The sweet spot in any engagement project is when it inspires grassroots involvement and leadership. That’s what has happened with the Auburn Community Cafes, a project that grew out of the ABC Cayuga project I am managing for the Allyn Foundation.
The ABC Cayuga project team identified the Cafes as key to its efforts to build social connections and social capital among Auburn parents. The Gavras Center and Auburn YMCA took the lead on writing and winning a state grant to recruit and train parents to run the Cafes, and to provide the parents with money to arrange for things like food and childcare at the Cafes themselves. Since then, the parent volunteers have completely taken over, making the Cafes their own.
Last night, the parent volunteers pulled off their second Cafe, which was a smash success, drawing about 60 participants and inspiring many meaningful conversations. Check out the Auburn Citizen’s great coverage, and congrats to the Auburn Community Cafe parent volunteers!
As the president of the Newhouse Doctoral Association, I blogged about Newhouse’s amazing crop of first-year Ph.D. students to help potential applicants decide if our program is right for them. Check it out: Research opportunities, collaboration & flexibility define the Newhouse Ph.D. program.
“Framing Latin America in Elite U.S. Media,” a content analysis of 132 opinion pieces from The New York Times and Washington Post that I co-authored with Dr. Guy Golan, has been presented at the World Association of Public Opinion Research conference in Bogota, ColumbiaContinue Reading...
My profile on Gwen Maturo-Grasso, an extraordinary educator at Syracuse’s Lincoln Middle School and winner of this year’s National Teacher of the Year Award from SECME, appeared in the latest issue of NYSUT United Magazine.
Maturo-Grasso is an English teacher by training who has a deep love of science and an unerring belief that literacy is key to understanding scientific problems on tests and in the real world.
Here’s a quote from former Syracuse City School District Superintendent Dan Lowengard: “There are a couple of things that are really unusual about Gwen. For one, she prefers middle school students and can match their energy and passion,” he said. “For another, she has embraced and manifested a truly deep connection between English and the sciences. She uses literacy as a basis for helping students understand complex scientific problems, and she uses technology as a way to get them excited about reading and writing.”
Congrats to Gwen, and my own personal thank you to her for putting in so much extra work to help Syracuse students succeed.
Check out my post on the CNYSpeaks blog about a facilitated public meeting I took part in on the future of the Onondaga Lake watershed. The event was designed by Dr. Tina Nabatchi of the Maxwell School’s Program for the Advancement of Research on Conflict and Collaboration (PARCC). She utilized a process called Open Spaces, which puts control of the event in the hands of participants and is best used when trying to build a sense of ownership. Read more here.
UPDATE: Check out Willson’s blog at http://newlandscapephotography.com/
Some artists help us expand our sense of the possible by deconstructing or altering reality. Others, like Willson Cummer, do something perhaps even more amazing: They show us the reality right in front of us that we’ve somehow failed to see.
Cummer focuses his camera on the places where the man made meets the natural, like the roofs of parking garages and the forgotten places under overpasses, which CNYSpeaks has written about before. He has a knack for at once showing us the enduring beauty of nature and the destructive force of human development. He juxtaposes the beautiful and the ugly, creating images that deepen our understanding of beauty itself.
Asset-based development — the notion that a community is better served by building off existing assets, as opposed to courting outside developers to build projects with little connection to the community’ history and values – has long been recognized as a best practice.
But what if one your assets is a giant beer sign? And what if it hasn’t been lit in 40 years?
The answer to the first question is easy: All the better!
That’s especially true in Auburn, which knows how to have a good time, a fact that will be on display all weekend, from the Founder’s Day celebration on Saturday, to the sign lighting beer bash on Saturday night, to the party following the Great Race Sunday.
This is a significant selling point for this small city. It’s great that we are embracing our proclivity for fun and taking pride in it. And why not? Austin has become an epicenter for creatives by celebrating weirdness. Surely, there’s worse things to celebrate than knowing how to celebrate. If you have any doubt about that, check out this list. Did you know that two U.S. cities are fighting over the moniker “Cowtown,” or that Charleston, West Virgina, goes by the nickname “Chemicalville”?
The second question has required quite a bit of work for the community to answer. The Genesee Brewing Co. has made the investment to restore the sign with LED lights. The Auburn Downtown Improvement District has handled the event logistics and much of its promotion, two things that were key to making the brewery’s investment in the project worthwhile. The city of Auburn is providing security and other support. Local businesses have stepped to the fore to supplement and compliment the event with efforts of their own, with dozens of places offering various specials and enticements. The local fundraising powerhouse known as Majorpalooza is teaming with with Tinkers Guild to man the Genny Beer truck and raise money for charity during the event.
I personally had absolutely nothing to do with any of this, and I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who played a role in making it happen. Thank you all!
Through this cooperative, collaborative effort, a fanciful idea has become reality, and the Genesee Beer sign will be re-lit tomorrow night. Whether you are from Auburn or not, you should come down and take in the spectacle.
From a public relations perspective, it’s fair to say the event has already been a success. Google it, and you’ll find dozens of outlets have picked up on the story and are celebrating the accomplishment with us. That includes this piece in the Citizen, and this one in The Post-Standard, both of which have more details about the lighting and all the other Founder’s Day events tomorrow.
Working to ensure the success of individuals from under-represented groups in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) is not just the right thing to do. It’s also essential to the competitiveness of our country, and to the ability of the entire planet to find creative solutions to the daunting challenges we face.
The country needs an “all hands on deck” approach to filling its STEM jobs, something President Obama has recognized in speeches and backed up with Race to the Top funding to states like New York, which received the money in part because of its commitment to STEM education.
I’m honored to have been a part of a dynamic deliberation today with about 80 citizens. We discussed the essential elements of constructive, productive and civil public meetings. Check out my posts on CNYSpeaks.com Thank you to FOCUS Greater Syracuse and everyone who participated.
My latest articles on science, technology, engineering and math education have come out in the February issue of NYSUT United Magazine (formerly New York Teacher Magazine.) In this month’s issue, I focus on the extraordinary effort some teachers make to bring dynamic, hands-on, STEM programs to their students. I also wrote a sidebar on a grant from Corning Inc. that will allow NYSUT to expand its SEMI High Teach U program to the Southern Tier.
Coming in the March issue, I’ll have a piece on strategies for increasing the participation of women and minorities in STEM fields.
That’s the topic of the CNYSpeaks forum we have been working on with FOCUS Greater Syracuse. The free, public event is from 7:30 to 9 a.m. Friday, Feb. 18, at City Hall Commons, 201 E. Washington St., Syracuse. Please attend if you can — you do not need to register in advance. Participants will work in small groups with CNYSpeaks-trained facilitators to explore the elements required for effective public meetings.
One of my clients, WowWe Inc., is now offering its incredible video email platform for free.Continue Reading...
CNYSpeaks and FOCUS Greater Syracuse to Host A Forum on Civil Civic Discourse
Free Public Event to be held at 7:30 a.m. Friday, Feb . 18, at City Hall Commons
Combative school board sessions and angry town hall meetings on health care have obscured the fact that public officials and citizens must work together to solve the complex problems we face here in Central New York and across the country.
Yet public officials are given little guidance on just how to structure public meetings to ensure that citizens are heard, and citizens have little guidance about how they should behave at those meetings to ensure that their interests are understood and that the meetings are safe and productive.
On Feb. 18, FOCUS Greater Syracuse will devote its monthly Core Group meeting to exploring this topic, with the goal of hearing from citizens about how they believe public meetings can be better designed to be productive, civil, and effective.
The forum, which is free and open to all, will run from 7:30 to 9 a.m. at City Hall Commons, 201 E. Washington St., Syracuse.
Participants will work in small groups with trained facilitators from the CNYSpeaks Initiative and the Maxwell School’s Program for the Advancement of Research on Conflict and Collaboration to discuss questions such as:
- Why do people go, or stay away from, public meetings?
- What do public meetings that “work” look like? What do such meetings accomplish? What processes are used?
- How should public meetings be designed to be more inclusive, productive and constructive?
- What are the minimum standards of behavior required of citizens — and officials — to have successful public meetings?
I’ve been taking an amazing class at the Maxwell School this fall — Fundamentals of Conflict Studies with Pofessor Bruce Dayton. Among the requirements are two “external activity reports” that examine events of our choosing using the theory we learn in class.
I’ve attended several events recently that would make excellent fodder for conflict analysis, including a lecture by Ines Mergel that examined networks within organizations and how they can create and manage conflict.
However, perhaps recklessly and certainly in bad taste, I choose to focus on a movie – the spectacularly bad The Twilight Saga: Eclipse. The third-installment in this teenybopper, melodramatic, vampire-love series is remarkable in that its subtext seems ripped from the pages of a conflict resolution textbook.
The characters in the movie are all trapped in conflict. Many of the conflicts would be defined as group identity conflicts, a major component of conflict from a cognitive perspective. The conflicts also end up being transformed via several conflict resolution mechanisms —increased contact among the parties, the rise of an effective mediator, increased costs of continuing the conflict, and, most importantly, the forging of a “super identity” via the rise of a common enemy.
I love alliteration, maybe to a fault.
But “Connect. Communicate. Create.” is far more to me than just a catchy motto.
Rather, it precisely sums up my philosophy on solving problems, particularly the type of complex problems we face today.
On this blog, I will examine best practices in areas such as social media, civic engagement, journalism, audience development, policy analysis and formation, strategic planning and communications, conflict transformation and consensus building.
The focus will be how individuals, nonprofits, governments and companies can harness these best practices to solve problems and overcome barriers to success.
I invite you to connect with me in the manner in which you feel most comfortable. Comment on this blog, call me at 315.730.4621, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, friend me on Facebook, connect with me on LinkedIn or follow my tweets.
Some of the work I am the most proud of are the series I articles I wrote from the Gulf Coast after Katrina and the CNYSpeaks Civic Engagement Initiative.
CNYSpeaks exemplifies the type of project I love: Connecting people, fostering constructive dialog and using that communication to catalyze creative solutions. As such, civic engagement is the basis for much of my journalistic and academic work.
Thanks for stopping by.