The Neighborhood Leadership Academy – El Paso, TX

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Project at a Glance

  • Issue Area Community vision and values, Neighborhood improvement
  • Engagement Approaches Community meetings (townhalls, forums, etc), Embedding a culture of engagement, Engaging traditionally marginalized groups, Leadership programs, Neighborhood events/ activities, Surveys and data, Trust building
Project Description

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The Neighborhood Leadership Academy


The City recognized neighborhood associations for the singular purpose of providing notification about land use issues within their boundaries, specifically, rezoning and special permit applications. While this was an important service to the community, the City saw the need for more robust interaction with these organized groups of residents. When Neighborhood Services staff began meeting with various residents and neighborhood associations to understand the issues they faced, it became immediately clear that some residents and associations were more effective at communicating their needs and championing their causes than others. Some associations even expressed their perception that a handful of other associations garnered a greater amount of attention and response from the City. Cursory analysis into the situation suggested that the neighborhoods with the strongest and best-informed leaders were significantly more capable of getting their issues addressed. The question became, how can the City develop more effective leaders throughout the community to ensure equity in service provision?  

The answer was to implement a Neighborhood Leadership Academy (NLA).


  • To provide residents with a working knowledge of City government and the essential skill sets necessary to become effective neighborhood advocates and community leaders.  
  • To create more two-way engagement between all neighborhoods and the City government.


  • Develop non-traditional community leaders 
  • Provide a comprehensive curriculum on City services 
  • Promote civic engagement and residents’ roles in decision making processes 
  • Increase residents’ pride in their community and understanding of how their City government works for them. 

Project Summary:

The Neighborhood Leadership Academy (NLA), is a 20-week educational program that informs El Paso residents of the services and programs city departments provide, how they are using tax payer money, how residents can access their services, and, most importantly, how residents can help those departments to provide the highest levels of customer service. 

Engagement Strategies:

Public participation is key and the City of El Paso actively seeks to develop the capacity of its residents to become community leaders and affect positive change through both formal and informal engagement: 

  • 20-week Neighborhood Leadership Academy (NLA) 
  • Quarterly Advanced Leadership Trainings for NLA graduates 
  • Input from 84 neighborhood associations 
  • Implementation of The International Association of Public Participation’s continuum of engagement model 
  • Citizen surveys 
  • Public meetings 
  • City council work sessions


After eight years of implementing the NLA, Neighborhood Services staff came to the realization that there was still an apparent gap regarding leadership skills. So, in 2015 the first Advanced Leadership Training was hosted by Neighborhood Services. Past graduates of the NLA and neighborhood association leaders were invited to attend a four-week course (held one evening per week) provided by Dale Carnegie Training. The topics covered were:

  • Communicate to Lead;
  • Gain the Willing Cooperation of Others;
  • Successful Public Speaking; and
  • How to Run Meetings that Accomplishment Something.

The Advance Leadership Training series is so highly regarded and in demand that it is now provided on an ongoing basis with a different topic every quarter. In addition to providing the tools and skills that resident leaders need to be effective, the City also provides funding for neighborhood associations so that those leaders have the opportunity to make a visible, tangible impact in their neighborhoods. At the same time that the NLA was starting up, City Council approved preliminary funding for a Neighborhood Improvement Program (NIP). The Neighborhood Improvement Program (NIP) provides the opportunity for neighborhood associations to request small-scale, permanent physical improvement projects to enhance the quality of life in their neighborhoods. The intent is to facilitate an organized process for residents to have direct input on physical improvements in their neighborhood.  

Typical enrollment in the annual program is approximately 60 residents. Nearly one in every ten NLA graduates has been appointed to city boards and commissions or other local and regional advisory groups. Two graduates were elected to the El Paso City Council. To ensure that the NLA is being conducted in a way that maximizes equity, every graduate from the current class will be asked to submit a demographic survey. Results from those surveys will allow for assessment of equity in the program. Originally funded at $1.5 million, the NIP was so well-received by residents, City departments, and elected officials, that the program was given a significant boost with voters approving $10 million for the program through a 2012 quality of life bond election. 

Timeline of Project: Since 2006
Initiator: City of El Paso, Community & Human Development Department: Neighborhood Services
Number of People Served: Annual program enrollment is approximately 60 residents.
Additional Resources:
El Paso, TX– 2018 AAC Winner: Presentation
Local Contact:
Mark Weber,
Neighborhood Services Coordinator, City of El Paso 
(915) 212-0138
Neighborhood Services- Contact Us

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