I just spoke to the board of Neigh­bor­hood Hous­ing Ser­vices Cleve­land [whoa 1994 site design!] about my trip to Nashville. They foot­ed the bill so it was only right that I tell them about it. The board has folks from all kinds of Cleve­land ser­vices as mem­bers and the City Coun­cil Chair­man Mar­tin Sweeney was there speak­ing about a pos­si­ble col­lab­o­ra­tion between Coun­cil and NHS. Two oth­er fel­low trip-tak­ers also talked about their work­shops.

I ran into Lou Tisler from NHS this morn­ing at Lucky’s, pick­ing up bagels. The only thing is, I didn’t real­ize he was Lou Tisler until I arrived at NHS, since I’d not met him before. The NHS build­ing is also hous­ing a curat­ed gallery by Brid­get Gin­ley. When com­mu­ni­ty activism, third-space coin­ci­dences and local art col­lab­o­rate, it is a recipe for a hap­py Adam. Some­times I feel like some­thing huge is about to hap­pen in Cleve­land.

Nashville Wrap-up

Street PerformerI’m home now, and I’ve final­ly man­aged to upload all of my pic­tures. You can view the set here. On Sun­day the Cleve­land Con­tin­gent met to cre­ate an action plan for a project here in town. We didn’t have very long to work, but we decid­ed to struc­ture a sur­vey to be sub­mit­ted to Cleve­land youth in order to deter­mine what kinds of stuff they want from their com­mu­ni­ty. Once we’ve estab­lished some met­rics from this, we plan to ask May­or Jack­son to allow city employ­ees a few hours of flex-time every month to be used for vol­un­teer work asso­ci­at­ed with Cleve­land youth, so even if the city can’t afford to give CMSD more flow, they can at least show that they care enough for our children’s future to pro­vide man­pow­er. We del­e­gat­ed tasks and are meet­ing in very ear­ly June to con­tin­ue orga­niz­ing this process.

After this ses­sion we went to the Ryman Audi­to­ri­um for the clos­ing cer­e­monies and some tes­ti­fy­ing. One woman from Bat­tle Creek, MI gave thanks for me since I had a good dis­cus­sion with her on start­ing a com­mu­ni­ty-based web­site for her own neigh­bor­hood. Sev­er­al peo­ple through­out the con­fer­ence were quite inter­est­ed in the idea of a com­mu­ni­ty-site, so I’m glad I could be there to pro­vide some sparks.

The Nashville music scene is very strong and the per­form­ers are all quite pro­fes­sion­al. The music is fair­ly main­stream, unlike Cleveland’s broad­er range of exper­i­men­ta­tion, but there are enough sim­i­lar­i­ties and dif­fer­ences in the cities that I think they could lean a lot from each oth­er.

• Very diverse pop­u­la­tions
• Sim­i­lar pop­u­la­tion size [Actu­al­ly, Cleve­land has about 75k less]
• Great music scenes

• Nashville is friend­lier and has an extreme­ly enthu­si­as­tic and vibrant may­or. [Not a slam on May­or Jack­son, but Bill Pur­cell was awe­some.]
• Cleve­land has bet­ter tech infra­struc­ture, a larg­er down­town and pub­lic trans­porta­tion [even if I had to walk the last mile after get­ting off the rapid].
• Nashville enter­tain­ment is much, much cheap­er.
• Cleve­land has a lake and parks all over the place and a larg­er vari­ety of enter­tain­ment.

To me, it seems like Cleve­land has bet­ter assets, but Nashville is lever­ag­ing theirs to more effect, which is why it is more of a des­ti­na­tion for tourists and peo­ple mov­ing to their area.

Downtown Nashville

Downtown NashvilleTry­ing to get a WiFi sig­nal in Nashville is like try­ing to find a pair of fish­net panty­hose at a hard­ware store. Or like being sent on an errand for head­light oil or a foot­ball bat. After my last work­shop yes­ter­day I attempt­ed to go to the one WiFi cof­fee shop I had seen in the vicin­i­ty, but it closed at 3pm on a Sat­ur­day. Sim­i­lar­ly, the Coun­try Music Hall of Fame and the Visu­al Arts Cen­ter were both closed by the time I got to them. I’ll be thank­ful to be back in Cleve­land where it is much eas­i­er to get some­thing stronger than a 1Mbps sig­nal.

I bought a har­mon­i­ca.

NeighborWorks: Transforming Conflict Into Action

My third work­shop was Trans­form­ing Con­flict Into Action, some­thing that is also very impor­tant in my neigh­bor­hood. There are a lot of groups that butt-heads over a vari­ety of issues and this work­shop focused on pro­vid­ing us with tools to use effec­tive lis­ten­ing in order to resolve con­flict and keep it from result­ing in stag­na­tion of a group’s goals. We did sev­er­al role-play­ing activ­i­ties designed to help us empathize with peo­ple typ­i­cal­ly viewed as the prob­lem in a group. By doing this we gained valu­able per­spec­tive and hope­ful­ly when we’re engaged in con­flict in the future, we’ll be able to dis­arm and com­mu­ni­cate. An effec­tive method for build­ing strong non-con­flict­ing bonds between con­flict­ing groups is to engage in lis­ten­ing projects. That is, only lis­ten, [don’t pro­vide opin­ions!] to what the per­son is say­ing and through effec­tive dis­cern­ment, the true issues can often be teased out.

NeighborWorks: Advocating for Change in Your Community

My sec­ond work­shop, Advo­cat­ing for Change in Your Com­mu­ni­ty, focused on its title. I chose to take this work­shop because Tremon[s]ters are stub­born even for Cleve­land and when two peo­ple have oppos­ing view­points on a neigh­bor­hood issue it is often hard to medi­ate or even gain some­thing that has the appear­ance of con­sen­sus. Effec­tive change-advo­ca­cy is there­fore and essen­tial part of com­mu­ni­ty build­ing. My bul­lets from this ses­sion:

• The #1 prob­lem world­wide that groups think they have is gain­ing more res­i­dent involve­ment. We learned that this phrase is far too ill-defined to pro­vide much mean­ing. Often a core groups of res­i­dents are the change agents in a com­mu­ni­ty, so num­bers don’t equal greater involve­ment or effect advo­ca­cy.
• Involve­ment should con­struct and imple­ment shared vision and works as a two way street. Com­mu­ni­ty lead­ers shouldn’t mere­ly try to get res­i­dents to come to them, but should seek out the res­i­dents and talk to them on their own terms about their own issues.
• Explor­ing your neigh­bor­hood and inform­ing your neigh­bors and even oth­ers out­side of the ‘hood of the pos­i­tive and neg­a­tive aspects of your com­mu­ni­ty can slow­ly build net­works that will devel­op organ­i­cal­ly, over time, into pow­er­ful change agents.
• Meet­ings should be struct­ed to attract peo­ple, and ill-orga­nized meet­ings and meet­ings but not doings are the quick­est way to lose change advo­ca­cy and res­i­dent involve­ment.
• Desem­i­nate infor­ma­tion! Share! Be your own mar­keter for the neigh­bor­hood; keep­ing infor­ma­tion to your­self harms the com­mu­ni­ty.

A lot of these things are com­mon sense, but how often are they prac­ticed or remem­bered?

I also learned about which can let you find out all kinds of infor­ma­tion on hous­ing prices and hous­ing types in your neigh­bor­hood.

NeighborWorks: Adults and Youth Working Together

My first work­shop was focused on build­ing last­ing and effec­tive rela­tion­ships between adults and youth in neigh­bor­hoods. To our ben­e­fit, there was a 17 year old girl in our work­shop whose insights vast­ly improved the qual­i­ty of the work­shops. I was look­ing for infor­ma­tion on how to get youth in my ‘hood involved and keep them involved in improv­ing the neigh­bor­hood. Here are some bul­lets from my notes:

• Ask what youth have to offer to spark engage­ment. If they know their input is valu­able to you, they will be more inter­est­ed.
• Offer plen­ty of pos­i­tive rein­force­ment and trust.
• Pro­vide safe but relaxed envi­ron­ments for youth to feel com­fort­able in.
• Be trans­par­ent about your own expe­ri­ences. Say­ing “I was a teenag­er once” but not explain­ing the spe­cif­ic instances that brought that remark out is essen­tial­ly lying, and youth can pick that up.
• The prob­lems that face youth seem to be both sys­temic and pan­dem­ic. That is, they receive lit­tle to no sup­port from gov­ern­ment insti­tu­tions and that the need for good lead­er­ship, pos­i­tive role mod­els, and qual­i­ty pro­grams to com­bat neg­a­tive influ­ences are found nation­wide.
• When plan­ning a youth pro­gram make sure to include youth in the der­mi­na­tion of the process and the future of the pro­gram. I think that any­thing you expect youth to be involved in should look for youth involve­ment from square one of plan­ning on.

• Look at the Louisville Office of Youth Devel­op­ment. They pro­vide a book­let list­ing near­ly all of the youth-ori­ent­ed pro­grams in the Louisville area free of charge. Sure wish Cleve­land had some­thing like this.

NeighborWorks Opening Plenary

The Neigh­bor­Works Peak Per­for­mance Open­ing Ple­nary just fin­ished and I’m chow­ing on a bagged lunch. The open­ing remarks were pret­ty stan­dard, and there were the inevitably long people-we’d-like-to-recognize ses­sions, but now that it is over I’m ready to go on my first work­shop, Adults and Youth Work­ing Togeth­er.