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!

Trib Talks: What’s Happened So Far

The Columbia Tribune launched its “Trib Talks Forums” as part of a joint learning exchange with the Kettering Foundation in May 2015, starting with an issue guide on politics and democracy.  One purpose of this exchange is to look at ways in which the media can help strengthen the citizen voice in our evolving political system.As part of the learning exchange we are experimenting with different kinds of dialogue platforms and hosting dialogues on those topics that those who participate want to discuss.

The first forums were on-line and used the “Cover It Live” platform that was designed for sports.  You can view transcripts of these forums on the Trib Talks Forums archive page.  An in-person forum, co-hosted by the League of Women Voters and the Minority Men’s Network was held at the ARC in September 2015. We also asked for and received feedback through surveys and polls.

Although citizens raised many specific issues, including those relating to jobs, safety, and development, the overall focus was on the question of who we are and where we are going as a community.

In 2008 a report from a citizen-led visioning process sponsored by the city included this stated goal: “Columbia will be an inclusive community where people from all walks of life hear, appreciate, understand, respect, and trust each other, and where positive relationships are fostered and human rights are advanced.” In our 2015 dialogues citizens indicated continuing interest in this type of goal, and expressed concern with a “lack of community”.

Lack of a common vision for our future was another theme across the forums, reinforced by comments like “we seem to be drifting” or “In Columbia folks seem to be saying, ‘If it’s not on my side of town, I don’t care.'”

Forum participants also asked questions like “are we an us?” and “what would it be like if we could come together as one WHOLE community?”  These are questions worth pursuing and we are interested in your thoughts.

You can participate in further dialogue on this blog, or join us at our scheduled forum, February 11, 2016 at the ARC, 1701 W. Ash St, 7 to 9 pm.