Community Voices: We are here to be heard!
Helping citizens learn from and support each other’s community building efforts
Introduction. Community Voices is a collaborative initiative that empowers citizens, neighborhoods and grass roots community efforts in order to balance the dominant public narrative, decision-making, and capacity for change currently dictated by big business and government leaders.
Our Vision. A new narrative of community governance and political power in which ordinary residents, businesses, and neighborhoods:
- Speak in a strong, clear voice that is heard by decision-makers during transparent public-policy deliberation;
- Support and learn from each other’s efforts to build satisfying communities.
Our Mission. To provide open spaces and deliberative processes that bring citizen efforts—the voices, information and stories—out of isolation and into relationships that mutually reinforce their efforts.
Who We Are: Inspired by Louise Spiegel, we are an affiliation of diverse citizen activists and leaders of neighborhoods, civic associations, and community-based non-profits. We intend that our core steering team represents the full diversity of our community. Because of a closely aligned mission, Community Shares is our organizational home, providing increased capacity, standing and structure for our volunteer efforts. The following experienced citizen activists helped define the initial direction of this project: Sue Wilke, Peter Hames, Elizabeth Brown, Brewster Rhodes, Dan Joyner, Jeanne Nightingale, Paul Komarek, Gary Robbins, Carolyn Miller, and Jeffrey Stec. Our thanks go out to them for their contributions.
A New Political Paradigm. We seek to create a new paradigm of political power as described below:
From just… To include…
Government and institutions Citizens, neighborhoods, small business, non-profits
Struggle for control Concert of action
Single issues Interconnected problems
Finite options Emerging practices
Decisive votes Open-ended and continuous deliberation
Intended results Collective learning
Winning or losing Changed course of events
The E-zine. The first step in this process is to create an e-zine that compiles stories and discussion of street-level community activity that forward the new political narrative. The e-zine should provide information that is indispensible for citizens and leaders interested in street-level community change. Think of Soapbox for citizen and neighborhood initiatives, or Green News You Can Use, but with a scope beyond environmental issues.
Diverse Strategies. Although this ezine is our first step in building awareness and energy, the following strategies will be implemented over time:
- Share information and promote diverse voices on public policy decision-making and grass roots community work;
- Research issues and how they impact ordinary people and neighborhoods so that both decision-makers and community stakeholders understand the full impact of public policy proposals
- Promote marginalized points of view so that decision-makers understand the full range of opinions about public policy questions;
- Train and assist citizens and groups on how to impact decision-makers and local government;
- Monitor government leadership, decision-making processes, and programs to ensure that elected and administrative leaders are authentically considering all voices from the civic sector.
General Structure and Principles:
- The Community Voices e-zine is a community service and utility to be used by the civic sector.
- We are currently in the process of building a core team that guides the project – diverse civic sector leaders who can identify key issues, voices, and trends that need to be discussed
- No one controls content—the e-zine is an open format to be accessed by members of the civic sector, and anyone can offer content that addresses the core questions.
- As such, BSC will not promote a specific “agenda”.
- BSC will not lobby on political issues, though such questions political issues will be discussed in the e-zine.
- A publisher (Jeffrey L. Stec) will facilitate the aggregation, presentation, and distribution of key information in the e-zine/website format.
- Initially, the publisher will seek content from diverse voices all across the city.
- Over time, the publisher will build a set of topic editors who will be responsible for seeking material within that scope of interest.
- The publisher will continually seek input and advice from a fluid group of community leaders to ensure that the publisher remains a facilitator/aggregator/connector, not a content director.
- After two issues of the e-zine are released, the publisher will organize a public, in-person conversation to discuss the three core questions and help shape the e-zines content and structure going forward.
- Ultimately, a yearly civic sector summit will be held to facilitate community connections and refine the role Community Voices plays in building the civic sector.
Editorial Process. We are in the process of forming an editorial board (we are seeking nominations). The board will consider the following questions and seek to answer them through the e-zine content.
- What are the problems/goals that we must address together?
- What is the context of the problem (the problem map)?
- What viewpoints do we need to consider?
- How do these viewpoints challenge our own thinking?
- What new relationships are necessary to address this problem?
- How can we collectively define/name the problem so that all voices stay engaged?
- What options are available to deal with this problem?
- What trade-offs are inherent in each potential option?
- What common ground can we find among these options?
- What commitment to action can you make—on your own and in concert with others?
The Invitation. The Community Voices E-zine only works if enough “essential reading” can be generated. However, there is no current funding to pay professional writers, so we must rely on contributions from the civic sector itself.
Consequently, we invite community activists to submit their stories of street level community action, both successes and struggles. Two basic questions might help frame your story:
- What do traditional leaders need to hear? Diverse voices and information from the civic sector that decision-makers need to hear in order to make equitable decisions about public policy questions.
- What can we learn from each other? Success stories of street level community work which might inspire others to take action.
Format. You can submit your content in several ways:
- As an essay of 150-300 words that tells a real-life story;
- As a short “impact update” of a project you are working on (50-75 words);
- As a headline and link to an article, study, or report (written by you, your organization, or a nationally relevant author).
- PHOTOS are highly encouraged!
- Send to email@example.com
- Community activists and leaders of all kinds who seek context, community and learning to further power their work, both individually and through (new) collective efforts.
- Joe/Jane-on-the-street who might be inspired to take their own action if given the knowledge and opportunity.
- Government, institutional and political leaders who need to hear this alternate information, narrative and points of view.
Community Shares, as the organizational home, will format and distribute the e-zine. However, all steering committee members (e.g., hopefully, CHRC, WCC, IIN, CCR, etc.) and contributors will be asked to forward the e-zine to their distribution lists, and all recipients asked to forward it once again.