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Posts Tagged ‘community involvement’

Member Spotlight: Lauren Cobb

November 13, 2015 Leave a comment
Lauren Cobb

Lauren Cobb

Lauren Cobb came to IAP2 USA through a leap of faith. Trained as an engineer, she had started her family and was active in the community when her church suffered a series of devastating, divisive losses. Lauren was part of the leadership team that looked for ways to help the congregation come together and heal. They found a series on resilient congregations and dialogue work that led them to Public Conversations Project in Boston. The team invited training director Bob Stains to train nine church members as dialogue facilitators. This team continued to work through the materials over the summer, and began their work by facilitating a dialogue group with people they identified as sympathetic to the need for healing. That fall, the entire congregation was invited to participate in small group dialogues, resulting in 25 group sessions each with 6-8 people involving about a third of the congregation being hosted through February.

“The results were marvelous. The conversation shifted. The way people talked with each other changed. The confidence people had in each other reflected trust. People focused on finding common ground and differences became less important.”

Lauren went on to lead a second team through Appreciative Inquiry to help prepare for a search for a new pastor and begin the hiring process. The facilitation and capacity building skills she had gained proved invaluable as she went on to lead the diverse hiring committee through the pastoral search process, and a new pastor was hired in 2010.

Lauren discovered IAP2 USA on a more recent journey that took her from an NCDD discussion to the IAP2 USA Facebook group, “Everything sounded so interesting!” She saw a post for the Mentorship Program, and even though she hadn’t been a member, she submitted an application …another leap of faith.

Through the Mentorship Program, Lauren has been working with Kit Cole to organize monthly events in Southern California/Greater Los Angeles. The mentoring program has given Lauren a chance to learn about the different kinds of work practitioners are doing and what they think is important in their work, broadening her perspective about how people are engaged in P2. “I feel like I’ve entered the cave of wonders. I’ve found these people who are cultivating engagement on so many different levels. It’s given me a greater understanding of the different ways people approach their practice, and the different things people hold as important in their practice.”

Lauren was able to go to the North American Conference, where she came away with a strong sense of “this is my tribe.”

“I see IAP2 as peacemakers. People helping people speak and hear in a way that create understanding. Public participation intuitively makes sense to me. I have a lot more to learn and practice to do, but it’s almost like re-learning something I already know.”

Lauren and her daughters, Joy and Ellis

Lauren and her daughters, Joy and Ellis

Lauren was asked to serve as a proxy for Kit when she couldn’t come to a 2016 Skills Symposium planning meeting and offered to help. She has continued to participate in planning meetings and plans to help with local support efforts during the Symposium. And she has taken her community engagement efforts local, to her neighborhood. “I really wanted to bring a Little Free Library to my block, but our house isn’t in the best location. By talking with neighbors, I found someone who was willing to host the library in a much better location and another neighbor helped build it!”

Lauren came to IAP2 from the involved and engaged side of the IAP2 Spectrum, and has embarked on a journey to find a way to put her unique strengths – engineering, communications, and facilitation – to work.

The City of Round Rock, Texas and the Tool Lending Center

November 5, 2015 2 comments

Ryan Hendersonby Ryan Henderson, City of Fort Lauderdale
October 27, 2015

Back in May I had the privilege of attending the 2015 Neighborhoods USA Conference (NUSA) in Houston, Texas. With other Fort Lauderdale staff, all within the Division of Neighbor Support, we conducted a number of workshops on a wide variety of programs that had produced successful community building partnerships within the city’s neighborhoods. The workshops, however, were truly secondary to our real focus at the conference as we were presenting our Adopt-A-Neighbor Program for the Best Neighborhood Program of the Year Award and we were intent on sharing the story of how the program developed and then flourished to make such a strong impact in Fort Lauderdale. In the ballroom, before the judges, we were joined by three other cities that were there to present the programs they had developed and programs equally qualified for the coveted award. One of those cities was the City of Round Rock, Texas.

Round Rock, Texas, a city of about 110,000 and located just north of Austin, made a commitment in 2014 to make neighborhood revitalization a top priority. The commitment declared wasn’t so different than that which Fort Lauderdale had made – a commitment that spawned the idea of the Adopt-A-Neighbor Program. Similar to how we approached the idea of community revitalization, Round Rock saw the necessity of bringing the community together to approach this commitment through a unified, publicly engaged force.

tool-lendingTheir idea was to create a “tool-lending center.” The Tool Lending Center (TLC) works like a mobile library, that is a tool library hitched to the back of truck, where groups are given the opportunity to check out tools for neighborhood projects and then return those tools once they are done with them.

The Tool Lending Center is designed to be deployed for organized projects such as neighborhoods cleanups or other beautification projects where volunteers such as scouts, church groups, school groups, etc., are organized and available. Currently, the TLC does not issue tools on an individual basis – probably for the best as it encourages individuals to “team-up” and tackle communal issues rather than those of the abled individual.

On all accounts the TLC has been wildly successful in Round Rock. In the program’s inaugural year, the TLC was deployed 20 times with over 800 volunteers contributing 3,300 hours of service. Of the 20 deployments, six were neighborhood cleanups that included 3,173 homes. The cleanups resulted in 209 tons of garbage removed from neighborhoods, and volunteers worked on 72 homes of residents who had a genuine need because of age, disability, or other special circumstances. It should also be noted that the program would not have been made possible if not for the generous donation of Home Depot who donated $6,250 worth of tools.

During the City of Round Rock’s presentation for the Best Neighborhood Program of the Year Award at NUSA, they showed a video detailing the program and the program’s success. Throughout the video were people smiling as they came together to help others take on blight.

I believe it’s safe to assume that many of the individuals in the video, indeed many of the 800 volunteers that have contributed to the program thus far, don’t always come to city hall meetings on the first and third Tuesday of every month. They don’t go to City Hall to meet with the Mayor, the Council Members, or the City Manager – truth be told, they may not even now the names of their elected and appointed officials. They probably don’t participate in the government process through means which we commonly associate with public participation.

Yet, all of the volunteers that have come together through the Tool Lending Center Program, all of the individuals that have built community through sweat and muscle, are public participants and publicly participating in democracy in a joyous, meaningful way. I’ve come to view this type of public participation as the most rewarding. I love the participation where people take time out of their lives to make an impact in others’ lives through hard work and compassionate effort. This is in no way a rebuke of the public participation that takes place in City Hall and shapes policy – participation of that sort is incredibly important for a democracy to sustain itself. However, cities need to start thinking about public participation the way the City of Red Rock, Fort Lauderdale, Birmingham, Alabama, and others have. It’s up to more cities to follow Round Rock’s lead and provide opportunities for individuals to participate in democracy outside the walls of City Hall.

Learn more about the City of Round Rock’s Tool Lending Center.

December Message from the IAP2 USA President

December 2, 2014 Leave a comment

President’s Message:

At times, some of those in our field bemoan the speed of progress. Rare are instances, they say, when we see ground-breaking changes in public involvement approaches or organizational cultures. More often, we see slow progress and small tweaks.

Sometimes it can be a bit discouraging when our initiatives take longer to implement than we hope, when changes come slowly. But there is hope and change is on the horizon.

I attended IAP2’s Federation board meeting last month The Federation brings together all of the affiliate members of the organization—US, Canada, Australia, Italy, South Africa and others. While the board meeting was useful (more on that in a moment), the dinner with board members was truly enlightening.

As we shared stories, it was clear that worldwide, IAP2 community involvement in decision making –the IAP2 way–is on an incredible upswing. Small tweaks, on a global scale add up. The international organization has more members than it has ever had.

The US affiliate is contributing much to this. Opportunities to make connections through our organization continue to grow. More opportunities to connect are on the way. Professional certification beyond our professional Public Participation courses is around the bend. Core competencies for our field have been developed and vetted.

Our subcommittees continue to get stronger and are contributing in our priority services. In the coming months, we’re adding new members to our board and continuing to build our working capacity. It looks pretty bright in 2015.

Of course, the future doesn’t come without challenges. As an international organization with a relatively new governing structure, it should be of no surprise that new opportunities arise and improvements can be made. The affiliates understand each other much better and the opportunities to collaborate are coming more frequently. It’s a healthy, though sometimes difficult, conversation to have because of the potential changes it may bring. The good news is that the Federation is committed to keep working together on this collaboratively.