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Nov. Lunch & Learn: Orlando Neighborhood Improvement (MO CO-OP)

MO CO-OP (Metro Orlando Cooperative for Thriving Neighborhoods) is a membership association improving quality of life in distressed Central Florida neighborhoods. Each month the CO-OP covers a topic related to Asset-Based Community Development and shares lessons learned from the field.

NON-MEMBERS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME. Current members include  LIFT Orlando, POLIS, Kaley Square, First Presbyterian Church, Emmanuel Fellowship, St. Lukes United Methodist Church, South Street Ministry, and 306 Foundation.

If you are involved in community work or would like to become involved, the CO-OP is a great place to meet-up with like minded individuals and organizations.

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Oct. Lunch & Learn: Orlando Neighborhood Improvement (MO CO-OP)

MO CO-OP (Metro Orlando Cooperative for Thriving Neighborhoods) is a membership association improving quality of life in distressed Central Florida neighborhoods. Each month the CO-OP covers a topic related to Asset-Based Community Development and shares lessons learned from the field.

NON-MEMBERS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME. Current members include  LIFT Orlando, POLIS, Kaley Square, First Presbyterian Church, Emmanuel Fellowship, St. Lukes United Methodist Church, South Street Ministry, and 306 Foundation.

If you are involved in community work or would like to become involved, the CO-OP is a great place to meet-up with like minded individuals and organizations.

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Sept. Lunch & Learn: Orlando Neighborhood Improvement (MO CO-OP)

MO CO-OP (Metro Orlando Cooperative for Thriving Neighborhoods) is a membership association improving quality of life in distressed Central Florida neighborhoods. Each month the CO-OP covers a topic related to Asset-Based Community Development and shares lessons learned from the field.

NON-MEMBERS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME. Current members include  LIFT Orlando, POLIS, Kaley Square, First Presbyterian Church, Emmanuel Fellowship, St. Lukes United Methodist Church, South Street Ministry, and 306 Foundation.

If you are involved in community work or would like to become involved, the CO-OP is a great place to meet-up with like minded individuals and organizations.

Aug. Lunch & Learn: Orlando Neighborhood Improvement (MO CO-OP)

MO CO-OP (Metro Orlando Cooperative for Thriving Neighborhoods) is a membership association improving quality of life in distressed Central Florida neighborhoods. Each month the CO-OP covers a topic related to Asset-Based Community Development and shares lessons learned from the field.

NON-MEMBERS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME. Current members include  LIFT Orlando, POLIS, Kaley Square, First Presbyterian Church, Emmanuel Fellowship, St. Lukes United Methodist Church, South Street Ministry, and 306 Foundation.

If you are involved in community work or would like to become involved, the CO-OP is a great place to meet-up with like minded individuals and organizations.

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The Value of Play

It’s the summer of 1966 at the University of Texas: A typical college campus day with young adults strolling across the courtyard, chatting about the latest hot topics, loosely clutching textbooks in the heat, and perhaps fewer students than normal due to it being a summer session. Claire Wilson James and John Fox are names you might not know, but they are two of the survivors of a mass shooting by a lone wolf that left 16 dead and several wounded on campus that day. There are a myriad of articles related to this tragic moment in American History and even a documentary called “Tower” that details it from a unique perspective.

After the shooting, psychiatrist Dr. Stuart Brown was charged to examine the mental state of the shooter. What he found consistently both in the shooter, and in 26 other convicted murderers in the Texas State Penitentiary was a severe lack of free play during their childhood. It led Dr. Brown to carry out extensive research on the long-term effects of play on people. After examining 6000 subjects trying to quantify the effects of play throughout childhood, Dr. Brown found that those who experienced more play had similar characteristics as adults: light-heartedness, empathy, optimism, hopefulness, and adaptability. As he put it all these traits “seemed to be a by-product of their playful time together.” Dr. Stuart Brown went on to found the National Institute for Play which now specializes in ongoing research related to this topic.

The Polis Institute works to infuse strategies like this into the distressed neighborhoods we serve. One example is our weekly Diverse Word gathering at Lake Lorna Doone Park in Orlando where we create opportunities for play through poetry and games. At this weekly event, I recently experienced a twofold revelation as it relates to the game of chess.

I heard from a volunteer about an OCPS Title One middle school team that had ranked highly in a chess tournament. This led to me research the effects of playing chess on academic achievement, and the outcomes I came across were astounding: chess exercises both sides of the brain, increases creativity, memory, problem-solving skills, reading, concentration, and the list goes on. I began to teach myself how to play with the hope of becoming a cheerleader of sorts for chess and thus change the world! If only it were that easy, right? But I do feel like I’m on to something.

The second part of this revelation was that chess is played every day at Lake Lorna Doone Park. I know because I have seen it with my own eyes, and have been crushed by opponents in this game of intense logic and strategy. It then dawned on me that the game of chess just might be the greatest common denominator across existing social structures where we work in 32805.

The Polis Institute utilizes both our own research and experience, combined with leading studies, actionable solutions, and best practices to seek the welfare of the city. While there are no silver bullets to solving complex social issues and championing human dignity, playing a game of chess with our neighbors can increase our community’s social, emotional, and intellectual resources.

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Placemaking Through Artistic Expression

Back in 2006, I started an open mic in Orlando, FL called “Diverse Word.” I was a 23-year-old idealist who thought my city could use some diversity within the art of spoken word poetry. It became a success in terms of vision actualized, attendance, and the profit it brought to the local café that hosted it. I heard story after story of how meaningful this open mic was to patrons outside of the obvious enjoyment of free entertainment.

At the ten-year mark last year, I sought to document some of those stories and realized how important it was for forums like this to exist. I heard things like, “I was diagnosed with cancer and I came to the open mic to see how other people dealt with their issues. It was therapeutic for me and I have since been cancer-free.” I’m not saying that poetry cures cancer, but creating a safe space for expression does allow for the sacred spaces of human dreams and desires to be heard and tapped into. The positive outcomes from that expression were a byproduct of the original intent.

Something unique happens when people regularly gather together and express their dreams and desires. I noticed it at my open mic nights. And I learned it while working in communities for Polis Institute. It led me to initiate an open mic arts night that includes music at Lake Lorna Doone Park. We are interested in seeing how this and other opportunities for community art and dialogue will transform this public city space and hopefully create a more welcoming environment for children and families. We’ve collaborated with ArtReach Orlando, and on the Southwest corner of the park, under the broad shade of a tree, set up a blank canvas with paint. What effect will this have on the nearby schools and residents in 10 years?

Amanda Burden is a former NYC city commissioner who now consults globally to improve urban public spaces. She believes that cities must have enjoyable accessible public space to thrive, and has described them as “the glue that holds a city together, and…make[s] people want to live in a city and stay in a city.” In a Ted Talk on the subject, she summed up her philosophy with the thought that “a successful city is like a fabulous party. People stay because they are having a great time.”

As the community of Orlando develops and strengthens all parts of our city, it seems to me that our direction should be to help people have a great time! At a truly fabulous party, everyone gets a turn on the dance floor and the DJ takes all requests. Intentional opportunities for artistic expression can invite in people that don’t always have a voice in the life of the city.

Join us on any given Tuesday for the fabulous party of expression known as Diverse Word: from 4 to 6pm at Lake Lorna Doone Park and from 7:30 to 10pm at Dandelion Communitea Café.

 

 

For more of Amanda Burden’s thoughts on public space, you can watch her 2014 Ted talk or read up on a 2016 NPR interview.

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May Lunch & Learn: Orlando Neighborhood Improvement (MO CO-OP)

MO CO-OP (Metro Orlando Cooperative for Thriving Neighborhoods) is a membership association improving quality of life in distressed Central Florida neighborhoods. Each month the CO-OP covers a topic related to Asset-Based Community Development and shares lessons learned from the field.

NON-MEMBERS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME. Current members include  LIFT Orlando, POLIS, Kaley Square, First Presbyterian Church, Emmanuel Fellowship, St. Lukes United Methodist Church, South Street Ministry, and 306 Foundation.

If you are involved in community work or would like to become involved, the CO-OP is a great place to meet-up with like minded individuals and organizations.