Building Community Resilience with Emergent Savannah

By Eliska Skarolkova and Jahnavi Gopal Mange

Emergent Savannah came into existence in 2015 within the walls of a small studio apartment. A group of working citizens facing discomfort and frustration with the segregated community they witnessed in Savannah decided to join forces and form a collaboration to combat this divide. They are involved in a variety of community work, participatory research and information workshops throughout the city, the purpose of which is to bring citizens of Savannah from diverse cultural backgrounds and working environments to a single platform.

A city is said to be resilient when its individuals, communities, institutions, and businesses embody the capacity to adapt, rebuild and grow in times of hardship. In order to be resilient, locals need to be equal participants and their voices needs to be heard.

Coco Papy: “I think Savannah is very resilient because the people are resilient. Simply because there is so much poverty you need to be strategic how to live your life”

Savannah is fortunate to have citizens that are capable of embodying resilience. Like other organizations in the city, Emergent Savannah works towards the goal of empowering Savannahians. However, no single organization can succeed in isolation. It’s imperative to connect siloed organizations to create a truly resilient community. Therefore, as a social and cultural organization, Emergent Savannah works to bridge gaps within the community and empower citizens in order to tackle big issues together.

One of the most popular projects of Emergent Savannah is Monday Means Community (MMC). Monday Means Community is a public event that takes place at Sentient Bean Café every first Monday of the month. Citizens meet and discuss a variety of essential civic topics. Civic norms and the workings of government agencies in the city are reoccurring topics. MMC also serves as a collaborative platform where people can voice their perspective without judgement and welcomes healthy discussions.

Every MMC has predefined topic based on local and non-local figures and or cultural events in relation to Savannah. The goal of MMC is to encourages citizens to take legitimate action in order to develop a stronger community through open dialog.

As part of our research we were in constant contact with the members of Emergent Savannah to understand their perspective of the city, the community, and their methods of action. We were also introduced to 33 Savannah community members who had participated as panel members in Monday Means Community. These individuals represent the lifeblood of Savannah’s resilience, and we were fortunate enough to interview, and learn from them. You can learn a little more about that process in our previous post.

Through our discussions with Emergent Savannah we started to understand some of the issues they were facing. One of the obstacles was how does one enlighten residence of their basic rights and responsibilities as a citizens and invoke active participation? Another was how do you make civic work appealing to a younger audience? Lastly how do you entice the creative youth to become contributing citizens rather than just a visiting occupant?

As AJ Perez from Emergent Savannah says, “we are working to connect the “come here’s”, “from here’s”, and “nobody hears” for the benefit for all”.

It will take the collaboration of citizens, businesses, organizations and policy makers to create a resilient Savannah, but we are one step closer due to the hard work done by the participants of Emergent Savannah.

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