Synergies

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.

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

Differences:
• 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.