Socioeconomic Mixing: A Team Intention

April 03, 2017
by Shannon Keeling

 

(Previously posted here)

 

Akron Civic Commons team members at Lock 4

 

Brought together by a love of all things Akron and a desire to reinvent our civic common spaces, the Akron Civic Commons core team was formed. With the Ohio & Erie Canalway Coalition as its convener, our group began as a small group of key partners with ties to three civic assets connected by the Towpath, but its expansion signals our intention to model economic integration even in the way we work.

 

Akron Civic Commons team member Suzie Graham, Downtown Akron Partnership

 

As we began this journey, we believed that to be successful, our team needed to be comprised of stakeholders with the ability to push projects forward and move at a fast pace. But we soon found we needed to expand to include key members of the community who understand the heartbeat of our assets. We realized that economic integration is best achieved by connecting those with the financial means to get things done with those “boots on the ground” partners who have the desire and ability to improve their communities, but may lack the necessary resources. They are the people actively working to build common spaces such as community gardens, farmers markets and more. Many of these people run small non-profits. They work hard because they care for their communities and the people within them. We began adding these community advocates to our team and expanding our network.

Through the expansion of our core team, we have begun the process of economic integration. We are mixing established partners in downtown such as Downtown Akron Partnership and the Akron Civic Theatre with smaller organizations at Summit Lake including Students with a Goal (known as SWAG) and the Summit Lake Community Center. As we bring these community advocates together with established organizations, we are embracing our differences and taking the opportunity to learn from and help one another.

 

Pump House at Summit Lake

 

We are asking questions such as, how might we bring people into proximity through shared space, activities, and experiences? How might we position ourselves at the seams of diverse communities?

New subcommittees are working together to encourage repeat and sustained interactions among diverse people in our civic commons. We are connecting those with ideas with the resources and the support of those who are able to turn ideas into realities.

As we continue learning and growing together, we hope to change the perceptions and expectations of what is possible. At our recent retreat we welcomed new members and their ideas to the table. This expansion has given a stronger voice for the often neglected communities, through representation on our core team. As we grow, we work to build new relationships and connect people of varying backgrounds to work together to create exceptional civic commons spaces.

 

Shannon Keeling is Special Projects Consultant at Ohio & Erie Canalway Coalition.