Proposals Are Now Being Accepted for the 2nd Annual Neighborhood IDEA Conference – March 4, 2017

UPDATE: We’re booked! Proposals are no longer being accepted for this year’s conference.

On March 5, 2016, 130 Muncie residents attended the first Neighborhood I.D.E.A. Conference.

The Muncie Action Plan, Shafer Leadership Academy and Building Better Neighborhoods are partnering once again to support the development of neighborhood leaders.

The second annual Neighborhood I.D.E.A. Conference is scheduled for March 4, 2017 on Ball State’s campus. Over 100 of Muncie’s most active local leaders will gather to listen, learn and meet like-minded individuals to share ideas and best practices.

Learn more about this year’s conference in this excellent article over at the MuncieJournal!

The theme of the conference is Intentional Development and Education for Association Members. Sessions will fall within four distinct tracks:

  1. Beautification and Infrastructure
  2. Partnering with Local Officials
  3. Teamwork and Collaboration
  4. Association Development

Do you have an idea you would like to share at the conference or a topic you want to see discussed? We are currently taking submissions. The Call for Proposals can be found here.

For those individuals and organizations who are interested in presenting at this conference, please submit proposals by January 9th. Questions may be directed to Krista Flynn, BSU Office of Community Engagement at

Intentional Development and Education for Association Members (IDEA) Conference

Conference participants of Muncie’s Neighborhood IDEA Conference at Ball State University

Conference organizers (l-r): Krista Flynn, Heather Williams, Mitch Isaacs, and Aimee Fant.
Conference organizers (l-r): Krista Flynn, Heather Williams, Mitch Isaacs, and Aimee Fant.

Saturday, March 5, 2016, 9 AM – 3 PM
Ball State University L.A. Pittenger Student Center
Provided in partnership by Building Better Neighborhoods, the Shafer Leadership Academy, the City of Muncie, the Vectren Foundation, and Muncie Action Plan.

Click here to view the agenda (png)

On a brisk Saturday morning in March, dozens and dozens of Muncie residents woke up early, streamed into Ball State’s Pittenger Student Center, and gave their entire day to attend keynote presentations and breakout sessions at the city’s first “Intentional Development and Education for Association Members” (IDEA) conference. The 130 participants represented diverse backgrounds, cultures, and every corner of Muncie, but they, along with conference sponsors Muncie Action Plan, Shafer Leadership Academy, Vectren Foundation, the City of Muncie, and Ball State’s Building Better Neighborhoods initiative, were united in their commitment to improving the quality-of-life in Muncie neighborhoods.

Mobilizing change at the neighborhood level is not a new concept. But as many rust belt cities have faced increases in poverty, crime, and drug use over the last few decades, neighborhood revitalization has increasingly taken center stage as a key strategy for economic and community development.

Representatives of the South Central neighborhood association (l-r): Nikki Fitzgerald, Brian Kemp, James Sandberg, and Sara Renee. The association won $1500 to use on a neighborhood project of their choosing.
Representatives of the South Central neighborhood association (l-r): Nikki Fitzgerald, Brian Kemp, James Sandberg, and Sara Renee. The association won $1500 to use on a neighborhood project of their choosing.

In 2013, the Ball Brothers Foundation granted funds to Ball State University for the development of the Building Better Neighborhoods initiative to support neighborhood development efforts in Muncie through the Muncie Action Plan and Delaware County’s VISION 2016 economic development plan. To date, 26 neighborhood associations have been established or strengthened through this collaboration. In addition to reinvigorating civic engagement among local residents, the initiative has facilitated uniquely rich immersive learning projects for hundreds of Ball State students. The Muncie neighborhoods website,, showcases a variety of projects, resources, and neighborhood information.

“Change is most effective when it grows out of the vision and passion of a city’s residents,” said Heather Williams, program manager of the Building Better Neighborhoods initiative. “During the conference, the Student Center ballroom was a remarkable snapshot of the leadership, passion, diversity, and partnerships that have positioned our neighborhoods to be powerful agents in our community.”

Ball State Acting President Terry King, Mayor Dennis Tyler, and State Representative Sue Errington kicked off the day of sessions. “Having been here at the University for almost 10 years now, I think the partnership between the City and the University is the strongest it has ever been,” said King. “We recognize that our success as a university is closely tied to the prosperity and well-being of Muncie and Delaware County. Through Ball State’s Office of Community Engagement and scores of faculty and student projects, we will continue to pursue mutually-beneficial partnerships with the community.”

Conference sessions followed four unique tracks: Working with Government, Visioning and Development, Teamwork and Collaboration, and Association Development. Presenters included Ball State faculty, City of Muncie and Delaware County department heads, neighborhood association leadership, and a final keynote address by Eric Halvorson, former WISH-TV anchor. A mid-day resource fair featured more than a dozen local non-profits and service providers: Huffer Childcare Resource Network, ecoREHAB, Muncie Delaware Clean and Beautiful, Muncie BY5, PathStone Corporation, Edible Muncie, Bike Muncie. Logistical support was provided by Ball State’s Office of Community Engagement.

Conference attendees submitted their dream neighborhood projects for a Ball State immersive learning class.
Conference attendees submitted their dream neighborhood projects for a Ball State immersive learning class.

The conference ended with a $1,500 door prize awarded to members of the South Central neighborhood association. The money will be used for a special neighborhood project of their choosing.

“Through the IDEA conference, Muncie’s neighborhood associations have gained access to tools and resources to sustain effective, collaborative neighborhood networks and keep open the lines of communication between residents and city leadership,” said Aimee Fant, Muncie Action Plan coordinator.

Fant, Williams, and fellow organizers Mitch Isaacs, executive director of the Shafer Leadership Academy, and Krista Flynn, program coordinator in Ball State’s Office of Community Engagement, agreed that a key to the conference’s success was active and intentional collaboration among the conference sponsors. “So many great people and organizations were part of making the event a success,” said Isaacs. “Each sponsor contributed significant and unique resources, and of course, the neighborhood association members brought their passion and commitment for our community. We couldn’t be happier with the results!”


BBN in the News

Muncie Neighborhoods Graphic Map

Building Better Neighborhoods connects Ball State resources to local initiatives

Building Community Connections Newsletter – May 2015

BBNsketchA new oasis is coming to the corner of West Main Street and North Cherry Street near downtown Muncie. The former site of a blighted house demolished in 2011, the planned pocket park will have pergolas, ornamental trees, native plants, an herb garden, and a seven-foot-tall sculpture designed and built by resident artist, Brenda Whitaker. The project is funded by a Ball Brothers Foundation Rapid Grant and donations of materials and labor.

Many hours already have been donated by Ball State assistant professor of anthropology Nick Kawa and a student team of landscape architecture, urban planning, and anthropology majors who designed the park after talking with Old West End Neighborhood residents at their monthly association meetings. According to Kawa, the students have been involved largely on a volunteer basis and have strived to reflect the desires of the residents and the unique characteristics of the neighborhood. He believes that the pocket park, coupled with the HUB Community Garden at Main and High Streets, will be the start of a larger movement for “greening” downtown Muncie.

This project is just one recent example of Ball State faculty, students, community partners, and residents working together to transform Muncie neighborhoods. Heather Williams sees these types of successful collaborations all the time. As Ball State’s director of the Building Better Neighborhoods (BBN) Initiative, Williams is tasked with connecting university expertise and resources with the development efforts of Muncie’s 48 neighborhoods. In her words, “what I try to do is fill gaps and needs, finding ways to get Ball State students involved.”

RoseCourtthumbThe Building Better Neighborhoods initiative was launched in 2014 through a three-year, $200,000 grant from the Ball Brothers Foundation. Research shows that neighborhood associations can be instrumental in promoting self-efficacy, collective efficacy, and a sense of community among residents[1]. In support of the Muncie Action Plan and Delaware County’s VISION 2016 economic development plan, BBN’s goals include raising up fully-functioning neighborhood associations across the city, deploying Ball State resources to support these associations, engaging Muncie’s nonprofit sector in neighborhood development, and developing an evaluation system to measure the impact of neighborhood-related projects.  BBN is headquartered in the Rose Court building in downtown Muncie.

Williams is a Ball State alum, with bachelor degrees in history and Spanish, a master’s degree in business administration with a specialization in entrepreneurship, and a master’s degree in urban planning with focus on community development, economic development, and international planning. She has served the city of Muncie as a zoning officer and structural inspector for the Building Commissioner’s Office, planner and NSP3 coordinator for the Community Development Department, and assistant administrator of the Unsafe Building Hearing Authority. Her graduate thesis, A History of Neglect: The Use of Federal Recovery Funds to Combat Vacancy and Blight in Muncie, IN, was recently published by Lambert Academic Publishing and is available via Amazon.

The 27 neighborhood associations established to date represent more than half of Muncie’s neighborhoods, but Williams is aiming for 100% participation by the end of 2015.

“Every neighborhood has its own culture, its own approach to tackling problems. Therefore every neighborhood association looks different, too,” she said. “But the positive outcomes are the same – a unified voice, greater connection with neighbors, increased neighborhood pride, improved safety, and empowerment of residents.”

Williams will continue to find creative ways to connect Ball State faculty and students with local improvement projects. Over the last school year, five Building Better Communities Fellows projects have focused on specific Muncie neighborhoods, including surveys and/or action plans for Blaine/Southeast, IndustrySouthside, and Riverside/Normal. This summer, urban planning faculty and students will work with the Vectren Foundation in the Thomas Park/Avondale neighborhood to assess energy use and implement energy upgrades. In the same neighborhood, Ball State business students will support Habitat for Humanity’s neighborhood revitalization efforts by surveying and interviewing local businesses to understand their perceived needs.

The Building Better Neighborhoods website (, created by Williams and Chris Flook, a telecommunications instructor at Ball State, highlights current projects as well as maps, events, and neighborhood association meetings. Williams hopes that this site will become a key portal for neighborhood-related information in Muncie, but her primary goal is to establish more face-to-face contact through neighborhood meetings. Not only do these meetings reinforce a sense of community, they provide a valuable venue for city officials – such as representatives from Muncie’s Community Development Department, Sanitary District, Streets Department, and the Building Commissioner’s Office – to meet in person with residents and address their concerns.

“It is amazing the difference that simple communication – saying hello, knowing your neighbors’ names – can make to how you feel about where you live,” said Williams. “Community is essential to our personal health and well-being, as well as to the well-being of our city. By connecting with those people who live closest to us, we can set our neighborhoods on paths toward wellness and prosperity.”

[1] Ohmer, M. (2007). Citizen Participation in Neighborhood Organizations and Its Relationship to Volunteers’ Self- and Collective Efficacy and Sense of Community. Social Work Research 31(2): 109-120.