Wednesday, 31 May 2006

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

Monday, 22 May 2006

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

Sunday, 21 May 2006

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

Saturday, 20 May 2006

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 zil​low​.com 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

Friday, 19 May 2006

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.