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Register for Leadership Eatonville

Leadership Eatonville is a six-session workshop series for town residents that will enhance community leadership and entrepreneurial skills. Each participant will select a specific community initiative – existing or new – to work on using the principles and practical tips learned in the sessions. Workshop series is free for Eatonville residents. Non-residents may apply and will be included as space allows.

The workshop series will be held every other Thursday evening between August 10th and October 19th from 6:30pm to 9:00pm in the Denton Johnson Community Center. Graduates of the program will be eligible for additional one-on-one coaching sessions in the winter that will help them attract investment in the initiative that they are working on.

The class schedule is as follows:
Thursday, August 10
Thursday, August 24
Thursday, September 7
Thursday, September 21
Thursday, October 5
Thursday, October 19

The course is facilitated by the Polis Institute on behalf of the Healthy Eatonville Team. POLIS is an Orlando-based non-profit that facilitates positive community impact through research, training, and community engagement. Founded in 2009, POLIS has helped dozens of communities leverage their interests and skills to improve quality of life in ways that are most meaningful and beneficial to them. POLIS champions the inherent dignity and value of all people.

Please register here before attending the class.

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Introducing “Thirkield University”

In the fall of 2014, youth of the historic South Atlanta neighborhood began to articulate a vision and a plan to help kids from the neighborhood prepare for and succeed in college. The youth were guided in this effort by Malcolm Cox El, whose personal experiences and commitment to the cause fueled the initiative. Malcolm talks about TU in the video below. And he is more than one of the key founders of this effort. Malcolm is well on his way to becoming the first success story of TU as he enters the latter stages of his time in college at Georgia State University. His success is inspiring the 20 other youth who are currently involved in the program.

The program includes vital peer-to-peer support and helpful connections to supportive leadership and resources. While this is not a formal university, the youth believed that including the ‘university’ moniker would keep everyone focused on the goal – graduate from college with a vision for your life and your head held high. They named it for one of the streets in South Atlanta where the kids hang out – a street that happens to be named in honor of Wilbur Thirkield, an early twentieth century Methodist bishop and educator who championed the cause of education for African Americans.

Dan Crain has played an influential role in the process by encouraging Malcolm and other youth in the neighborhood to engage their talents over the past several years. He and Malcolm have co-facilitated Dignity Serves classes and have worked on numerous small projects together. The strength of their relationship and the things they are accomplishing are testaments to how much more we can do together than we can do alone.

Malcolm was afforded the opportunity to come on staff with POLIS part-time to build this initiative through a grant from Wesley Community Centers. He and Dan both joined Atlanta-based Church on the Street at the start of 2016 in order to mature this work and other efforts in Lakewood/South Atlanta.

Donate today to this important work.

 

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Orlando – least economically segregated large metro

Orlando is the least economically segregated large metro area in the United States according to a recent report update from sociologist Richard Florida.  This is good news for Orlando. Economic segregation, especially for the poor, has proven to be a significant social problem. Absent the social networks that open doors to the best of careers, the quality education that helps one obtain and succeed in those careers, and the role models that demonstrate the breadth of what is possible, the most talented and ambitious among us struggle to succeed.

And it’s not just about money. It’s the “deleterious social effects that accompany spatial concentration of poverty” – the stigmatization, the alienation, and the moral cynicism (Florida, Wilson, Sampson). These, and other factors, serve as psychological and sociological reinforcements that must be contended with to develop an abiding sense of one’s intrinsic self-worth even if one’s economic worth remains relatively low.

The level to which U.S. neighborhoods are economically segregated has more than doubled in the past forty years. The wealthy and the poor are becoming less and less likely to interact with one another and, as Richard Florida puts it, “effectively occupy different worlds.”

And since we tend to distrust that which we do not understand and tend to not understand that with which we do not interact, our economic segregation poses significant problems in building dignified relationships across socio-economic lines; the types of relationships that enrich perspective and facilitate opportunity.

From 1978 to 2012, in roughly the same time frame as the doubling of economic segregation, average CEO pay has risen 875 percent while the typical worker’s pay has risen 5 percent. These two facts are not completely disconnected. CEO pay is approved by board members who, most likely, are relatively high wage earners themselves. If these board members live in enclaves starkly separated from low wage earners, it’s not difficult to imagine the ease with which they might approve such disproportionate levels of CEO pay.

Said another way, when you do not know anyone personally who works a low-wage job, it’s easier to forget about them and to make decisions that adversely affect them without necessarily harboring any ill will towards them.

Currently, however, Orlando is less economically segregated than any other large metro. The main reason for this fact is the fundamental nature of the area’s economy – tourism and hospitality. Working and service class economies “militate against economic segregation” while knowledge-based economies tend to be the most economically segregated (R. Florida). Said another way, high-tech, creative class workers with college degrees seem to leverage their options to separate themselves from the poor.

Attracting these workers, and the industries that employ them, is a priority for many leaders in Central Florida who see diversifying the economy as one of the best ways to strengthen the region. There is wisdom in this goal. Orlando’s service sector economy has proven to be very vulnerable to national and even international economic downturns.

But if Orlando succeeds in diversifying the economy by becoming more high-tech, it will likely become much more economically segregated. Either way, Orlando’s population will almost certainly continue to grow and larger urban areas tend to be more economically segregated.

While Orlando is the least economically segregated large metro (more than one million people), it is still ranked 203 out of the 350 metros that were analyzed in the study. Orlando is economically segregated, just less so than other large areas. Add the inevitable population increase and a successful move to a more knowledge-based economy, and Orlando will drop further down the list unless steps are taken to prevent it.

So what steps could Orlando take to improve its economic diversity?

  1. Focus on neighborhoods – If our distressed neighborhoods become more desirable places to live, those with a wider range of choices will choose to move in or to not move out of these communities. According to Richard Florida’s study, it is the migration of the wealthy to exclusive enclaves that most propels economic segregation. Polis Institute identified 100 distressed neighborhoods in 2009 and outlined a best-practice driven plan to remediate this distress over a generation (distress was calculated as an index of income, housing, education, family structure, and crime rate variables). Five years into the process, tangible progress is being made in over 20 of these neighborhoods. Continuing to utilize asset-based strategies with the residents of small geographic areas is still the best option to strengthen these areas.

 

  1. Choose diversity – Nothing fuels economic segregation more than personal choice. If people don’t personally see the value of living in and interacting with economically diverse communities, they will not choose to do so. So value-espousing institutions such as churches have a responsibility to communicate the value of diversity. This may require a learning curve or even a wholesale paradigm shift for the leaders of such institutions. The book Place not Race makes a strong case that diverse classrooms are far more adept at raising educational achievement levels than merely providing additional resources. Living life with people of different backgrounds and social status proves over and over to be of benefit to everyone involved. But such diversity doesn’t always come easy. It has to be worked for and in order for people to work for it, they have to value it. In order to value it, they have to understand it.

Orlando is changing. The four counties that make up the metro area (Orange, Seminole, Osceola, and Lake) have seen a net population increase of 88 people per day, every day, for over 40 years and counting (U.S. Census, ESRI). As more people call this area home, as leaders work to attract more knowledge-based businesses, as world-class venues get upgraded and built, Orlando is becoming a big city.

Orlando’s emergence on the big city scene affords it a tremendous opportunity – to show the country how a big city can still enjoy economic diversity and afford its citizens, all of its citizens, genuine opportunity to rise with the tide. By improving quality of life in distressed neighborhoods and by embracing diversity at the personal level, Orlando could accomplish what no other major city in the U.S. has been able to accomplish – retaining richly diverse communities that grow and thrive together.

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Lift Orlando

The initial POLIS research, conducted between 2006 and 2009, highlighted the first social problem that we designed a solution for – concentrated poverty. Key to our model is a galvanized group of high capacity leaders willing to make a long-term investment with a particular neighborhood. Such a group is rare but in 2013, Lift Orlando formed with a focus to do just that within a 3/4 square mile area just west of downtown Orlando. Polis has provided strategic consultation, baseline demographics, and a comprehensive asset map of that very same neighborhood since before Lift was created. So, the two companies teamed up to organize the local community to build initiatives that have significant community involvement with real community leadership. Since July, roughly 80 residents have been regularly involved developing five different initiatives: engaging the youth, improving a community park, enhancing access to technology, increasing economic development, and improving housing conditions.

To gain more information to support those initiatives, Polis conducted the largest privately-funded community survey ever done in Central Florida. We went door-to-door and surveyed 1,500 adults at five community events.

In the meantime, we worked with Orange Center Elementary and with the Jackson Center to involve children, who painted over 70 inspired pieces of artwork to add to the festivities. Both the survey and the art project were done to discover the interests, hopes, and concerns of the residents of this downtown historic neighborhood – with the hope of also finding leaders willing to guide the way to a brighter future. Since those events, eight people from the community have been trained and hired to do the bulk of the work. Their efforts were complemented by over 80 volunteers and supported by two Polis staff members. Over the course of eight months, nearly 30,000 hours were spent on the project. The result: in addition to the invaluable conversations and relationships that formed, over 200 people stepped up to get involved from the neighborhood and 12 ideas were revealed as areas of greatest importance. These ideas are coming together to positively impact housing, education, income, and wellness.

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Florida Citrus Sports

Florida Citrus Sports (FCS) was established to benefit children in Central Florida and it has utilized its sporting and entertainment events, which take place at the Citrus Bowl, to do just that. Large-scale sporting venues do not typically bring prosperity to the communities in which they reside, but FCS wants to break from the norm. When they decided that they wanted to use the redevelopment of the stadium to benefit the neighborhoods around the stadium, they asked Polis to help. Earlier in 2014, we helped reorient their long-standing summer camp so that nearly all of its campers were from the neighborhood immediately adjacent to the stadium-which was no small feat. We trained and employed people from the neighborhood to knock on every door and invite every child to the camp. The result: the camp went from less than 5% neighborhood kids in 2013 to over 95%, in the course of just one year. And that was just the beginning, as FCS and Polis continue to invest in long-term relationships with the families who live near the stadium.

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Northland, A Church Distributed

Northland Church has been a leader in serving the community for many years. The leadership is now guiding its flock towards a new paradigm of service through a campaign they are calling “Serving to Empower.” We began coaching their leadership team and providing key trainings to facilitate the transition into the campaign, along with the metrics to evaluate its impact. To date, we have trained 130 parishioners in the Dignity Serves course and brought on 14 new, certified Dignity Serves facilitators.

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Bags Inc.

Bags, Inc. is a fast growing hospitality services company based in Orlando. They are also a very generous company in terms of charitable gifts and even direct their staff to involve themselves in charitable work. In early 2014, when they realized that their largely entry-level workforce consisted of some of the same people who may be in need of social support, they sought Polis’ help to learn how they could better serve their employees.

We conducted random surveys and focus groups in order to provide the most helpful recommendations. The yielded results that showed the company had three issues they needed to address: 1) one related to basic human needs, which required immediate intervention; 2) one related to the stability of home life, healthcare, and transportation; and 3) one related to personal development such as employment status, education, and language proficiency. Over-all, our recommendations led to corporate actions to face these challenges head on.

Equip

A solution is only truly innovative if it is actionable. We provide ongoing training and coaching for our partners in the skills necessary to achieve their goals. We equip those concerned about effectively addressing complex social problems in four ways:

  • Public Speaking
  • Training
  • Coaching
  • Consulting

Keep an eye on our events calendar or sign-up for our newsletter to learn about upcoming learning opportunities.

To set up a discovery session to see if a coaching or consulting package is right for you contact us at info@polisinstitute.org or 866-757-1334.