The Columbia Council of Neighborhoods (CCN) is a volunteer, community-based umbrella organization which coordinates the activities of over eighty city neighborhood organizations. While Columbia is socially and economically diverse, all neighborhoods have similar needs. CCN serves as a clearinghouse for information, provides a forum for discussion of neighborhood issues, and fosters the education of neighborhood leadership. CCN committees are actively addressing such quality of life issues as drugs, crime, and toxic waste.
The grass roots nature of CCN’s structure may be its most innovative aspect. Many cities hold meetings between their officials and community leaders, but the question remains: who defines community? The unusual features of CCN are that each group defines its own community boundaries – instead of some government agency imposing a uniform size or shape – and each group participates voluntarily. These concepts of self definition and participation create a real sense of ownership and empowerment. CCN unified its member organizations and amplified the voice of each, resulting in increased political power. CCN has enabled diverse neighborhood organizations to become acquainted with each other and to become aware of various neighborhood concerns.
Columbia Council of Neighborhoods (CCN) is governed by a board of directors elected by neighborhood presidents whose organizations are members of the CCN. The board consists of five members serving staggered terms. Any city neighborhood organization can become a member. Each organization, regardless of size, has one vote of equal weight. Neighborhoods define their own boundaries; some are as small as a few blocks, while others cover several miles.