By Bo Beaulieu
It is hard to believe that our annual meeting is only six months away. If you’ve not done so yet, please take time to submit a proposal to be an active part of the 2014 meeting since the deadline date is quickly approaching. I can tell you that the program planning committee has confirmed some exciting speakers to be part of our meeting, so I hope you will opt to attend and be a formal part of our 2014 conference.
I am pleased to inform you that we have established a CDS Past Presidents Committee and several previous presidents of our Society have agreed to be part of this new committee. In a recent letter to the committee members, I outlined some of the important input and guidance that I am hoping the group will provide to both the Board and me. This includes taking part in one or more panel sessions at the 2014 meeting, thus allowing some of our younger members to interact with some of the pillars of Society. Moreover, past presidents will be asked to share their insights on how we can continue to grow our endowment and how they may wish to contribute to a special issue of the Community Development journal. Other areas in which they would like to assist will be discussed as well.
Furthermore, in partnership with the 2014 program planning committee, we will be inviting our living past presidents to take part in this year’s meeting. We will honor these individuals as part of the opening reception. It should be a special event and I can’t wait to say “thank you” to these individuals on behalf of the CDS.
Here we are and it's January again. It's a time of renewal, or simply catch-up after the holiday season. I decided not to make any resolutions this year, but rather to focus on a few goals and areas for improvement. Many of these relate to my career as a community development practitioner, such as being more timely and to take on less responsibility. I want to focus on this things that are most important to me in 2014, namely my family and my career, which is why I started out with these simpler points. Likewise, I want Vanguard to continue to improve and be an important resource for me fellow CDS members and colleagues. Do you have any CD resolutions you want to share? Do you have any ideas on how Vanguard can improve to be more useful to you? Share your thoughts here!
Compiled by Timothy Collins, Assistant Director at the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs
Helping Rural Communities address Drinking Water Needs through Best Practices in Community Development
By Chris Marko, Rural Development Specialist with the Rural Community Assistance Corporation (RCAC), Community Development Society (CDS) Board Member
As this country’s infrastructure continues to age, communities face increasing challenges with providing basic services, including drinking water. While the majority of the nation’s population lives in larger communities, there are many more small communities, and drinking water systems. Statistically small communities (less than 5,000 in population) are more likely to face compliance violations, which require system improvements and can be costly. Small communities often have limited revenue base to pay for large projects, limited technical, managerial, and financial capacity to take on projects, and political will at the local level to bear the burden of taking on necessary improvements is becoming more and more of a challenge.
20 years ago grant money was more available. Now much of the available financing for projects is in the form of loans that require taking on debt. To compound issues, many communities have not kept up with costs to cover existing and future costs of operating systems, which can cause “sticker shock” when faced with the need to finance a multi-million dollar drinking water project. In my work I assist communities who face these challenges and would like to share how some best practices in community development help me work with staff, elected officials, and the public.
1. Promote active and representative participation toward enabling all community members to meaningfully influence the decisions that affect their lives. The past few months I have been involved with a community facing opposition from community members regarding a proposed drinking water project. The public meeting last month was very contentious and participants asked many questions which the city could not answer at the time. As a next step part of the strategy was to be responsive and address questions specifically, reach out to the community, and conduct additional public meetings. The city held two meetings that included responses to the questions and was facilitated in a way that encouraged participation in a constructive and considerate manner. While there was opposition to the project expressed, the meeting went much better as people were heard and acknowledged.
2. Engage community members in learning about and understanding community issues, and the economic, social, environmental, political, psychological, and other impacts associated with alternative courses of action. The city considered a number of alternatives to making drinking water improvements. The city faced a compliance issue regarding water pressure which needed to be addressed to meet State requirements. The master plan identified a number of additional deficiencies in the water system, including distribution lines, fire hydrants, and storage. The city has worked with funding agencies to identify a funding package with the lowest interest loan with some “principal forgiveness” (no interest) funding available. The city presented various funding scenarios, reasons for taking on a project which goes beyond meeting compliance, and considers additional improvements which will be necessary for the future of the community residents and economy. In response to questions about relief for low income residents regarding a rate increase the city responded by working with the local non-profit community action agency to develop a fund for water rate assistance for low income residents which incorporated the diverse interests and cultures of the community in the community development process.
3. Work actively to enhance the leadership capacity of community members, leaders, and groups within the community. By facilitating the most recent public meetings in a manner that encouraged community participants to share their views in a constructive, considerate manner, and emphasizing how the city appreciates input, and will continue to be responsive to questions significantly helped the process. Part of the outreach strategy developed included connecting with local groups and attending meetings to further educate the community about the importance of improving the drinking water system. As a technical assistance provider I reviewed statements prepared by the lead city council person who presented a summary of reasons why the city needed to take on the project. Comments emphasized how city leaders need to be responsive to address the existing compliance issue, and also consider the health and safety of residents by providing adequate fire protection, pressure, and storage for the future. The community has not made significant improvements to the system for over 20 years. By encouraging councilors to conduct outreach within their community, connect with individuals and groups, and continue to be open, responsive, and appreciative of comments and questions, the feedback on the recent two public meetings was much better due to enhanced community leadership.
4. Be open to using the full range of action strategies to work toward the long-term sustainability and well- being of the community. As mentioned by city leaders at meetings, news articles, and radio interviews the city reviewed a number of alternatives to address the compliance issue, and considered additional improvements to address deficiencies. The city decided to take on a larger project, with higher cost utilizing the best available finance terms, than the “minimum fix”. Community members felt there were options to consider regarding financing, including a general obligation bond instead of the low interest loan package. The city responded by reviewing the potential financial impact of a general obligation bond on residents compared to the low interest loan package (which included some principal forgiveness). Based on consultation with bond counsel it was determined the estimated financial impact of the general obligation bond would be higher than the proposed project using loan financing. Some community members still felt the city should only address the minimum fix and place the burden of financing the project on the few residents where water pressure was lowest. The city did not feel this was an equitable for the community and decided on a project in terms of long term community benefit.
While controversy about the proposed water project still exists, more people have expressed support for the proposed project at recent public meetings, and expressed appreciation for the time and effort the city council, staff, and resource providers have taken to respond to questions and remain proactive about addressing problems which have not been dealt with for many years. The city has utilized principals of good practice in community development to engage the community, respond to questions and issues raised, and address what it feels is in the best interest of the community as a whole. This is one of many examples of how communities are trying to deal with the challenge of providing basic services, including something essential to life and community sustainability—drinking water.
Edited by Cindy Banyai
Picture shared from here
2013 has been a fast-moving year full of many surprises and opportunities. I've learned a lot taking over the helm of Vanguard and I hope you are liking the changes. I want Vanguard to be your connection to the activities and events of the Community Development Society, as well as a way to stay abreast of the latest news and opportunities in our field. With that in mind, please feel free to share your ideas on ways to better use this publication for our community of interest and practice. This edition will the last of 2013 and I'm looking forward to growing and sharing more with you in 2014. Wishing you the best over the holidays and a happy new year!
Image borrowed from here
Compiled by Timothy Collins, Assistant Director, Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs
By Bo Beaulieu
I had the opportunity to spend two days with the CDS Board Members in Dubuque, Iowa as part of our fall face-to-face meeting over the past weekend. While we transacted a good share of business, we also took time to visit the hotel and conference facilities where our 2014 CDS Annual Meeting will take place. I can tell you without hesitation that the hotel accommodations are excellent and the conference meeting facilities will blow you away.
I am equally impressed by the tremendous progress the local arrangements committee has made in ensuring that your time in Dubuque will be well spent. The mobile learning workshops being planned will truly showcase the hard work that local leaders, citizens, businesses, and organizations have undertaken to turn Dubuque from a city in decline to one that is a thriving, vibrant example. You will have the opportunity to experience the richness of what this renaissance city has to offer to its visitors.
The program committee has just released the call for proposals for the 2014 meeting. Please plan to take an active part in the annual meeting. The call has a variety of ways in which you can contribute to our conference. Like last year, the poster session will be juried, a step the CDS has taken to make this a valuable and recognized component of our meeting. I believe you will be pleased and impressed by the keynote speakers being lined for our annual conference. All in all, the 2014 CDS meeting is shaping up to be another superb event for our members and guests.
Let me close by stating that I am honored to be working with such an outstanding Board of Directors. We made some important decisions and plans during our most recent Board meeting. I will be highlighting some of these in the next month or so, once we’ve completed the fine tuning of the information associated with these actions items.
While it is hard to believe we are in the month of November, so let me take this opportunity to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving. Take care!
By Stephan C. Jeanetta
I work for a university doing research and extension work in community development. Like most of us who work from a university or academic environment I sometimes am unsure how to create an effective relationship with the people I find myself working with. My academic training tells me to keep some distance but the work itself may require more intimacy and commitment that the academy would support. Over the years I have had a couple of relationships where I have successfully walked that fine line because of what I learned from a couple of women who helped define and lead a movement in Germany. One was a researcher and the other a grassroots leader.
The researcher is Monika Jaeckel, whose work served as the catalyst for the Mothers Center movement in Germany. The German Mothers Centers movement originated in Germany in the late 1970s and has since spread to Eastern Europe and other parts of the world. Mothers Centers provide public space for women in communities all over Germany. Today there are more than 500 Mothers Centers in Germany and more that 1000 worldwide. She developed a model public space for women that included a public living room, a coffee shop, second hand store, and daycare. What each Mothers Center looked like and what they did at their Mothers Centers varied from place to place, but all shared some common characteristics and focused on providing a public space that supported the development needs of women. Monika and the women from each of the pilot communities shared their experiences in a book called Mothers in the Center: The German Mothers Centers. I don’t believe the original book was ever translated into English ,but a follow-up report published in the late nineties is available at: http://www.mine.cc/files/ScreenMCBook.pdf
The book was a catalyst for a movement in Germany that saw many Mothers Centers get established and later become part of a network of Mothers Centers.
Andrea Laux is the grassroots leader. Andrea started the Mothers Center in Stuttgart more than 25 years ago when she was a single mother living on public assistance. She had become close to the director of the social service agency where she did some volunteer work. He gave her a copy of the book and asked to read it and let him know what she thought. She got excited and decided she wanted to start a Mothers Center in Stuttgart. She got some help from the agency and has seen it grown its modest beginnings with 18 mothers operating in an old house to become a large neighborhood group with 500 members working out of a beautiful state of the art community center. Andrea, like most of the women who started their own Mothers Center, reached out to Monika Jaeckel, who guided her through the process and recruited Andrea into the network. They have worked very closely ever since and provided a very effective model for working together.
I have been lucky enough to work with them both on a few projects and I think their relationship is instructive in terms of exploring how grassroots leaders and researchers can work together to create community change.
The first thing is their commitment to their work and each other. They were very collegial, but they were also good friends because of their commitment and passion for their work. I think sometimes researchers create distance between themselves and the people they work with in order to maintain some modicum of objectivity. Monika was not the warmest person in the world, but she was still accessible to the women and they really respected her commitment and saw her passion to for the work. She was honest and upfront about her role and always followed through.
Grassroots leaders will sometimes be reluctant to trust researchers because they may not be as committed to the change as the grassroots activists are. Monika and Andrea were able to forge a professional and personal relationship that lasted more than 20 years because they had respect for each other and what they brought to their work. Monika as a researcher was able to help the Mothers Centers organize, secure resources, build a national and global network, answer their research questions, and tell their stories in ways that the public could understand and appreciate. She often introduced the leaders in the movement to policymakers that could help them advance their issues. Andrea was a force in her community. She used her leadership skills to build community support. She was totally committed to the Mothers Center and put all her time and energy into making it work. She was very good at building relationships in her community to get the kind of support they needed to get manage the center. Andrea really needed someone who could help her chart a path, tell her story, provide advice and guidance and support her in her efforts to make her Mothers Center successful. Monika was able to provide that support. Most of us who work in an academic environment know that when we are working with community leaders they will need access to quality information in order to make good decisions. We also know they will need to be able to turn their ideas into actions that can be measured and quantified. Often, what we miss is that they also need support. Often they are so busy supporting the groups and people that are working on their projects that they don’t have a place to go for support themselves. Monika was very good at providing that support to Andrea in ways that encouraged her to develop her leadership.
I think for me when I think about my role in working with grassroots leaders is that I have to remind myself that sometimes what the leaders I work with need is a commitment from me that goes beyond the educational programs I can do for them. They need a friend, someone who can be a part of their support system. This can be a huge commitment in terms of time and energy. I have done this a few times. It is intense but can return many dividends. I may not be always be in a position to provide that support but by recognizing that need and helping them address it, I can really enhance my credibility and effectiveness in my community development work.
Image shared from here