[ Update ]
Overall, the one-day conference presented a positive picture of the multiple applications for community/government partnerships that have been formed throughout the nine, targeted IWA communities in Illinois. Those communities include East St. Louis, Englewood, Harvey, Humboldt Park, Little Village, Maywood, North Lawndale, Rock Island, and Southern Seven Counties.
What became evident early on was the broad array of programs that have been initiated under the auspices of the IWA funds. Among those were a public library, health clinics, computer labs/training, recreational events, economic development and mentoring programs. The common thread among the projects was the goal of impacting system change in the distressed communities. Speakers challenged the audience with some of the following: question the box you are in; don't over-promise; use a strength-based assessment of communities; take data and translate it into stories while asking the question, "If I talk to community members would they say the same thing as the data?"; use passion effectively, but learn to pick your battles; to maximize resources, start by understanding what resources are; and finally, relate public policy to how it affects communities.
I was personally inspired by two workshops facilitated by community developers. They expressed gratitude for IWA funds that have given them the autonomy to fashion their own programs. Advice that came from the workshops was that each community must define and clarify each party's role in the community. They suggested that the planning process was fluid - it changes and evolves. And finally, that it is vital to create institutions within our communities that will sustain economic development.
There was a general sense at the workshop that, the programs initiated by IWA can demonstrate quantifiable positive impact in their respective communities. Because of this effect and the interest in an ongoing program, there was hope that that program funds would be continued with the new administration, no matter who that may be. On a personal and professional level, I am very grateful to have been able to attend the workshop. It gave me a greater sense of the many ways ESLARP/NTAC can use the funds to make positive changes in the East St. Louis Enterprise communities.
Link to the IWA Web Page
Document author(s) : Carole Mayhall, MSW
Last modified: 07 October 2002, Deanna Koenigs