In 1986, the idea for what would become the Regional Neighborhood Network (RNN) was launched by the City of Louisville in what was then the Department of Neighborhood Advocacy.
The premise was twofold:
1. Government officials in this region that work in the neighborhood areas must all be experiencing similar issues. It would be helpful if they had a forum to exchange ideas and learn from each other.
2. Many of our neighborhood leaders often feel that they are the only ones going through their challenges. They could benefit from an opportunity to be in an environment where they can share with each other and hear about solutions that their counterparts have developed.
To determine if there was an interest in the region a 400-mile radius around the City of Louisville was drawn. Major cities within that region were identified. Discussions were held to develop the new concept. Any impediment cities might have for not participating were removed by covering hotels and meals.
The cities that were initially invited were: Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton, Indianapolis, Lexington, Memphis, and St. Louis.
The City of Louisville agreed to host the first RNNC in 1987. The Conference was marketed throughout the region, while the major thrust was for each member city to receive a block of registration materials to distribute to their communities. In addition to neighborhood leaders, people from universities and foundations were also involved.
Two organizational groups were formed, the Host Committee and the Steering Committee. The Steering Committee was comprised of representatives of the RNNC. The Host Committee did all the legwork in pulling the Conference together locally. The Steering Committee came to Louisville on two occasions leading up to the event. The first was to brainstorm with the Host Committee about workshop topics and to develop a pool of potential speakers.
By design an effort was made to use suggested speakers from all the members’ cities so the registrants could immediately see that their solutions were included.
The group acknowledged that after input was given on a variety of themes and such, the final determinations of organizational and logistical aspects of the Conference should be entrusted to the Host Committee. The second RNNC meeting occurred about six weeks prior to the Conference so the Steering Committee could get the final version of what was expected.
It was the Host City’s job to raise money for the Conference. Keynote speakers were asked to share messages that challenged and lifted neighborhoods yet were non-partisan.
The first Conference was a rousing success and momentum was established. Cities rented vans or buses to get neighborhood people to the conferences. There were between 350-400 people at the first one.
The City of Louisville also hosted the 2nd Annual Regional Neighborhood Network Conference in 1988. During the early years it only made sense for Louisville to host it because of the commitment we made to the organization and we had the full buy-in of the Mayor’s office. The second conference drew several new faces as well as a strong contingent of people who were there in the first year. This solidified the relationship between neighborhood leaders from different communities and things took off from there.