidelines:
    • We are being asked stay home except for essential needs including:
      • Health and safety reasons
      • Groceries/Pharmacy
      • Walking/running exercising outside
      • Delivering items to people who cannot go out
    • So as we are offering each other mutual support, remember that it is important that we do so without spreading COVID-19. Even when delivering items, the best practice is to leave items on a person’s porch without making physical contact.
  • Following these guidelines is how we can truly support and take care of each other.

Marketplace Instructions

Okay now we are ready for a quick review of the Marketplace, this is how it works:

  • Today we will take about 30 minutes in the group to see if there are any requests, offers or declarations that are pressing for folks. This is a quick and fun way to promote mutual exchange – since we are all getting used to technology we may slow it down a little bit.     
  • There are 3 roles in the Marketplace:

The Leader: This person keeps us moving quickly through the marketplace. I will make sure I get your information and will repeat it so everyone can hear 

The Scribe: This person will record your name and your request, offer, or declaration, as well as the names of those who want to match with you. You will be able to get this information at the end of the call. Today our scribe will be …. Finally, we need…

The Timekeeper: This person will keep us on track and on time. At the end of your 1 minute the timekeeper will alert us all, and we will clap for you before we move on to the next person. Today our timekeeper will be… 

One thing to note is that your 1 minute needs to include your request, offer or declaration AND leave some time for people to match with you. 

  • We will also be asking for your contact information so people can follow up on matches. The document (ask scribe to share screen for a moment) looks like this, and will be shared with everyone at the end of the session. This information is listed publicly at NeighborUpCle.org/connect for those on the phone. If you do not want your contact information shared publicly, please make that known, and make sure to leave your contact info in the chat so the people on this call can still connect with you. 

If we’re not able to capture all the names for all the matches, you can still type in the comments, by saying your name and who you want to match with, for example: “Erika wants to match with Natalie.”

  • Everyone will have a chance to make an Offer, Request, or Declaration, or you can pass. I will call on you when it’s your turn.  Don’t forget that passing is okay- it allows us to get to everyone! 
    • An Offer is something you have to give. For example: I have extra toilet paper if anyone needs some. OR I know a lot about the city parks and would be happy to suggest beautiful walks to people. 
    • A Request is something you are looking for. For example: I am looking for someone to teach me to use Google Docs.
    • A Declaration is just that, a statement you make to make publicly. For example: I am going to sit on my porch at 7PM everyday to say to anyone who walks by. 
  • Okay let’s get started…

Start with those people who are most familiar with the Virtual Marketplace so that everyone can see how it is done. Read each person’s name on the sheet and let them say their Request, Offer or Declaration. Sometimes people use their one minute to make more than one.

After the Marketplace:

  • That was awesome- thank you!! 
  • The link to this document is provided here in the chat and it will be on NeighborUpCle.org/connect so you can refer back to your matches. If you DO NOT want your information out there, please message us right away. 
  • Remember the Marketplace is all about personal exchange. It only works if we follow through on the connections we make today! 

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.

“Neighbor Up Spotlight” tells the stories of unsung heroes in Cleveland

“Neighbor Up Spotlight” is a podcast telling the stories of unsung heroes in Cleveland. Created, hosted and produced by Cleveland resident and Neighbor Up member 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.


Carol had the idea for “Neighbor Up Spotlight” after volunteering for three years as a member of the Neighbor Up 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 it on Soundcloud and iTunes. Your support is appreciated!

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.