This summer, UNC Greensboro’s Center for Housing & Community Studies (CHCS) began hosting the Tenant Leadership Academy, a 6-week leadership course for Greensboro area renters interested in improving their communities and building their own leadership abilities. CHCS’s goal with the academy is to reduce the number of evictions in Greensboro by helping tenants to strengthen their communities so that they have the tools to navigate broader socio-economic issues and structures.
With funding from the Ford Foundation, the CHCS was able to recruit 10 tenants from Greensboro area apartment communities for what will be the first cohort of the academy. CHCS chose tenants as the focus for this community-building course because they observed that many renters are unaware of the resources and capabilities that are available to them. Resources, for example, that can aid neighborhood groups in seeking desired improvements. Tenants may also feel disconnected to the larger community because they not land owners, even though they live and work in a given community.
The Tenant Academy meets for half day sessions every other week for six weeks at a local church. Each session is broken down into 2-3 topic areas and includes many interactive activities. CHCS brings in community leaders and guest speakers to lead class sections. The main components of the course include an overview of neighborhood history and local government, learning about present day issues and resources, and cultivating leadership skills. At the end of the curriculum, each tenant will devise a community project to deploy within their own communities. Devren, a tenant from the Rehobeth Church Road area of Greensboro, hopes to use her experience in the course to help people in her community find jobs or to develop their own entrepreneurial opportunities.
On a recent Saturday session, the tenant leaders learned about canvassing, small group facilitation, and creating organizational structures. The tenants got to practice door-knocking and meeting new people in a nearby neighborhood during the canvassing section. They then learned about group dynamics such as how to run meetings, devise agendas, and make group decisions. CHCS hopes to provide the tenants going through the academy with the leadership skills to build community relationships leading to stronger neighborhoods and increased civic participation. CHCS plans to start another cohort in Greensboro in the fall, and one in High Point in the spring. They are actively recruiting renters in the Greensboro area.