Oberlin Project Community Conversations Translate Into Next Steps

Posted by John Bergen
John Bergen
I grew up in North Newton, Kansas (if you don't know the state, its right near t
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on March 28, 2013 in Community Voices

For the last few months, members of the Oberlin Project Community Engagement Team have been engaged in Community Conversations, chances for Oberlin residents to meet together and discuss what they would like to see for the future of Oberlin. These Community Conversations were held from October through early February, and involved over 120 members of the Oberlin community from a wide diversity of backgrounds. Conversations covered topics such as improving our downtown, creating opportunities for youth and seniors, and expanding city recycling. Many Oberlin residents expressed a commitment to working harder on sustainability; one participant commented on an evaluation form, “I can dig in my heels a little deeper. I am part of the solution.”

The Oberlin Project is a joint effort of the City of Oberlin, Oberlin College, and other local partners to improve the sustainability, resilience, and prosperity of our community. It supports the goals of the City and College to create a climate-positive community by 2050.

Members of the Community Engagement Team consider the Community Conversations to have been a success. Concerns and ideas raised in Community Conversations are being translated into action right now. For example, Oberlin Project intern John Bergen is working directly with the City’s Recycling Coordinator to implement and simplify recycling in apartment buildings. In the upcoming year, Oberlin Project staff are focusing their energies on developing access to local foods and agriculture through three core projects: a community/incubator kitchen, a local food hub, and a greenhouse capable of growing produce year-round.

In addition, the Oberlin Environmental Dashboard displays at the Oberlin Public Library, Slow Train Cafe, and Prospect Elementary School (also see www.oberlindashboard.org) will highlight stories from engaged citizens in a Community Voices section. The goal of the Community Voices section of the dashboard is to share, celebrate, and empower positive sustainable community action. One of the quotes featured under the Community Voices category is from 4th Grade Prospect School student Soria who  says,  “I want to make a difference. I want to join groups that want to change the world like I do.”

Support for Community Conversations was provided by Management Assistance for Nonprofit Agencies (MANA), a volunteer consulting group based out of Kendal at Oberlin. MANA has compiled a report on the Community Conversations, which is available for reading from the Oberlin Project.

If you are interested in obtaining a copy of the MANA report, it can be downloaded from the Oberlin Project Website at www.oberlinproject.org or information can be printed for those who do not have access to a computer and printer by contacting Sharon Pearson, Program Coordinator. You can reach Sharon by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by phone at 440-775-6473.

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I grew up in North Newton, Kansas (if you don't know the state, its right near the middle), and after graduating high school spent a year living and working in various communities including south-side Chicago, rural Georgia, San Antonio, Texas, and northern Minnesota, doing everything from farming to refugee case management. I now attend Oberlin College, and am a double major in Religion and Environmental Studies. For the last year and a half, I have worked as a Peace & Justice Intern at Peace Community Church, building bridges between social justice groups on campus and in the community. I got involved with the Oberlin Project through my work at Peace Church, and will be working for January (and hopefully longer!) on Community Engagement, helping to organize Community Conversations with people from different parts of Oberlin. After graduation, I hope to continue to work on issues of sustainable rural development while pursuing further study in religion.


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