Community building takes time.
We had our first Strong Mind Strong Body Foundation community solutions with youth workshop on Saturday, July 29, at Walker Library in Minneapolis. It was five hours (10 a.m.-3 p.m.), and it went great, exceeding expectations.
We had a diverse group of nine youth and 15 adult participants. The youth are entering grades 6th-11th (ages 11-15), and the adults included parents of youth participants (and grandparents and caregivers) and community influencers (including a member of the Minneapolis Public Schools Board of Education, a Minneapolis Police Department officer, a local business owner, a local artist, a local pastor/dean, and a retired leadership consultant with 35 years of guiding government, corporate, nonprofit and community leaders). This workshop was the result of months of planning that started with the seed of an idea in 2022, based on related community building work that started in 2021.
The first half of our workshop focused on team building with youth, core values building, and youth empowerment.
Youth identified these core values:
✅ Helping others
✅ Making a difference
The second half of the workshop focused on community solutions and community building. We began our community solutions conversation with youth sharing their hopes and dreams for the community across five topic areas.
1. Economic development
4. Public safety
5. Social justice/human rights
Youth shared over 50 hopes and dreams. Youth then voted to narrow these ideas down to six issues.
1. Basic needs met (food and clothing)
2. Housing for all
3. More teachers and youth programs
4. Less driving and more biking
5. Gun rules and regulations
6. College access
Youth voted a second time to narrow these six ideas down to one “hope/dream” issue for a solutions project. The winning issue was college access.
Youth then met adult community solutions team members. Everyone (youth and adults) got a quick lesson in World Savvy‘s knowledge-to-action framework (K2A), the same human-centered design thinking taught at the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford (d.school).
Then, we broke into two intergenerational groups (youth and adults mixed together) and used the K2A process to explore the issue of college access. The goal was to get to a single solution with action steps for how we (at the local level in Minneapolis) can increase college access today and into the future.
In under an hour, the two groups empathized and researched user needs (building knowledge and a common understanding of the problem), looked at the root causes to define the issue (inequity of college access), and proposed solutions based on community strengths and needs.
We closed by synthesizing the two groups’ solutions into one list of solutions to test and try our solutions out. The solutions ideas:
—For students, then students share with the rest of the student body at their schools
—For families and support systems, after school once a month
—Shares from: entrepreneurs, college students, support groups, and programs to speak
—Policy changes, sharing and advocating to decision makers
Access and preparation programs
—Universal, accessible to all, equitable access
—Program like AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination), a college preparatory program at 6th-12th grade levels to help prepare students for college eligibility and reach their full potential. This could be an elective college and career prep class in Minneapolis Public Schools.
—Teachers need to address their own bias and ego, all in order to grow and bring out student voice
—Belief in all potential.
Our next step is to help youth devise a plan and implement it in the 2023-24 school year.
Highlights of the workshop
👏 The optimism
👏 An intergenerational talking circle with 27 people
👏 The diversity and engagement of participants on a summer weekend day (Saturday)
👏 Giving community influencers the opportunity to interact with youth and their families
👏 Giving youth the opportunity to lead and having adults listen
👏 Youth, parents and community influencers brainstorming solutions together
👏 Having my whole family participate (two daughters aged 15 and 11 for the entire workshop, and wife for the afternoon community solutions session with 8-year-old son)
👏 Adult participants saying after the workshop, “Good stuff.” “You’re doing good work.” “I want to be a part of this.”
👏 One youth (a rising 9th grader) at the end of workshop saying, “When is the next workshop? This time, my grandma made me come. Next time, I want to go.”
EMPOWER YOUTH FOR SUCCESS
Our mission with the community solutions with youth program is to inspire youth to create local solutions.
Educators are tasked with creating competent, motivated, and open-minded young people. But they alone cannot empower youth for success. We believe everyone in the community today has a responsibility to help educators empower youth for success.
Our first workshop is the beginning of a pilot program we will be running in the 2023-24 academic year with Ella Baker Global Studies and Humanities Magnet School in Minneapolis as our primary school partner to help empower youth for success.
We have six goals/outcomes for our program.
🎯 Outcome No. 1: Develop youth workshop curriculum/programming.
🎯 Outcome No. 2: Conduct four youth workshops.
🎯 Outcome No. 3: Run four youth-led, solution projects.
🎯 Outcome No. 4: Connect youth with local stakeholders and community influencers.
🎯 Outcome No. 5: Build a youth journalism program at Ella Baker School to elevate youth voices by creating and maintaining a digital news website with students called “Ella Baker News.”
🎯 Outcome No. 6: Create a community solutions with youth playbook that can be a resource guide for other communities to solve problems with youth and build strong communities.
IDEAS ARE EASY. IMPLEMENTATION IS HARD.
Thanks to Ella Baker Global Studies and Humanities Magnet School 8th grade social studies teacher Sam Quincy, ManUcan Consulting founder/president and restorative practices leader Manu Lewis, Ella Baker 8th grade English language arts teacher Anna Lehn, and World Savvy professional learning facilitator Molly Carina Dengler for helping plan our community solutions with youth workshop. Thanks to Sam and Manu for helping run the workshop with me. Thanks to all of our partners: Ella Baker School, World Savvy, ManUcan Consulting, LOWRY HILL EAST NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION, City of Minneapolis Neighborhood and Community Relations (NCR) Department. Thanks to all of the participants at the first workshop. Thanks to all the parents and caregivers of youth who made them go. Thanks to all the community influencers who attended the workshop and support our work. Eric Won, Darrell Gillespie, Holly Kleppe, Jeremy Randle, Wendy Kick, Maria Burns Ortiz, Cormac Russell, Christina Gillespie, Adriana Cerrillo, Sarah Cooper-Evans, Stephanie Schaefer, Nathaniel Harris, Mary Buhr, Tate Nguyen, Georgina Martinez, John Watson, Laurie Parks.
THE JOURNEY STARTS WITH ONE STEP
We could not do this work without our community solutions team of youth, parents and community influencers.
We are grateful for the opportunity to build our community solutions team and work together to strengthen our communities.
We look forward to turning community solution ideas into community solution actions with youth as the driving force.
If you are interested in learning more about our community solutions program at the Strong Mind Strong Body Foundation, please let us know. If you want to support our work, you can make a donation. All donations are tax-deductible.
This article was originally published on LinkedIn.