Legacy Foundation works alongside community members to create lasting, positive impact in Lake County. In 2013, we began the Neighborhood Spotlight (NS) program with the overall objective to help communities lead change and improve quality of life in their neighborhoods. Legacy Foundation selected four Lake County communities: Gary-Emerson, Gary-Miller, Griffith, and North West Hobart. They embarked on a multi-year process of using the Organize, Decide, Act approach of Collective Impact to address complex issues in their community.

Neighborhood Spotlight’s overall objectives included:

  • Building stronger partnerships
  • Organizational capacity building
  • Coordinating program implementation
  • Leveraging external funding

In 2018, a comprehensive evaluation of the Neighborhood Spotlight program was conducted by an independent external evaluator to gather detailed findings in each of the four general objectives.

Building Stronger Partnerships

Legacy Foundation identified the need for building stronger partnerships to support community development efforts. In order to gauge Neighborhood Spotlight success, Legacy looked to see if local policy decisions were made holistically and if there were cross-sector partnerships within the community.

  • In every community, pre-existing relationships among organizations/citizens were deepened and new partnerships were formed as a result of pre-award and grant training processes and involvement in program planning and implementation.
  • In some cases, NS partnerships facilitated the development of project offshoots.
  • The relationships built through NS are a form of social capital that can be accessed for future initiatives

Organizational Capacity Building

The goal for Neighborhood Spotlight was to build up community organizations as conveners/backbone organizations so they could help empower local residents. Backbone organizations from the four communities received comprehensive technical assistance from Prosperity Indiana, formerly Indiana Association of Community Economic Development (IACED), and $50,000 in the first year for the cost of a community builder and early action projects.

NS identified residents leading change as an indicator for capacity building. The evaluation of the NS program took away these key findings:

  • Backbone organizations were limited in their knowledge and experience in their roles. Training was instrumental, however, limitations remained.
  • In future initiatives, additional support and training will be essential to facilitate a collaborative process.
  • Backbones successfully moved the initiative through the first phase of building a common agenda and developing a plan with shared measures.
  • Most of the shared measures were not specific, limiting their effectiveness.
  • In 2 of the community reports, it was clear that the backbone’s role was limited to coordination of events and activities.

Coordinating Program Implementation

Effective coordination moves organizations close to true collaboration, where interactions are based on shared mission and goals, and decisions and resources are shared for the long-term benefit of the community. One indicator of success was the existence of measurable results that aligned with the established program goals. Legacy Foundation supported program implementation with both financial and human resources.

  • All communities developed a Quality of Life plan and directed resources to promote work that was identified in the plan.
  • Communities encountered multiple obstacles to the development of an effective shared measurement system including:
    • Absence of strong leadership with relevant experience in measurement systems
    • Absence of community knowledge and understanding of indicator development and data tracking
    • Absence of external funding over multiple years

Leveraging External Funding

As collective impact initiatives grow, it is essential to leverage external resources to ensure that programs are sustainable. Legacy Foundation identified the need to leverage external resources, specifically investments, as a goal for the NS initiative. A key indicator of success was if and how participating communities would further work with funders in a way that investment decisions would be guided by the collective impact plan developed by the partners.

  • Factors limiting the opportunities for leveraging external resources included:
    • Backbone leadership capacity
    • Limited ability to access key stakeholders
    • Difficulty integrating NS into larger community development initiatives
  • Legacy’s guiding of communities through the model improved capacity of backbones who now have more knowledge and experience in determining strategies for leveraging inclusive networks, and engaging in program advocacy.


“By working together, members of the Downtown-Emerson neighborhood create and nurture a welcoming, active, flourishing community.”

Emerson’s NS initiative began in 2015. Families Anchored in Total Harmony (FAITH) was chosen as the convening organization for the neighborhood.

  • Over 300 1:1 residential interviews were conducted in order to identify strength, weaknesses, opportunities and threats within the community
  • Accomplishments:
    • “Most notable accomplishments cited by convening organization and partners related to providing a voice for the voiceless in the neighborhood.”
    • Urban agriculture
    • Historical marker
  • The Gary-Emerson neighborhood continues to expand the reach of its urban agriculture movement.

Gary Downtown-Emerson Quality of Life Plan

Keep up with Gary-Emerson Neighborhood Spotlight


“Resident leadership and initiative create a thriving, sage, and inclusive neighborhood with government, philanthropic, and business support enriching those initiatives. The Miller neighborhood is a vibrant and functional community to live, work and play in.”

Miller, anchored by the Miller Beach Art and Creative District, joined the NS initiative in 2014.

  • Over 200 1:1 residential interviews were conducted
  • Accomplishments:
    • Increased communications
    • Accessibility improvements
    • Festivals and workshops
    • Clean ups
    • 2016 IN APA Outstanding Public Outreach Award
    • 2018 Urban League Award for Diversity and Inclusion
  • “The continuing commitments of Gary-Miller NS members are direct evidence of the foundation’s success in creating stronger partnerships.”

Gary-Miller Quality of Life Plan

Keep Up With Gary-Miller Neighborhood Spotlight


“The town of Griffith is known for its welcoming and eclectic mixture of social, business and religious environments, grounded by its cohesive diverse population and a sense of community spirit and pride.”

Griffith joined the NS initiative in 2015 under the leadership of the Griffith YMCA.

  • 187 1:1 residential interviews were conducted
  • Accomplishments:
    • Improving communication in the community
    • Community continues to carry out work of NS
    • Park wall mural, commemorative plaques, and amenities signage
    • Gathered and analyzed critical data on citizen views that otherwise may not have taken place

Griffith Quality of Life Plan

Keep Up With Griffith Neighborhood Spotlight

North West Hobart

“Hobart NW is a model of sustainability and a gateway to the wider Hobart community.”

In 2014, North West Hobart joined the NS initiative under the leadership of the Hobart Family YMCA.

  • 189 1:1 residential interviews were conducted
  • Accomplishments:
    • Expanding/reopening Fire Station 2
    • Awareness of natural assets
    • Strong city partnership
    • Quality of Life plan is still a feature of government planning efforts
  • Engaging the business sector proved to be challenging. The process became a vehicle for reflection on partnerships and community building.
  • “The continuing commitment of the public sector showcases the ability of NS to use existing assets successfully.”

Hobart-West Side Quality of Life Plan