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PLACE-BASED APPROACH

Over the last few decades, the fast-moving urbanism in America has dramatically shaped new dynamics in community well-being across the country. A few factors that illustrate this are longer hours at work, non-family-friendly environments, domination of the media, and behavioral changes. These things greatly, negatively affect the population, particularly families.

The government and other organizations integrate different services to help people deal with this change but neglect the significance of strong communities that promote the well-being of individuals and families. At the same time, local services often struggle to support vulnerable families and meet their needs because doing so is not an easy task to take on. Many families fail to use services offered to them because they don’t know they exist or they are unwilling to access them. There is a need to make the people engaged in the community more, to contribute to their advancement, but it’s not at all easy. That’s where place-based approach comes in because it integrates services to build strong communities.

Place-based approach targets the whole community and addresses the different complex issues at a neighborhood level and the needs families have in the community. This approach aims to destroy the challenges people face that may stop the community and its population to thrive to its full potential. One of the main focuses of a place-based approach is to build stronger communities through stronger support for vulnerable families, including parents and children. It seeks to create service systems to engage such families, addressing the root cause of their issues in order to help meet their needs and the needs of their community—with a goal of lasting change. Whoever is utilizing place-based approach to help a community should make sure that whatever systems they set up are not just good systems, but those that can meet the tangible needs of the community members. Then, it’s up to the community members to engage for the betterment not only of their family, but the whole neighborhood.

Even within fast-changing environments, each community is filled with people with gifts and talents, who can change the course of their life and the world around them. Through a place-based approach, they are able to know their worth and have the self-dignity to be pioneers of change and transform their community to be healthy and strong.

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SOUTHWESTERN SOCIAL SCIENCE ASSOCIATION ANNUAL MEETING

In late 2018, Southwestern Social Science Association (SSSA) held their annual meeting in Orlando, with Polis Institute community development experts and University of Central Florida (UCF) interdisciplinary public affairs doctoral students among the panelists.

The meeting—run by SSSA, a social science association dedicated to promote knowledge and understanding of today’s world—gathers professional scholars, graduates, and undergraduates from all over the world to share intellect and encourage collaboration while building strong relationships among themselves.

The staff from Polis Institute and doctoral students from UCF partnered together to submit to the SSSA committee a community-based participatory research (CBPR) for Polis’ West Lakes MVP Families program—an effort to promote building strong families and stronger communities by walking alongside community members to empower them and help them develop as leaders..

SSSA committee refers to this academic partnership between both parties as  “An example of a Collaborative Community-University Partnership for Social Change.” The research was mainly focused on the impact of strong families in a community. It specifically aimed to bring out the perspectives of people in the community about the key factors of strong communities and the impact of having a program such as West Lakes MVP Families in the lives of their children, their own lives, and the community.

This project allowed Polis Institute and the doctoral students to work together to grow their knowledge and understanding of the local community, and build meaningful relationships. This CBPR could be replicated for other community-based organizations that have an interest in this type of partnership.

Polis Institute is a community-based organization that designs solutions to social problems in underappreciated neighborhoods.

The MVP program was established on the concept of the two-generation approach (2Gen) initiated by Aspen Institute. 2Gen consists of centralizing efforts in creating opportunities and addressing the needs of both the children and the parents in the family.

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DIVERSE WORD

In this broken world, taking the time to learn about each other is pivotal for our health, both as individuals and a society. Hearing one another’s stories and growing in understanding of them allows us to connect with them and the world around us better. Sharing, too, is an act of bravery, an art people take for granted.

That is why Shawn Welcome decided to found a gathering open mic event called “Diverse Word” in 2006. Diverse Word is an open mic night in Orlando that is conducive and welcoming to all forms of spoken word such as poetry, songs, comedy, rap. It typically meets Tuesday night at Dandelion Cafe, but now meets in various locations throughout the city.

Welcome, a well-known spoken word poet from Brooklyn who now lives in Orlando, started Diverse Word after he experienced the homogeneity of the open mic scene in Orlando. He wanted to bring people from different backgrounds together to share their love for poetry and connect with the community. This is one of the reasons Polis hired Welcome, hoping to make Diverse Word a core component of their organization. They knew what a significant role it could play in fulfilling Polis’s vision for a peaceful and prosperous world, by gathering locals in a safe space where they can express themselves in creative ways, while respecting what others have to say.

Diverse Word and Polis hold that every person is valuable, as is what they have to offer to the community. They believe every human has dignity, no matter who they are or where they are from and that everyone has the right to make their voices heard, in the hopes of bringing hope and change in the community.

Unfortunately, in today’s society, people often qualify vulnerability as weakness, not recognizing the importance of transparency about pain, feelings, and emotions. Suppressing that emotional expression can bring anxiety, depression, lack of self-esteem or self-dignity, a general decrease in positive emotions, and a lack of satisfaction and connectedness to the world around us. This is what Diverse Word is attacking.

Diverse Word identifies every human as relational beings, people who need to feel connected to other people. That is one reason this open mic is so great — sharing struggles and pain that allow a deep connection with who they are, while encouraging relating  to others as well. This helps in dealing with one’s own feelings and emotions and being comfortable in one’s own skin, instead of destroying themselves inside because of their fear of judgment from people. It brings a sense of healing within us and a motivation to take initiative to bring change in one’s life that will then help us flourishing in other areas of life. One woman, for instance, got out of depression from being able to share her journey through her platform at Diverse Word.

Over the years, Diverse Word has grown and greatly influenced the lives of the people in the community. The open mic event has fostered increasing creative expression in the community, one where people have begun to thinking of themselves as members of the society through their art. The space provided by Diverse Word has helped people  develop higher self-esteem because they’ve been given a platform for their voices to be heard—articulating their feelings and thoughts, which has generated discussions and conversations about different topics such as social and cultural issues in the community. This has encouraged them to be more engaged in the community.

Through the years, people’s stories showed that creative expression increases the maturity in dealing with emotions in a healthy way. Diverse Word has created a place where people are cared for as they go on a journey to understand themselves and their community through their art and how the courage of expressing themselves can be a great first step in bringing change to the community.

Polis and Welcome hope Diverse Word continues to create a space for all to understand their human nature and experiences and share it in both secular and faith environments. They hope it remains a safe place for people to share their pain and struggles through creativity, which is an effective way to minister to people.

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For those interested, Diverse Word’s first quarterly competition of the year, called Diverse Word Winter Slam 2019, will be held this Tuesday, January 29th, 2019. Click Here to view event.

If you are interested in learning more about Diverse Word you can contact Shawn directly:

Email: shawn@polisinstitute.org
Cell: 407-683-6329

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Eatonville, Florida – Culture of Health Prize Winner 2018

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation collaborates with the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute to award the Culture of Health Prize to select communities. This prize focuses on marginalized populations who show commitment to working together to better their residents’ lifestyles and the places they live in. These commitments are evident in different fields such as health, education, and business.

Eatonville, Florida was one of four communities selected this year as a recipient of Culture of Health Prize out of nearly 200 applicants from across the country. Other communities that received this prize were: Cicero, Illinois; Klamath County, Oregon; and San Antonio, Texas.

The Polis Institute contributed to this success by deploying our community engagement model and developing resident leadership. This program is called Leadership Eatonville which prepares participants to utilize a growth mindset, project management, and asset-based community development to help the community achieve meaningful goals. Leadership Eatonville was first piloted in 2016 and has graduated thirty-two residents thus far. Financial support for our efforts was provided by Winter Park Health Foundation which has had a long-standing relationship with the town and, along with Florida Hospital, established Healthy Eatonville Place – an initiative that contributed significantly to the town’s Culture of Health Prize win.

The heroes of the story, however, are without a doubt the residents of Eatonville – the oldest predominant black community in America. These residents, 2,200 strong, were determined to make their community flourish by improving quality of life while maintaining the historical character of the city. Along with the help of churches, government leaders, organizations, nonprofits, associations leading various programs, projects, and trainings, Eatonville has realized great improvements over the past few years in terms of health, resident leadership and engagement, housing, education, local economy, and community development.

After the discovery of high rates of diabetes, the town of Eatonville decided to take actions to be a healthier place. Town hall, nine local churches, Winter Park Health Foundation, Florida Hospital, and the Orlando Chapter of the American Diabetes Association all held an important role in addressing diabetes in the city. This was achieved through several initiatives surrounding wellness services such as, health classes, and studies on how to prevent or fight diabetes.

The existing nine churches in Eatonville took part in this effort to make Eatonville flourish through high school sports games, diabetes prevention programs, food pantries, fitness classes, and after school programs. Additionally, a brand new school opened in August with the support of the mayor, the churches, and local businesses. They sought to fulfill the students’ needs during the school year. STEM was also incorporated throughout the curriculum. With a great desire to empower the next generation of leaders, Eatonville prepares youth for success with the help of local leaders, non-profits, after school programs, and churches.

Read more about Eatonville’s award on the RWJF site by clicking here.

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American Ideals and Broad Based Prosperity

During this year’s Central Florida Poverty Conference held in June, Polis Institute Founder and Director Phil Hissom shared his response to a report on American Poverty from the Council of Human Rights at the United Nations.

Hissom comments on three specific issues raised in the report: the number of children in poverty, income inequality and incarceration rates. He also compares these issues to the core American values of liberty, egalitarianism, and democracy. Since there is a belief that these values will lead to wealth production, he posits the following question: Can we create a more broad-based prosperity in America through our current set of ideals?

These American ideals imply that production of wealth leads to the greatest good. In light of this, Hissom turns his focus to the business sector due to its ability to produce the wealth that is redistributed through the government and social sectors.

During his discussion he weighs the issue of children living in poverty against the value of egalitarianism. He explains the importance of positive labels on children, the education and support of children, their parents, and/or other parties who are raising them.

Next, he addresses the issue of income inequality and compares it to the value of democracy. He discusses the immense gap between groups of people due to wealth concentration and how that affects our electoral process.

He then addresses the issue of incarceration rates while contrasting it to the value of liberty. He explains that America has the highest incarceration rate in the world and how the poor are disproportionately affected by this issue. Along with this, he explains the issue of discrimination in the workforce. Despite low unemployment rates, wages are not enough to sustain a practical living.

Hissom believes that those core values (liberty, egalitarianism, democracy) are important in creating broad-based prosperity, but only by taking them more seriously. He also suggests that there are two other values which need to be elevated: dignity and interdependence, which he combines into what he calls “dignified interdependence”.

Dignity is the fundamental value of the human being and should foster an honest appreciation of what everyone has to offer. He emphasizes the significance of affirming people for who they are: human beings with inherent dignity that stems from being created in God’s image. He believes our job is to help people use their gifts so that they can have an impact on other people. Interdependence embodies the idea of people coming together for the good of the community. We will only reach our greatest potential when we all come together and celebrate our shared successes.

Does it trouble you that America is near the bottom of the list of developed countries in terms of how well we are addressing poverty? This video explains how we can best make use of our fundamental American values to move up that list and, more importantly, change lives and strengthen communities.