MIKE WATSON: That was implausible and it is actually nice to see that purposeful engagement, resulting in public areas which can be constructed for everybody.
With that it is time to hear from our first speaker Lynn M. Ross she is a nationally acknowledged urbanist and the founding father of Spirit for Change Consulting, the place she works throughout sectors with organizations on a mission to create the equitable insurance policies and practices that maintain simply locations.
Lynn spent a while with us earlier and shared a few of her thrilling work by means of the “Reimagining the Civic Commons Initiative” to rework engagement to be purposeful genuine and equitable. After her keynote presentation she’ll even be right here to reply your questions.
So, earlier than we hear her presentation, I wish to remind everybody in regards to the Slido platform, it’s best to see the directions on the best way to ask a query. You possibly can both go to Slido in your browser and enter the occasion code or simply scan the QR code on the display.
Through the keynote please ask your questions and we’ll tackle as a lot of them as we are able to after the presentation With that please take pleasure in this unimaginable keynote from Lynn Ross which lasts about half-hour.
LYNN M. ROSS (Time Stamp 12:02): Good afternoon I’m delighted to be with you right now and actually honored to assist kick off the 2021 Livable Communities Workshop, I wish to thank AARP for the invitation.
They’ve actually put collectively a terrific program over the subsequent two days to essentially discover a crucial subject: engagement.
My work at Spirit for Change Consulting focuses on co-creating the equitable insurance policies and practices wanted to maintain simply locations. And on the coronary heart of that work is considering extra equitable approaches to engagement.
However earlier than we speak about that extra I wish to share with you that I’m coming to you from my house in Miami Seaside, Florida, which is the normal homeland of Tequesta, the Colusa, and the Taino. And right now, the Miccosukee and the Seminole. I honor their elders previous and current, in addition to future generations.
I additionally honor uplift and respect the generations of African diaspora, and migrant individuals who have additionally helped to make better Miami what it’s right now.
So I used to be requested to spend my time with you this afternoon ideating on this important query: How can we remodel engagement to be purposeful, genuine, and equitable.
Effectively with a purpose to reply that query, I’ve to ask one other, which is: Are we able to flip the swap on engagement as we all know it and activate a distinct method?
What if we flip the swap on engagement and turned off the kind of check-the-box approaches which can be transactional? The kind of approaches that do not honor lived expertise and do not actually hearken to individuals; the kind of approaches that too usually depart many voices out, together with our older adults but additionally our youngsters.
The kind of approaches that worth outputs greater than outcomes. And the kind of approaches that transfer on timeframes that do not align with what the neighborhood wants or desires, what if we flip these off for good? And as a substitute turned on an method to engagement that focuses on co-creation on co-stewardship on constructing neighborhood energy, and an method that units fairness because the intention for each the method of engagement, but additionally the outcomes of that engagement.
What if we understood that genuine purposeful engagement might solely transfer on the velocity of belief, what would that seem like.
Effectively, I believe that there are a minimum of seven components or rules, if you’ll, to that sort of engagement, let me stroll you thru every of them.
The primary is to heart on dwell expertise. Lived expertise is experience, however too usually we do not worth it in the identical means that we do different sources of knowledge. And who has probably the most lived expertise in our communities? It is our older adults.
Once we do not invite or worth the experience that older adults can supply, what we miss out on is a immeasurable.
And let me say another factor right here as a result of centering on lived expertise is each about respecting that experience, in addition to the precise time that people take to take part.
We’re very comfy compensating for different kinds of experience. Why not lived expertise? We should always by no means assume that anybody, particularly our older adults, has the time, the assets or the need to have interaction in a course of with out compensation.
Typically I believe there’s an assumption round older adults, particularly those that are retired that they’ve on a regular basis on the earth, and all of the assets on the earth, she is going to have interaction with us with no compensation, and that is simply not at all times true we should not make that assumption. So exhibiting respect, signifies that we honor the time we honor the experience and that may take many alternative varieties. It could seem like feeding individuals, making certain that caregivers can be found, offering translation providers, offering bus or practice fare and typically truly paying individuals.
It additionally signifies that we meet individuals the place they’re. And that is precisely what it appears like. You go to them. We have now to cease telling individuals to return to the place of our selecting on the time of our selecting to take part in a dialog that they’ve little or no position in shaping.
Now, this would possibly imply that you just meet individuals on the entrance porch or in a yard, within the church basement or neighborhood heart, on the common block membership assembly, possibly even the annual neighborhood avenue pageant. It could additionally imply that your engagement course of takes longer since you had been holding extra gatherings. However that is okay.
We additionally have to hear first for understanding. Now, it is a little bit of a misplaced artwork, even in one-on-one dialog, as a result of too usually we’re listening to reply instantly, to achieve consensus, possibly to argue or persuade, typically to jot down a pithy social media put up. However our first accountability is to hear to know and actually hone in on why this info is being shared, why this story is being shared.
And in that listening, typically, the very first thing you are going to hear about is the dangerous factor that occurred final time or the promise that was not saved that final time. And this info could also be shared with you with the tone of anger, or possibly even mistrust.
Now, it is a onerous one, however I actually need you to normalize receiving that suggestions and holding house for that.
It’s not affordable to ask individuals to return, have interaction in a brand new course of in new blue sky pondering when these exact same residents are nonetheless sitting within the hurt and the mess that was created the final time they put belief in a course of.
Individuals want to precise the hurt they should categorical the harm, they should categorical the mistrust and that you must obtain that and once you do, that’s when belief could be constructed, and that’s when therapeutic can happen.
We additionally want to border on property. And what I imply by that is that each neighborhood has historical past, it has tradition, it has magnificence, it has wonderful individuals and networks. However too usually we method engagement with a deficit mentality, we focus solely on our interpretation of what is lacking, what we expect the neighborhood wants, how we’ll fill these gaps.
Let’s cease that and let’s reframe and raise up these property and what’s working. Now as an outsider, as a customer to this neighborhood these property might not be instantly seen to you. However that doesn’t imply they don’t seem to be current; it’s important to hear for that.
Now, if you have not figured it out but, what I’m actually speaking about right here is growing a brand new apply for engagement, and which means it’s important to embrace new methods of working. So your previous instruments could not work in any respect, or they actually will not work in the identical means. It’s important to embrace flexibility in the way you’re working, in who you are working with.
Now I usually discuss to individuals about engagement and inevitably somebody will convey up the proverbial desk of engagement, proper, and what we have to do is simply increase that desk and add some chairs of the desk or rearrange the chairs on the desk.
I wish to invite you to essentially interrogate the metaphor of the desk and truly disrupt it. Tables do not magically seem. They do not magically set themselves. Each desk of engagement is ready by individuals, and too usually the assumptions and the bias used to construct that desk, it goes unexamined.
So disrupt your eager about the tables, as a result of you’ll be able to add chairs, you’ll be able to increase it, you’ll be able to rearrange the chairs, you’ll be able to even change the menu, but when the fabric that the desk was constructed with is rotten, the desk continues to be going to fail.
And at last, we have now to ship on guarantees. We should honor what we study on this method to engagement. We have now to ship.
That additionally signifies that we can not put out plans and methods that we all know can’t be carried out, whether or not that’s resulting from politics or funds or staffing.
In case you are releasing a plan or technique that you already know can’t be carried out, you will have damaged belief and you weren’t delivering. We actually need to rethink that and determine methods to ship.
So what would this type of engagement seem like in apply. Effectively, I wish to share some work with you that I’ve been engaged in for the final a number of years referred to as Reimagining the Civic Commons.
Now I in all probability do not have to inform this viewers that our public realm has at all times been vital, however I believe the occasions of the final 18 months or so has made the urgency of reimagining our civic commons, in the way in which that we have interaction individuals in these areas, much more obvious.
As these headlines, present People have developed a deeper and, in some circumstances, a newfound appreciation for the worth of the commons. In communities all throughout this nation these public areas are sustaining individuals of all ages in ways in which we actually took as a right, earlier than the pandemic.
However on the similar time, current occasions have additionally underscored huge and unacceptable disparities in entry, in high quality, and within the welcoming nature anticipated in our public realm.
Too usually, these public areas will not be secure for everybody; they don’t seem to be inviting to everybody.
So, as we proceed this nationwide dialog in regards to the form of our restoration, and what that would and may seem like, we should uplift a welcoming, secure, sturdy civic commons as a common proper for each resident in each neighborhood in each metropolis.
Why does this matter? Effectively, practically each development line within the U.S. exhibits that we’re within the grips of elevated financial segregation, social isolation and financial inequality.
And we all know that these developments are made worse by our ongoing well being, local weather, social and financial crises. These developments are particularly pressing for probably the most susceptible in our communities, together with our older adults.
It’s no secret that our inhabitants is getting older quickly and the older adults are a rising proportion of our inhabitants, proper? That could be a development that is not coming, it’s occurring proper now.
And whereas our older adults live longer, they don’t seem to be essentially dwelling higher when it comes to well being, when it comes to the financial place and when it comes to dwelling in welcoming constructed and social environments.
Why is that? Effectively, we have now designed our communities in ways in which make opting out of public life simpler than opting in. We subject extra limitations to participation than we do invites.
And belief in establishments can also be in decline throughout the globe. So is our belief in one another.
Now I do not find out about you, however I believe that is fairly scary, as a result of belief is the basic constructing block of society. It is elementary for a functioning democracy; it is elementary for the work that we do with communities; and it is elementary for the equitable age-friendly simply locations that all of us should thrive in.
Now these decades-long developments of social and financial fragmentation, they could appear inconceivable to sort out and actually I consider that is the problem of our time. It’s also our name to motion.
Our gathering locations usually come on the backside of municipal budgets, they’re seen as nice-to-haves however not important. And when price range cuts hit, these locations are the primary on the chopping block. Now this has vital impacts on each member of a neighborhood, however for older adults it is, particularly regarding.
We all know that as we age, gaining access to a variety of lively and passive recreation actions will increase, proper? No it does not. We want that to take care of our well being and our well-being.
Obstacles to entry, disinvestment, lack of upkeep, restricted programming, treating the general public realm as an amenity as a substitute of as crucial civic infrastructure, all of these issues are fairness points, and there are additionally points which have an outsize detrimental impression on our older adults.
So, what wouldn’t it seem like for a neighborhood, to place its civic infrastructure to work, to attach individuals of all backgrounds, to domesticate belief, to extend fairness?
Effectively, that is the query on the coronary heart of Reimagining the Civic Commons. This can be a collaboration of the JPB, Knight, Kresge and William Penn Foundations, alongside native companions to revitalize and join public areas that exist in all of our cities.
We started this work in 2016 with our 5 demonstration cities: Akron, Chicago, Detroit, Memphis and Philadelphia, and final 12 months we increase it to welcome 5 new cities into our nationwide studying community: Lexington, Macon, Miami, Minneapolis and San Jose.
With a concentrate on forming end result areas, civic engagement, social financial mixing, environmental sustainability and worth creation, our cross-sector groups are demonstrating that strategic funding in our civic property is a great method to begin rebuilding each the bodily and the social cloth of our communities.
And we all know that that social cloth is so essential for empathy and for belief to flourish, but additionally to assist us to mitigate the a number of crises that we face.
And I simply wish to pause right here on the slide as a result of this outcomes orientation is really what defines the work of Reimagining the Civic Commons, it’s the secret sauce, if you’ll, of this initiative.
Enthusiastic about public house is one factor, however deliberately co-creating and co-stewarding in sturdy equitable civic commons, the place we deliberately share house with individuals whose lives are very totally different from our personal, that’s one thing else, and that’s what we’re attempting to do with this work.
So the need to realize these outcomes really guides every little thing that we do and it is actually helped to tell a brand new means of working in a brand new means of measuring outcomes that has been co-designed, it has now been co-stewarded by out 10 communities in addition to our bigger community of companions.
That is public house work in service of extra engaged extra equitable extra environmentally and economically resilient communities, the place neighbors of all backgrounds, ages, identities and skills can thrive.
Now I might like to share work that is occurring in every of our 10 cities, as a result of it is all wonderful, however right now I’ve time to take you to only one place, so we’ll go to Akron, Ohio.
And whereas we do this, I would like you to remember these components for engagement that I mentioned earlier, in addition to these 4 outcomes for reimagining the civic commons, and I believe you may see, by means of that one case examine, how they play out in an actual place, so let’s go to Akron.
With investments within the three neighborhoods, and the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Path that connects them, the Akron civic commons is knitting collectively remoted communities by means of a collaborative reimagining of their public realm.
Momentary and everlasting design options and common programming helps to reestablish Summit Lake as a spot of civic pleasure in place. It is bridging numerous neighborhoods together with Park East and it is fostering a lot wanted financial improvement and public life in Akron’s downtown.
By a large collaboration that course of silos, sectors and demographics, Akron is bringing individuals collectively to co-create an equitable public realm that fosters belief, that builds a way of neighborhood and restores public life. I believe the work at Summit Lake is an particularly good instance of this.
So simply two miles south of downtown Akron on the towpath path is a 100 acre glacial lake, Summit Lake. Now, within the Nineteen Twenties, this was referred to as Akron’s million greenback playground.
And hundreds of individuals would come yearly to be amusement park, on its banks they might come to swim, to picnic and to boat. Nevertheless, after many a long time of disinvestment in Summit Lake and its surrounding neighborhood, neighbors felt that the lake was harmful and, in actual fact, within the early levels of those efforts, neighborhood residents requested that offense be put up round Summit Lake. They noticed it as a legal responsibility and never as a neighborhood asset.
And I can inform you after I first visited Summit Lake in 2016, there was one bench on the lake and it didn’t face the water in order that simply provides you an image of what was occurring there.
Now, the venture staff knew that shifting resident perceptions of the lake and what could be doable there, that that will be a key a part of the restoration course of.
And so the staff started to work by assembly residents the place they had been and actually listening to Summit Lake neighbors, each to know their considerations, but additionally their concepts for bettering their very own neighborhood.
And in that listening, in that holding an area, the staff heard about a long time of issues being executed to and never with, issues promised, however by no means delivered.
So, to make sure that would not be the case this time, the staff’s course of has been centered on co-creation and co-stewardship.
Residents, together with many neighborhood elders, are actively part of the core staff for Civic Commons and they’re really catalyzing the work occurring on this neighborhood.
So, as a substitute of a fence, these early listening periods led to some comparatively cheap and early investments in prototype enhancements across the lake. This included amenities for fishing, swings, locations to take a seat, shade umbrellas, outside grills.
Parts of the lake financial institution had been cleared to create a brand new beachhead and supply extra entry to the water, amenities for canoeing and kayaking had been improved.
Fences had been faraway from across the play house space to make that house extra welcoming to all.
In placing resident concepts into motion, Akron’s Civic Commons actually demonstrated and gave tangible proof of the position that residents play as producers of their civic house. This lively co-creation and delivering on guarantees generated belief.
One other early funding and prototyping led to the Summit Lake Nature Heart. So, very early on residents expressed a want to have quick access to programming and actions that will assist adults to reconnect with nature, whereas additionally offering alternatives to their kids and grandchildren.
So Summit Metro Parks hosted a vastly profitable pop-up Nature Heart from 2017 to 2020 within the close by attain alternative heart. However residents wished to see a everlasting funding and so they acquired one.
Simply this July, the everlasting Summit Lake Nature Heart opened in a former tire manufacturing facility pumphouse which sat vacant for many years, and you’ll see it right here on this on this image.
This remodeled house is now house to displays designed with neighborhood that spotlight its historical past, its individuals, together with neighborhood elders, within the ecology of Summit Lake.
The middle additionally builds on what labored through the prototyping part, by providing a variety of actions that attraction to individuals of all ages, together with water-based recreation packages, in addition to gardening alternatives.
This method can also be yielding better civic engagement, as residents actually acquire a renewed sense of company. So, after seeing the success at Summit Lake, residents proposed after which led the creation of a memorial backyard within the neighborhood on a beforehand vacant lot.
This effort was led by Suporia Finney, who initially envisioned an area for hands-on inventive method to studying for neighborhood kids, together with her personal and also you see so her on this photograph sporting the Summit Lake shirt there. However after she had a dialog along with her grandmother, Miss Shirley Finney, that imaginative and prescient for the backyard expanded.
They wished to create a particular place for residents of all ages, so right now the Rising Minds Memorial Backyard is a spot for neighborhood members to return collectively to have a good time, to craft, but additionally to honor neighborhood residents who’ve handed away over time.
Right here’s the backyard in bloom on its first anniversary. I actually assume the backyard exhibits the impression of fostering stewardship and advocacy for the Civic Commons. It is also an excellent instance of what occurs when residents are given the house and the assets to train their very own energy and form their very own locations.
One other instance of co-stewardship is the Summit Lake Youth Ambassador Program. This can be a program that was began in 2020, to incorporate two neighborhood youth and expanded this 12 months to incorporate 10.
This program affords paid part-time summer time employment, the place neighborhood you study teamwork, and likewise employment expertise, whereas they have interaction within the public realm. So they’re engaged in issues like selecting up litter, portray picnic tables, planting flower beds. Importantly, members on this program are guided in that work by neighborhood leaders like Grace Hudson.
Now, Grace is a longtime resident of Summit Lake. She additionally serves on the Akron Civic Commons core staff. And you may actually take into consideration what these younger individuals study, what they acquire by working alongside somebody with the wealth of lived expertise and dedication to the neighborhood that Grace has.
The Youth Ambassador program and the backyard are examples of what can occur, particularly when older adults are meaningfully engaged in co-creation and co-stewardship.
So, neighborhood members have come to see Summit Lake as their very own, partly as a result of they assist to create it collectively and residents have developed an actual sense of pleasure for Summit Lake.
Actually, a current survey discovered that 92 p.c of Summit Lake guests, consider that the neighborhood has modified for the higher, 72 p.c of respondents reported that they take part in some type of stewardship or advocacy associated to the neighborhood, and that is up from 43 p.c within the baseline survey.
So we have now gone from a lake that had one bench going through away from the water, to a spot that’s really about connection: connection to the water, to nature, to historical past, to the elders, to bigger neighborhood and to 1 one other and it began by listening after which transferring on the velocity of belief.
Now there is no such thing as a one mannequin or reimagining the civic commons and there is no one method to genuine, purposeful, equitable engagement. However I hope in sharing the Akron story, you see how these rules for engagement, in addition to the outcomes for civic commons, can work in apply, and I hope you may be impressed to undertake a few of this into your individual work.
Now, our ambition for civic commons doesn’t finish with the ten cities that we presently function in. We wish to encourage and help each neighborhood that desires to reimagine these civic commons, and we have now an incredible set of free assets out there that I hope you’ll avail your self to.
Now can be a crucial second for our communities for our nation actually we desperately want approaches to engagement and to our public realm that assist restore our democracy. Sure, I stated democracy, as a result of I, I actually assume it is fairly that severe.
We want locations the place our paths cross with individuals of all backgrounds, ages, identities and skills. Locations the place belief is cultivated and our empathy for others is bolstered.
However to create and maintain these locations requires that every of us have interaction, possibly extra deeply and otherwise than we ever have earlier than.
However after we flip the swap on how we take into consideration engagement, how we method our communities, and after we make sure that our older adults are meaningfully engaged, I really consider that we illuminate so many extra potentialities for our current and for our future.
I wish to thanks for sharing the house with me right now we’ll transition to Q&A, however earlier than we do this I’d prefer to share with you a brief video from my mates and Akron, so please take pleasure in this video and I’ll see you on the opposite facet to proceed our dialog.