Everyday Democracy Orientation

Welcome to the Everyday Democracy Orintention I’m Gloria Francesca Mengual a Program
Officer here at Everyday Democracy And with me is Janee Woods Weber I’m also a Program Officer here at Everyday Democracy, and Gloria and I work with communities across the country
helping them come together to find ways to talk about community issues and to work toward
action together in an equitable and inclusive way. And we’re going to
talk about what that process looks like in a community. But first, we’re wondering – how does your
community solve problems? we know that there a lots of different
methods for problem solving in communities and some of the most common ways that
we’re all familiar with are from the bottom up. This is where
people in the community react to problems instead of being
proactive. And this is where you see things like marches or sit-ins. And while these can be great for raising consciousness and awareness,
sometimes people don’t always get the results that they’re looking for. There’s also a top-down. This is where leadership come together in private
meetings without community input and people in the community don’t have
an opportunity to hear how the issues are being framed or to contribute in a meaningful way, or
they’re not aware of what solutions are reached. Or the solutions are reached and than
imposed on them. There are also town hall meetings. We’re
all familiar with town hall meetings, perhaps you have participated in some. We’ve seen some on television. This is where people in the community gather together and there’s usually a speaker on stage, perhaps a panel
of leaders from the community people in the audience get a chance to
stand up and talk for 30 seconds or 60 seconds or 2 minutes. And tensions can run high, people can
become upset; and sometimes people don’t really get a
chance to talk about what’s on their mind and to talk with other people about what
they’re thinking and what their various few points are. And with Town Hall meetings, even though
people do have an opportunity to participate it’s not always in a meaningful way and this can lead to people walking out,
feeling that there are more problems leaving, then they had going in. There is a better way to solve community problems, and before we get into the actual approach Everyday Democracy uses we would like to give you some examples of communities that have done this. So i’d like to share with you the
story of one community – Pajarito Mesa in New
Mexico, and the issue they were dressing was
early childhood. Pajaroto Mesa is a community made
up about fifteen hundred residents most of them from throughout Central and
South America and many undocumented. They live in a community that does not have any running water nor are
there any lights, or paved roads. So approximately seventy people from this community participated in the
dialogues. And some of the actions that they came
up with, included a portable schoolhouse, which was
supplied by the County Commissioners Office through the school system for the
children. Previous to that, the children would just stand outside in the rain, or the cold, or the heat, waiting for the school bus, that
would only go as far as the paved roadway And they also have better collaboration between County Emergency Services So, there’s an increased police presence and the county commissioner’s office is
also very supportive of doing more dialogue their around
community planning. So this was a community that had very few resources and the dialogues helped them work with
neighboring agencies to come up with solutions. We have another community story to share with you. We did some work with the historic
Riverside Church in New York City, to help the community
members to address the fact that the South Bronx New York is the poorest, sickest county, in the
United States of America. In that county, the population is
primarily people of color, first-generation Americans and immigrants. And it is also what is called a “food
desert”, meaning that most of the people in the community don’t have access to healthy fresh or affordable foods. And the faith community, that was partnering with the Riverside Church, decided that they
wanted to bring together a diverse group of people from across
all five boroughs of New York City to talk about what was happening in the South Bronx around food security. And to work with
community members to come up with solutions together. they recruited 250 community members
to come together for a day of dialogue at the Riverside
Church. and during the course of that dialogue, they came up with several action ideas, that people voted on, to join
action teams to work on. Once the dialogues have finished, they had policy ideas that were put forth in a memorandum, making suggestions and recommendations
to the Mayor of New York City to be included in the cities 25-year sustainability plan. They also decided that they would work on federal legislation around the Farm Bill to look at subsidies for grocery
stores moving into the neighborhoods. And they also looked at some action ideas
that people could do on an individual basis such as mentoring and creating
nutrition classes or exercise classes, or walking groups for
local people in the neighborhoods. And that program took place a few years ago and many of those action ideas are still going strong. And what was really wonderful about
one of the outcomes is that the recommendations that were given to
the Mayor were in fact incorporated into the 25 year sustainability plan. One of the reasons why the approach that
we are going to talk about today works really well and works in
communities that are as different from one another as
the large bustling metropolis of New York City and the tiny rural community of Pajarito Mesa is because there are some principles
that we’re looking at about why dialogue works. Dialogue works
in different kinds of communities because it includes many voices particularly the voices of people who
don’t always have a chance to participate in a meaningful way or who don’t feel they are invited into
the conversation, and have been historically excluded from decision-making in their community. This approach also works because we make sure to have an explicit focus on racial and cultural identity,
and how that shapes people’s experience in the community. and this approach
allows people in communities to think about how different parts of the community, how
different kinds of people in the community experience the issue and come together to find common ground
to work on solutions together. And this is particularly important
because we know that in many communities some people have been marginalized, or
have been excluded historically. And we want to make sure that we address that point so that we have an inclusive and equitable process. Everyday Democracy has a two-prong approach to change The first prong is that the community
change process uses dialogue which is not just talk for talk sake, but it
is talk for the purpose of helping people move to action together. And out of that comes the goal that
communities will build a capacity to solve problems,
equitably and inclusivly. So here’s how the process works. There is an organizing phase which is
followed by the dialogues. And then groups come up with action ideas. Near result is community change. And that process for organizing usually
takes about four to six months. Some communities can do a little bit
foster, some communities take a little bit longer That’s something that we work with you
to help you determine what the appropriate time line is for your
community We also hope you think about how you can
work to get those different voices and perspectives together. You hear us using words a lot words like inclusive and equitable and that’s really important to us
because we think that when you get together those different kinds of
voices you’re more likely to hear a broader
swath of the concerns that are happening in communities, and you’ll bring together better thinking on the ideas that you’re
looking to explore This is what the dialogues look like.
Normally they are 8 to 12 participants. That same group
meets weekly for 4 to 6 weeks. There are two
facilitators per group One facilitator is facilitating the conversation and the other is taking notes which will be used as a reference later by the organizers. the main thing is
that they’re diverse participants and opinions shared and there are guidelines which the group
itself creates In order to give everyone an environment
where they feel safe enough to share and be open and honest with each other. so in terms of the vallue of face to
face conversation it’s really about communicating in a way
that many of us don’t do frequently anymore. Technology has become so commonplace that people just don’t sit down and talk that often
anymore and it’s it’s a gift of sorts to really sit down
and get to know someone that you might have seen across town many times but
don’t really know them and really get to know their ideas
and thoughts. When you do sit down to talk with the people in your community you’ll find that you started to build
relationships. And once people start to build relationships in the community, they
start to build trust. And trust is really important. That’s one
of the things we hear most from communities, is that there’s a lack of
trust among different kinds of people in the
community. But this process allows you to bring together those
different kinds of people in the community To built some relationship so that they
can develop some trust And once that trust is established, people
can really work toward becoming a stronger, more vibrant
community, And when people feel that they have a place in their
community, they’re more motivated to take action together to help solve problems that everyone is
facing. It’s all about looking at these dialogues, and looking at
the opportunity to come together with different diverse people in your
community to create a common vision. what do you want your community be like? What do you want your neighborhood to be like? What kind of community would you like to
create together, as a place for all of you can live and thrive. So the results of inclusive dialogue include that you have now created an
open space for people to sit together and talk
about what can be very difficult issues it’s also about hearing from community
members who usually don’t have a voice it is not the same ten people to
volunteer for everything, it’s new voices different perspectives coming
to the table And because it is facilitated and there are guidelines, it’s defuses tensions
between groups and between individuals with different perspectives. and its about the creation of a space to come up with ideas for action An action – is what all of the dialogues
points toward. We mentioned earlier that dialogue isn’t
just talk for a talk sake. It’s also about doing something together.
Once the groups have gone through their weeks of dialogue, they have the
opportunity to comeback together as a community for the action forum. This is an event where everybody who participated in the
dialogues,and other people who might be new to the process, are invited to come
together to look at all of the different action
ideas that were generated by each dialog circle. Each dialog circle
will bring their top 2 or 3, sometimes 4 ideas to the action forum and everyone will have a chance to vote on which ideas they think should take priority and we encourage communities to come
up with their top 3 or 4 ideas and Everyday Democracy then comes out
to the community and we provide some hands-on training and coaching, to help communities plan and implement those ideas so that they can create the change that they wanna see in their
community. So, in terms of change there’s individual change collective action change and policy change. In Fayetteville, North Carolina, residents
were addressing racial inequities in the community. And when they has their conversations,
they decided that because there were discrepancies in
services in the community when you compare the mainly white portion of the community, with the community of color, the one
thing that they definitely needed was a fire station in the african-american
portion of town. From the dialogues, people dispeled
stereotypes they form deeper relationships, and
there was much personal growth during them. Because people build relationships during the dialogues it resulted in their desire to move toward collective action.
The long-term goal was to have a firehouse build in the
african-american part of town. There were other goals, community had
which were met during the process of their long-term
goal, all was a fire station. Among them were having students of color
from the high school visit the fire stations and learn more
about firefighting as a profession. While that was going on, two colleges in
the community started working on developing fire
safety programs this took several years, but what it also did was keep the energy and momentum in the community alive. So that, the long-term goal, which was
being worked out simultaneously development of the fire station, all the
funding and policy changes that have to go with it, were happening
simultaneously. So the firehouse in Fayetteville took five
years to happen a substantial amount of funding to make
it a reality. many communities however have achieved remarkable outcomes with access to a very limited or in fact no funding. So here’s another
story. And this one is about a community in South Dakota they were addressing poverty, and one of the issues that came up during
the conversation was that because there are so few resources in
the community the youth really don’t have anywhere to go, or
anything to do. An actual idea that came out of this was the development of
the Youth Center A gentleman who owned a car dealership
that had been closed down, offered his car dealership
building to be the location of the Youth Center with
the understanding that they would raise funds for the utilities and ect. And people volunteered, and said, well I’ll work on Saturdays, you know, I have
two hours on Sunday.. So everybody volunteered their time. They offered things they had at home.
Everyone donated from a pool table to a couch, to a couple of computers Basically it is empty car dealership,
which was at the entrance to the community and an eyesore, now turned into a Youth Center and a community asset. So many times it’s about looking around your community and just looking at things in a
different way. So what does this story illustrate? The dialogues led to relationship building,
they were discussing the economic barriers the community faces, as well as the youth, who were leaving the community and not
coming back; or had nothing to do if they stay there. And they also had the opportunity to
rediscover an overlooked asset, which was this
building that was a car dealership And now it became a Youth Center. People care about their communities they want to get involved And through these dialogues it offer them
the opportunity to do that And if you’d like to see those kinds of
achievements in your community there are a few steps that you can take
to keep this work moving forward. You’ve already taking that first step by
coming to this orientation and we would like for you
to spread the word you can share the link from this YouTube
video and you can email that link to
all of your contacts: your friends, your neighbors, your colleagues, anybody in
your community that you think would like to be part of this kind of community
building experience Build a diverse coalition of people to
come together to start working on these issues. And one
way that you can spread the word to help build that tape of coalition is by sharing your vision for what you think
your community could become with those people that would like to
invite. And once you’ve done that we would really love to hear from you. So
please get in touch with us we’re always available by telephone, we’re just an email away. You can also find us on Facebook and Twitter we are available to you work with your
community in very hands-on individualized way. We conduct
trainings that will help you work on the organizing days, the facilitating process, and
an action planning phase and we’re able to answer questions at any
point during the process we’d love to work with you, because we
believe that you could be a key player in changing your community
for the better. Thank you for watching, I hope that you
will give me a call or email me I would love to chat with you!

Maurice Vega

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