By Chari Sathyanarayanan
To reach a happy ending everything has to start with a good beginning. And good beginnings can sprout up everywhere. Our final solutions for this quarter aimed at helping the community in Midtown celebrate a new beginning of neighborliness.
Our work in helping build a resilient midtown community led to 10 different concepts that were shared with the community over the last several weeks, which led the community especially excited about 3 solutions. The continuous interactions with the Midtown residents and the new Midtown neighborhood association acted as a catalyst for a block party initiative to emerge. So, we considered how the block party—which was beautifully planned by the newly minted neighborhood association—could provide a platform for our final concepts. Our class split into 3 subteams and worked to implement each of these three concepts.
Community voices—a poster campaign featuring residents painted images and a personal quote
Neighborhood cleanups—prototyping, then creating detailed guidelines for creating authentic neighborhood conversation with a clean-up as the catalyst.
A Pop-up park!
The lead-up to the final pop-up park and block party included these elements:
1): Monday Means Community:
Working with Emergent Savannah, a past partner of our program, and a day-to-day catalyst for open conversation between the diverse communities of Savannah, our team participated in their April 2018 Monday Means Community event, which was planned as an intorduction to the work our class was doing in conjunction with Professor Ryan Madson’s Emerging Urban Issues class, focused on inclusion and exclusion in public spaces. We then co-organized the May Monday Means Community event, which became their first ever “Neighborhood MMC” meeting to held directly in a community venue thanks to the St Lutheran Church on 37th Street.
The meeting was hosted by Patt Gunn, Founder of The Center for Jubilee, Reconciliation and Healing, and provided another outlet for presenting the concepts to the neighborhood. Through this event we got better clarity of the FROM HERES (people who were born and brought up in the midtown area), COME HERES (new people who settled in the midtown area) and NOBODY HEARS (people who were neglected/displaced due to several reasons from the midtown area) .
2): Midtown Clean ups:
A neighborhood cleanup is surprisingly effective way to create community and belonging to a physical place. By cleaning up their streets, alleys and areas near their own dumpsters, neighbors can awake a sense of collective spirit that generates a viral wave in the non participating observers. It creates a common goal that unites the different points of view of different actors that could be at conflict.
In the particular case of Midtown, the neighborhood can improve in their trash managing habits. There are numerous studies that prove a beautiful space can lower crime rates. Moreover ,the team shared some of the tips and ways to make a neighborhood cleaner, as an educational process for the community to take for their future. Along with all the trash that was picked, a number of neighbors introduced themselves to each other, AND we found all the abandoned tires we would need to create our Pop-up Park!
Block Party (PoP Up Park & Community voices boards):
This was an event conducted by the new association members of the Midtown community. This was an effort taken by them to bring together all the people in and around the midtown area to get to know each other. There was food truck, instructors teaching the basics of jiu jitsu, music and stalls for fun events and games.
Our team came together and worked on the implementation of the pop-up park and community voices concept for the block party event. We worked on the concept implementation for 2 days straight and this was a huge hit amongt the members of the community, mainly the kids. We had whiteboard installations for graffiti and blackboard for chalk drawings.The tires were set up for the kids to jump and play on and we had boards which had quotes and an image of the people from the midtown community.
After the Block and pop-Up park unveiling (it’s still actively being used by the community), we rounded out our work with a few informative publications for our partners to keep with them for inspiration and information:
Process book – Pass it on
The purpose of this process book is that you can share this tool and the knowledge you are gaining with other similar community leaders, volunteers and anyone ready and interested in generating change along their collectivities. For resilience and sustainability to exist, sharing knowledge, value and co-creation are important concepts that can only be feasible if you decide to share the book and the learnings of this process to as many people as possible in your influential network. Through this written deliverable, we hope the community can have a kick off tool to grow them over time and to their benefit. Printed versions were given to the community and to the City of Savannah Community Outreach Coordinators so they can share our work and research with the other communities in Savannah.
After the prototype of our design concepts, we created a toolkit that will serve as a guide for the community to effectively implement these three concepts while giving the community the creative freedom adapt these to their own needs. The toolkit is broken down as followed
1) Work Together: containing information on how to successfully plan and run a neighborhood cleanup for the community
2) Learn Together: featuring a serie of community boards showcasing the faces of the residents of Midtown
3) Play Together: containing information on how to organize a pop up park in the community as a way for the residents to come together in a social environment
We hope that these tools are shared among all members of the Midtown community and that by sharing these tools, they become part actionable long term solutions to encourage the community members to overcome the complexities they are currently facing and become a more resilient Midtown.
We will presented both of these tools for our final presentation, and they are now in the hands of community eladers and city agencies that help communities in Savannah become the neighborhoods their residents hope them to be.
Conclusion: Moving forward there is an opportunity to co-create with the community a tool guide and the inspiration to make relevant changes for the improvement of the community. Some potential tools that emerged as opportunities for future classes, city agencies, and neighborhood associations are as follows:
1) Business Incubator : Creating a space when aspiring entrepreneurs can come together, feed off each others creativity and experience, and grow together while they bring their dreams to reality.
2) Scavenger Hunt : Neighborhood-wide scavenger hunt that encourages neighborhood youth to explore their place and learn the stories of their surrounding community.
3) Public Art and Canvas installation: An installation of a series of blank wallboards and an accompanying rules and guidelines that encourage community members of all ages to express themselves creatively, to come together to learn from the local artists, and to share community illustrations that best represent the uniqueness of midtown Savannah.
We hope that our combined work through this project provides a robust platform for implementation of identified tools and act as a launch pad for future development initiatives for a resilient community in midtown Savannah.