In recent weeks, there have been many media reports about the local response to the mural painted in the Central-Cocoanut neighborhood of Newtown, on the corner of 10th Street and Central Avenue. As a community engagement organization, SCOPE has been anticipating headlines about the community-building brilliance of the neighborhood residents, as that's what most impresses us about what's been going on. We have yet to see such headlines in the dominant media, however, so we are offering one of our own: "Central-Cocoanut Neighbors Join Together in Fierce Devotion to their Neighborhood."
Here's what we have witnessed over the past several weeks:
- A mural went up in the neighborhood, to the surprise of residents.
- Residents connected with each other to begin finding out what different people in the neighborhood thought and felt about it.
- Residents tuned in to concerns being expressed by fellow neighbors - by kids, teens and adults; by long-time and newer residents; by people of different ethnicities; by artists and "non-artists;" by people of different political persuasions.
- Residents called a meeting for neighbors to share their perspectives with one another, and to consider how to respond.
- Residents followed the lead of neighborkids, who hosted the meeting itself. In this way, they oriented around the natural community-building tendencies of children, and ensured that neighbors were connecting across generations in response to the circumstances.
- Residents stood up to people from outside the neighborhood who came to their neighborhood meeting and acted disrespectfully toward neighbors.
- Residents created a plan for gathering perspectives from hundreds of fellow neighbors in Central-Cocoanut, which neighbor-kids and -adults together are now carrying out.
- Residents turned to one another for mutual respect and support in the face of disengagement from the broader community.
This stuff matters. It's what resident-led community-building is all about. And SCOPE isn't the only group of community engagement folks who think this is important. See what the Annie E. Casey Foundation has to say in their work on social networks. And what the Aspen Institute Roundtable for Community Change has to say in their series on Voices from the Field. And what the White House Office of Public Engagement has to say on the White House Blog.
Regardless of what you think about the mural itself, we hope you are paying attention to what's going on in our local community with regard to community-building these days. There's a tremendous amount for all of us to learn from the example of our Central-Cocoanut neighbors.