Are We An Us? Download The Guide And Join The Conversation!

“City asks for citizen input and then doesn’t do anything with it.”

“Vision, don’t forget VISION!!!”

“We don’t know our neighbors.”

“What would it be like if we could come together as one WHOLE community?”

Our past forums have made it clear that the citizens of Columbia are concerned about where we are going as a community. Our new community dialogue guide, titled Are We An Us?, shares the thoughts, ideas, and actions that have been captured to date.  You can download the guide and join the conversation.  Join in on this blog, on our next forum, or in your own backyard!  Our Neighbor2Neighbor guide walks you through the process of hosting your own conversation with friends and neighbors and reporting back in.

Our next forum is an on-line chat forum, hosted by Columbia Daily Tribune managing editor Jim Robertson, Tuesday July 21 from 5 to 6 pm. To join, go to on Tuesday and follow the link.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Our Town – Join Us Online June 21 at 5 pm

Did you know that between 2010 and 2015, Columbia grew twice as fast as Springfield and three times as fast as Kansas City? That more than 50 languages are spoken in our public schools? That we have students from more than 77 different countries? Find out more about how growth brings both diversity and prosperity and much more in the Columbia Daily Tribune’s 2016 Our Town guide. Print copies were included in the Sunday paper June 12 and can be purchased at the Tribune’s offices.

Join us online for a Trib Talks forum June 21 at 5 pm to talk about Our Town and its future.

Are We An Us? Part 2

For the last month we have been meeting with our community partners, finalizing our dialogue guide, and returning to the Kettering Foundation to discuss our learning exchange.  Later this month we will launch our guide, titled “Are We An Us? A Guide for Dialogue About Community” along with a schedule of activities. Look for that on this blog!  You are welcome to download the guide and host your own discussion with your friends, family, neighborhood association, service organization or other group.

Also last month Columbia was named the 4th largest city in Missouri, passing Independence.  This reflects rapid growth over the past decade, and that growth continues.  Columbia passed the 100,000 mark in 2008 and is projected to exceed 200,000 by 2030.  As our forum participants observed, that growth has stressed our community in many ways.

How do we create or maintain a sense of community as we grow? Talking with each other across lines of race, place, and income is one way to do that. We hope to foster that conversation here and in other forums. Join in the conversation and watch for the guide!

More Divides

In addition to healing divisions reflecting age, class and race,  participants in our February forum further identified a need to build bridges of communication and collaboration between City and County governments, City government and citizens, and  citizens and City staff.  The Battle students raised the question of how to strengthen connections between schools and community. Several people observed that without proactive dialogue between citizens, planners, and elected leaders, Columbia runs the risk of developing a geographic divide between North and South Columbia, like the geographic divides that exist in the St. Louis area.    Holding regular community dialogues within school buildings could begin to address some of these issues.

Other communities, including  Carbondale IL, have used sustained community dialogue to help solve difficult issues.  Columbia headed in that direction with the Imagine Columbia’s Future visioning process, although that dialogue was not sustained following that process in the ways envisioned by the public.  What could a “community commons” for dialogue look like in Columbia?  What might we accomplish by working together?

Building Bridges – Healing Divides

Participants in our February 11 forum identified many ways in which Columbia is divided. These included divides between neighbors and neighborhoods that reflect differences in race, age, income, and political affiliation. These divides need more than a bridge to bring people together – underlying distrust, fear and anger need to be addressed as well.

An articulate and thoughtful group of students from Battle High School attended the forum.  These students have been working hard at creating programs to help students work through the community divisions that are reflected within their school.  We have invited them to tell us more on this blog, both through the comment section and in future posts.

There are other groups working in the community to build bridges or heal divides.  These include Race Matters, Friends and Diversity Awareness Partnership.  If you are involved in an effort to bring diverse groups together in dialogue let us know in the comment section below.


Dialogue Builds Bridges


“Groups of people getting together and talking is never a waste of time!  That is the only way to build communities.”

“Need more open democratic system for discussion.”

“People can’t seem to disagree without it getting personal.”

These were all comments made by citizens who attended the recent Trib Talks forum “Are We An Us?

It was an energizing exchange that resulted in much productive dialogue and several ideas for action. We will be posting more of the comments and ideas shared on the three themes – Building Bridges, Citizen-Centered Planning, and Addressing Inequities – over the next few weeks.   In the meantime, view more pictures and resources in this summary from reporter Alicia Stice.

Keep the conversation going and join us!

Join Us Thursday Feb 11 at 7 pm

Join us tomorrow evening for the Trib Talks forum “Are We An Us?’  The world-cafe style forum will be held at the ARC, 1701W. Ash St., at 7 pm. We will dig deeper into themes that emerged during our last session and our on-line forums.

These were citizen centered planning, addressing inequities, and building bridges.

What is citizen-centered planning?  One thing it involves is leadership that accurately informs citizens.  During our last forum citizens expressed a desire for the Trib to make it easier for them to track coverage on complex issues, like the current transmission line controversy.  The Trib has responded with a new archive on infrastructure issues.  Come and share additional thoughts on how our planning for growth might be improved.

There are many groups in Columbia working to address needs for food and shelter.  Affordable housing, and outreach through efforts like Project Homeless Connect have been in the news. Bring your ideas on what more might be done.

And over the last month uniting the diverse elements of our community has been a theme of many events – from the the city-sponsored diversity breakfast, to a unity concert, to a multicultural cooking class sponsored by the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture. Come and share your thoughts on how we might bridge our gaps.

Join us at the ARC and here on-line!



Poverty and Our Community

The Tribune’s City Editor Matt Sanders presented the facts on the number of children receiving free and reduced price lunch in our schools in an op-ed Sunday.  He also outlined what the schools are doing to help children in poverty.  Several of those who commented on the article were less than sympathetic.

What kind of community do we want to be?  “Are We An Us?” was a question raised in our past forums and will be the topic of our next forum scheduled for next Thursday evening, February 11, at the ARC, from 7 to 9 pm.  Join us as we explore questions related to community here in Columbia, MO.

Another opportunity for information and dialogue directly related to the questions Matt raised occurs Monday night, February 8, 6 pm, also at the ARC, as the Cradle to Career Alliance screens the film “Wounded Places“.  This film explores the effects that chronic poverty has on children.  Members of the Minority Men’s Network and the Worley Street Roundtable will facilitate the post movie discussion.

And if you want to take Matt’s challenge to explore your assumptions about poverty, here is a place to begin: Poverty USA.

Building Bridges

Another strategy identified in past forums for restoring a sense of community was for different groups to get together with those they don’t regularly talk or work with in order to get to know each other.  And participants emphasized the importance of listening.

These last two weeks provided several opportunities for people to come together, whether to talk about common interests, such as the dialogue held by the Cradle to Career Alliance on January 11 as part of their “Raising of America” video series; to celebrate our diverse community as many did at the 2016 Columbia Values Diversity celebration; or simply to come together in fellowship and support as others did at the breakfast buffet held at St. Luke United Methodist Church.

Here are some quotes from the week, all aligned with the strategy of building bridges:

“We are one. There’s no color -we’re all just one.  And when we can decide that we’re one, then Columbia can unite together.”  – Rev. James Gray, Second Missionary Baptist Church, quoted in the Columbia Missourian Jan. 19, 2016

“There are people that need a meal, and we have a meal for them.” – Annabelle Simmons, St. Luke United Methodist Church, quoted in the Columbia Daily Tribune Jan. 18, 2016

“We stop exploring, we stop challenging ourselves to learn.” – Brenda Jackson, Stephens College Student Government Association President, quoted in the Columbia Daily Tribune, Jan. 19, 2016

“I’m pleased we honor diversity, and eventually we will get to a more accepting community – we just have to keep moving forward in recognizing and accepting each other’s differences.”  Barbra Horrell,  Columbia Values Diversity 2016 Individual Honoree, quoted in the Columbia Daily Tribune, Jan. 14, 2016


Are We An Us?

The Trib Talks forums to date have made it clear that the citizens of Columbia are concerned about where we are going as a community.  The rapid growth over the last 10 years has resulted in tensions and stressed existing divides of place and race, town and gown, “old” and “new” Columbia.  How can we as citizens heal the divides?  Key approaches discussed during the forums were to use more “citizen centered” planning,  address existing inequities, and build bridges between groups. We will consider each of these further on this blog, and on our February 11 forum.  Add your thoughts below, or take our survey.