At Sarasota Community Studio,
we recognize that:
A community is not built, it emerges. It emerges as people and great ideas coalesce around the positive. It begins somewhere, on the block, in a particular neighborhood, when neighbors are making decisions and taking action as the primary community change agents.
We also recognize that kids are particularly talented as neighbors. They are naturally inclined to be curious, playful, social, and joyful. They are storytellers and boundary-crossers, too. These are not only the qualities that make for great neighbors, but also the very qualities of social innovators.
So by following the lead of kids, together as neighbors, we can bring about the thriving of our home community. And in doing so, kids thrive too.
Sarasota Community Studio is INNOVATIVE
because of our focus on:
Community-Building Talents of Neighborkids
While many community initiatives focus on kids, they typically are created to educate, care for or “fix” children, and usually are led by adults rather than children. When the emphasis is on deficits, the strengths and talents of children go under-utilized and potential for social innovation is stifled. These efforts orient around the wisdom and talents of children as neighbors.
Neighbors Coming Together
Because neighbors are initiating and leading these efforts as “first investors,” this is community changemaking that is “inside out, from the inside out.” Many community initiatives start with the belief that certain neighborhoods are weak or damaged and need to be fixed, and that the primary sources of improvement exist outside the neighborhood – with professionals in institutions such as government, social services, schools, nonprofit organizations and/or foundations. When that happens it undermines the independent spirit and collective efficacy of the neighborhood and further squanders the potential for social innovation. While there is a role for resources, services, professionals and institutions that exist outside the neighborhood, in Central-Cocoanut these are recognized as “second investors,” invited by neighbors to partner for the sake of positive community change.
Central-Cocoanut of Newtown: The Neighborhood
The place of focus for these efforts is a neighborhood, as defined by residents. Community change initiatives often address an area that is much larger than a single neighborhood, or is determined by boundaries that do not reflect the way residents naturally connect with one another, such as zip codes, census tracts or school attendance zones. When residents are not within walking distance of one another, this diminishes the capacity to connect as fellow neighbors and genuinely self-organize as a neighborhood.
Neighbors are designing and creating the changes neighbors want to see in Central-Cocoanut and the broader community, and in the process inventing new approaches to child and community well-being. Hubs established for community change efforts are typically located in institutions such as schools, social service agencies or churches/faith communities, are usually established by professionals who live elsewhere rather than neighbors themselves, and are almost always about replication rather than invention. When this happens neighbors are not the primary creative force, and stewardship rests largely with people outside the neighborhood.
Often developmental milestones and measures of success are defined by people, groups or institutions that are external to the neighborhood, and indicators of children’s well-being are defined by adults rather than kids themselves. When this happens, local wisdom is denied and cannot be utilized for the sake of the neighborhood and broader community. When positive change is defined and emerges from within the neighborhood, the dynamics of transformation are not just unleashed – they are “off the chain!”
Check out SIGNS OF THRIVING to see what changes we will be paying attention to here in our Central-Cocoanut neighborhood.