Five months after the Charlottesville rally and protest, the debate over what to do with numerous Confederate statues which pepper much of the South remains as strong – and as polarized – as ever before.
Just days after the massive protests and violence in the Virginia city, four Confederate monuments in Baltimore and three on the campus of the University of Texas, Austin were taken down by city authorities, with another in Durham toppled by protesters. In October, the scene was repeated in Lexington, Kentucky. Last month, two statues were removed in Memphis, while the infamous “Johnny Reb” statue expelled Continue Reading
2017 was a big year for civic engagement. At the national level, we saw the inauguration of a new president, several major legislative debates, significant executive and regulatory actions like net neutrality, and protests and other forms of participation taking off across the political spectrum in response. On top of this, there was a seemingly endless presence of political issues in our news media and social media driving the conversation. And yet despite all of this, we now know that Americans are in many ways less civically engaged than ever before.Continue Reading
The Great Recession and crisis of 2007-2010 raised questions about whether low and moderate-income families should be home owners, given the financial risk, or would be better off as renters. Beyond the financial arguments about property investment and equity is the question of other potential benefits in being a homeowner.
I’m glad to point readers to research by UNC-Chapel Hill’s Dr. Roberto Quercia, and his colleagues Kim Manturuk and Mark R. Lindblad, in their new book A Place Called Home: The Social Dimensions of Homeownership. They found that homeownership has important non-financial benefits for low- and moderate-income people.
This is a repost on how to have more permanent forums and tools to support strong public engagement.
A hat-tip to Matt Leighninger for his thinking and permission drawn from Part 5 of his series, How Public Engagement Needs to Evolve.
Matt, a friend and colleague, identifies some of the problems as:
In many instances, engagement happens as a temporary, stand-alone activity;
Professionals in these different areas (for example, school policy, police-community relations, and community development) rarely work together when they are trying to engage the public;
Every-department-for-itself engagement usually results in lower turnout. Faced with a choice about which of many meetings to attend, busy citizens will usually choose the one that is most relevant to their interests (or none at all).
In response, Matt proposes to build some “universal pieces” of local engagement infrastructure, such as:
How can housing, health, and employment build a healthy economy?
What happens when housing declines?
How can we engage our community in re-building a healthy economy?
I’m glad to show the positive connections between safe and affordable housing and benefits to the community and individuals of a stronger local economy and healthier people. As the graphic above shows, what we sometimes think of as separate things – jobs and economic activity, or asthma and health care – actually link back to housing.
Here’s what I see in Greensboro – I’m eager to hear how other communities are working on similar kinds of engagement of residents, citizens, health care people, and university resources. Continue Reading
My last post argued that we should think of the role of local government in communities more in terms of “barn raising” than the more transactional metaphor of a vending machine. This idea was put forth in the great book Community and the Politics of Place by former Missoula, Montana mayor Daniel Kemmis, and later picked up in a popular article written by Frank Benest, former city manager of Palo Alto, California. The crux of the notion is the need for communities to move away from an “us” and “them” relationship between citizens and community organizations on the one hand, and local government on the other, and rather think of local government as a key community institution that is both part of and an extension of the community.
The one that formerly graced the corner of Carroll and Chapel Hill Streets, adorned with the Pauli Murray poster and so delightfully dedicated to its employees? The one where neither service, sustainability, nor unexpired foods were specialties? (You know, the one that now houses The Cookery?) Yes, I love that one!
The new co-op, three blocks further west into the West End, gleaming, modern, and so sustainably run that middle class member loyalty comes, but does not go – much like the rising average median incomes surrounding it? Yes, I love that one!
The one in East Durham, that’s only open once a month, focuses on low-income membership, Continue Reading
In early October, I helped to celebrate the progress of service dogs being trained by inmates at the Franklin Correctional Center (FCC) near Bunn, NC. The 18 men are trainers in At Both Ends of the Leash (ABEL), part of the work of Eyes, Ears, Nose and Paws (EENP), a Carrboro, NC nonprofit that matches service dogs with people with special needs or disabilities.
EENP pups-in-training live at FCC for about 18 months, from the time they are five-months old until they are ready to be partnered with a client. Two EENP clients were part of the October event, but will actually receive their dogs on Nov. 4th as part of formal “graduation” held at the Carrboro Century Center.
I had many powerful reactions to the demonstration of skill, and talking with the ABEL trainers.
Anyone who serves on a citizens board, volunteers at a house of worship, or does anything to help other people has experienced frustration. They have a problem that needs to be solved, but they just can’t seem to find a solution. People can quickly become frustrated if their partnership isn’t productive. If you’ve been stuck in a late-night meeting spinning your wheels, you know what it’s like.
A concept that began in healthcare circles decades ago may be helpful for tackling problems in other settings. The term is positive deviance, and it’s relatively simple – where some have failed at a project or task, others will find a way to succeed, even with similar circumstances and resources. These people or groups may be referred to as positive deviants. The challenge is in finding such behaviors and reproducing them for other applications.