Bringing Community Leaders Together – A Step-by-Step Guide on LikeMinded
One of the huge benefits of adopting “community building” as a hobby is that from time to time, you get to volunteer to work with real organizers. Early this year, I started to help the Council of Acorn Residents on a project they hoped would bring leaders and orgs in West Oakland more closely together. Dubbed “Solutions Salons”, the idea was to get community leaders together – with food, drink, music, and conversation – and hope something good would come of that. Like the salons of the Enlightenment, but without the hoopskirts. Initial results have been encouraging (see Oakland Local article reprinted with permission below).
The residents wanted to document the process we’re going through, so if you’d want to try it in your own neighborhood, you’d have a model you can use and improve upon. We created a project on LikeMinded called (very modestly) “Bringing Community Leaders Together – A Step-by-Step Guide“. It includes a timeline, and sample invitations, evaluations, surveys, and other docs that can give you a head start. This process has just begun, and we welcome your ideas on how to move it forward.
If you haven’t heard of LikeMinded, it’s the new platform Craigslist Foundation and the Knight Foundation launched last month, where people can share stories about what’s working to help improve communities. You can read more press reports about it here.
We’ll get into this in more detail during our “Someone’s Done That Already: the Best Practice of Using Best Practices” session of the June 2 Craigslist Foundation Boot Camp on Empowering Communities at UCSF.
Residents, community organizations and business owners gathered at the Acorn Town Center and Courtyards late last week to discuss better ways of networking and communicating as part of the Solutions Salon for West Oakland Leaders.
The event was sponsored by the Council of Acorn Residents and was the second meeting held to specifically look at new ways West Oaklanders can come together. Organizers said they wanted participants to have an opportunity to brainstorm ideas about events or projects that can foster stronger ties in the community (photos).
BRIDGE Housing and The John Stewart Company also co-sponsored the salon, which featured a wide array of West Oakland groups. Participants at the meeting included members of The Crucible, People’s Grocery and the Alameda County Youth Development office. Educators also were at the gathering including the head of the soon to open charter school, Vincent Academy.
Many organization representatives and business owners said one of the biggest challenges they face in West Oakland is making people aware of their services.
“Our biggest challenge is getting the word out letting people know that we exist, we are here, and we’re just beginning,” said Sandra Phillips head of school at Vincent Academy.
Residents who attended the meeting said they enjoyed the chance to interact with community groups and businesses.
“Many West Oakland people don’t know about all of the groups that’s out there that can help them, so this is an important thing,” said longtime West Oakland resident Queen E. Thurston.
Thurston said the event also was a great way to get know neighbors and community groups.
“You know, this is just a good thing overall,” she added. “I’m really happy to see so many nice people come together and try to figure things out and try to come together in a positive way. I think that’s important, especially these days. West Oakland is a wonderful place and it’s a privilege to live here.”
Janet Patterson, who chairs the Council of Acorn Residents board said the meeting was the latest in a series of outreach efforts by the Acorn community.
“For folks in the community that don’t know about the opportunities and organizations out there, we wanted to let them know there’s a bunch of resources for them,” she said. “We’re hoping our residents and West Oakland organizations really make a connection today.”
Saqib Keval, coordinator of the Growing Justice Institute at People’s Grocery, said he’s happy to see the type of outreach being done by the Acorn Town Center.
“Something like this is really beneficial not just to individual organizations, but for the community as well,” he said. “Having a really strong sense of collaboration and coalition building around specific projects is really powerful and can be extremely helpful to West Oakland.”
About Jennifer Inez Ward