Barbara and her daughter are one of our core MVP Families. They look forward to every meeting and haven’t missed a single one. Last week, when Barbara didn’t get the reminder text for the upcoming meeting when she expected it, she called our Family Engagement Coordinator, Shawn, to make sure everything was on track and to see if he needed any help.
To these core families, MVP Families is becoming a very important part of life. In the past two sessions, families have built goals together beginning with academic goals for the children. They have also worked on two family goals – a health and wellness goal and a financial stability goal. Barbara is focused on reading more with her daughter so that she “learns the right words and is ready for school.” She has also set goals to eat healthier and to secure more hours at her job at Vacation Lodge.
This year we invite you to take a few minutes to reflect on what you love about the Polis Institute. Maybe it’s our foundational resources and trainings, like Dignity Serves or Asset-Based Community Development. Maybe our Growth Leadership program helped you dream again about what you’d like to see improved in your neighborhood. Perhaps it’s the monthly COOP meeting that inspires you or reminds you that people care about and are invested in our city’s well-being. Or maybe one of our initiatives shifted the way you view and value other people and how you do the work that you do. Whatever the impact you feel POLIS has made in your life, we encourage you to share your story on #MyGivingStory this holiday.
#MyGivingStory is a nationwide campaign and social media storytelling contest that will foster a public discussion about the reasons people give. Working in collaboration with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Facebook, “everyday givers” reflect upon why they give to a certain nonprofit organization and then share these personal stories on social media. (The winners’ featured nonprofit organizations will receive $2,500-10,000 grants.)
If you feel like you don’t have a lot to give this year, remember there are many ways to give back to the people and organizations that have shaped you – lend your voice and experience this year by filling out this short form. We’ll be glad to hear the impact we’ve had in folks lives over the years.
Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) involves leveraging what a community has to offer so that it can move itself towards a desired future. A first step in the process is typically some kind of inventory of what is there – talents of individuals, programs and facilities, informal groups, property – the whole nine yards. This information is captured, analyzed, and visualized so that connections can be made and initiatives can be created that benefit the community. The product of this inventory is often called an asset map.
Art is a great way to visualize these assets and can serve as a nice complement to the more common options of a tabular list or a map. The most useful asset maps include all three – artwork, a database, and on dynamic online map. All three can depict the same information but are just displayed in different formats, each with its own appeal. The tabular data gives you just the facts, the map shows you where assets are, and artwork provides emotional and narrative content.
This video describes an art project that POLIS led as part of the LIFT Orlando project:
The project described in the video above was fairly complex. POLIS was contracted by LIFT Orlando to do the asset mapping project and hired ArtWorks to do the creative process with the children. There was a lot of planning to conduct the sessions in four different locations that included a school and three community centers. There were expenses to pay and significant expertise from the ArtWorks staff to guide the students through the process. But the end result was amazing. The art from the kids was inspirational and aligned very closely with what over 1,500 adults had said in door-to-door surveys.
The survey information was entered into a database which was also loaded into a GIS (Geographic Information System). But the information was also visualized in a more artistic way, or at least a graphic way. This involved loading the responses into an online word cloud generator called WordItOut (there are several) that produced a graphic of all of the recorded words of responses to the survey questions. The more frequent the word, the larger the word in the graphic.
Three of the questions that POLIS asks during its asset surveys are depicted below followed by example word clouds from the LIFT project.
What is your favorite thing about the neighborhood?
What would you do to make the community a better place?
What is something that other people say you are good at?
These representations of what people say or imagine invoke much more of an emotive response than merely hearing a statistic or seeing a dot on a map. Data and maps are very helpful but less structured graphic and artistic representations of community assets can be especially helpful for unlocking ideas and vision – which are essential to making positive change. These images are presented at community meetings, along with stats and maps, to help build initiatives that are most likely to engage community interest and provide a tangibel community benefit.