by Janice Christensen
Since January, 2012, many residents of Riverwest have been participating in a new style of community organizing. The first phase of the project was called Abundant Riverwest. It was inspired by a book, The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods, by John McKnight and Peter Block.
At that time we started a process of interviewing people in Riverwest, asking them about their gifts, skills and passions, what they knew well enough to teach and what they wanted to learn. We talked to more than 100 residents, and the interview process continues, adding new residents all the time.
In November 2012 we began the second phase of the project. We held a neighborhood conference, Re-Imagine Riverwest, bringing in techniques created by the Grace Lee Boggs Center for Nurturing Community Leadership in Detroit. These techniques were used in conferences like Re-Imagine Work, Re-Imagine Education and Re-Imagine Detroit.
At the Re-Imagine Riverwest conference, we gathered into six groups around the areas of Food, Shelter, Health Care, Energy Independence, Meaningful Work and Art.
We asked four questions. The first three were:
“What can we do for ourselves?”
“What can we do with a little help?”
“What do we want done for us?”
The fourth question was: “What have we done so far? What successes can we celebrate and support?”
After a brainstorming session, we voted on the ideas we would most like to work on in 2013.
Successes and Challenges
We had some notable successes in 2013, thanks to the hard work and dedication of many community members. Solar Riverwest helped us partner with the City to offer solar panel installation to homeowners. We have continued to work on urban agriculture policy changes and expanded our local farming production. Our neighborhood hosted Co-op Fest, a day-long festival with workshops and networking to help start new cooperatives in the neighborhood.
However, there continued to be challenges in the process. As so often happens with projects of this type, we found that were collecting a lot of data, but faced the question of how to organize it in a logical, accessible manner. How to use it to move the projects forward in an efficient, consistent way.
As 2014 began, we found possible answers to these challenges.
Working together with residents and the Project for Community Transformation at Marquette, a team has formed to carry the project into a new phase. We hope to use the organizing tool we are developing to create a new phase of the project called Manifest Riverwest.
Let’s Take If For a Spin
On Sunday, March 16, the Riverwest Cooperative Alliance will hold its Community Meeting #2 at the Falcon Bowl, 801 E Clarke St. They held Community Meeting #1 in January, and hope to hold a series of community meetings throughout the year.
We will have the opportunity to try – for the very first time – the Manifest Riverwest process at that meeting.
We don’t know how well the process will work. We’re not sure what will happen. However, we’re very excited to have the opportunity to begin something new in the neighborhood, and we’re hoping we can learn together as we begin to Manifest Riverwest, and bring our ideas and goals into reality.
We are in the midst of a great change in our culture. It’s a change that must come, not from the top down, not even from the bottom up, but from the inside out. Projects using techniques like Abundant Community, the Re-Imagine process and Manifest Riverwest can help us change our neighborhood into the place we want it to become.
If You Go
Riverwest Cooperative Alliance
Community Meeting #2
Featuring Manifest Riverwest
Sunday, March 16, 6:30PM
801 E Clarke St
by Janice Christensen