Driving Community Change Through Shared Power

Jan 04, 2023

Pictured: PT Partners participants work as co-leaders to bring about positive change in their own community. Top left: Vanessa Liles; Top Right: Shaurice Bacon; Center: Randy Agosto; Bottom Left: Evelyn Medina; Bottom Right: Dione Dwyer.

More than 9 in 10 of the households in Bridgeport’s PT Barnum Apartments are home to single mothers with young children. And in a system that deliberately places hurdles in the path of single parents, the odds are often stacked against them.

PT Partners, a community-based initiative started in collaboration with Fairfield County’s Community Foundation in 2014, works with residents in the 360-unit public housing community to remove these hurdles by working together.

It starts with the way the organization is structured. At PT Partners, there is no one leader or supervisor. Instead, it adopts what it calls a “leader-full” model in which resident leaders have the power to make decisions that best benefit their community.

The structure empowers residents to advocate collectively and to have a stronger presence in discussions that address structural inequities.

“The structure of the organization is based on Black feminism – that is important because it teaches everyone to support one another, so that if one person leaves, for example, the organization could still go on successfully.”

vanessa  liles
pt partners
co-project director

The approach provides strength in numbers and creates opportunities for residents to work together and develop skills that can transform their lives.

With that in mind, PT Partners leveraged a $30,000 capacity-building grant from the Community Foundation to deliver training programs to help the 20 residents on its staff learn how to perform administrative work and manage the organization’s daily operations.

The grant also helped to create a new position – Systems Change fellow. The resident leader who serves as Systems Change fellow actively participates in discussions and has a stronger presence in spaces where decisions are being made about the issues that affect the community they live in.

Moving forward, the organization will encourage more residents to get involved with taking action around community safety, getting the fire department involved to create safety plans for evacuation, and receiving hands-on CPR training through the American Heart Association.

“The residents already have the knowledge because of what many of them experience on a daily basis,” Liles added. “Because of their experiences, they know exactly what the community needs and therefore it is up to us as a professional organization to help expand their skills and ability to change the systems.”

Help people to power solutions: FCCFoundation.org/PTP