Last month, on April 22nd, We the People held our first community visioning! With over 40 people in attendance, our potluck-style gathering was a huge success. The positive energy in the room was tangible and every single attendee had something affirmative to say in our closing. “Inspiring,” “exciting,” and “motivating,” were just a few of the words floating around the room.
Spirit in Action’s We the People organizing initiative is located in the unincorporated community of Swannanoa, North Carolina. We have been conducting a listening project in collaboration with Warren Wilson students for over a year now, and has interviewed well over 200 community members in Swannanoa. Through this listening project, we’ve identified the top concerns, and this big event was our first step towards making the transition from listening to action.
Of course, this event was aligned with Spirit in Action’s values of listening, collective visioning, and building trust. We held the potluck in the basement of the Swannanoa United Methodist Church, which is where the Welcome Table (featured in our last blog post) is located. It was a laid back, upbeat atmosphere. After we all had our fill of food, Linda led the room in a creative visioning process, asking community members to envision a happy, healthy Swannanoa. Everyone closed their eyes and imagined what Swannanoa could look like 20 years from now. We were each asked to picture a child we know in Swannanoa, and to dream of what we wanted this community to be like when that child was older. Then, in typical Linda fashion, we pulled out the art supplies and drew that ideal community. This envisioned community had sidewalks, traffic signs, hospitals, public transportation and a true sense of community. Just by drawing a town that had positive energy, the room filled with positive energy.
Once the creativity level was high and our minds were wide open with the possibilities, we voted on the top 3 community concerns (identified through the listening project) and formed 3 committees: public transportation, sidewalks, and the revitalization of downtown. We split ourselves between those 3 committees and got to work. As the ideas bounced between community members, you could feel the energy in the room! Everyone had something to contribute and by the end of the evening, each committee had solid action steps to take forward.
During the months of May and June, We the People interns will be busy researching next steps for these three issues in Swannanoa. We will be hosting follow-up meetings with each committee and working with community members to develop leadership for these committees in order to start moving Swannanoa towards a better future! Stay tuned for many more success stories to come.