In August Southwest Solutions and the Vista Partnership with support from the Skillman Foundation engaged Chicago ToP trainers Dennis Jennings and Judy Weddle to customize a ToP Facilitation Methods training for a group of partners and stakeholders working on community renewal in Southwest Detroit.
The Vista Partnership project seeks to address long-term disinvestment and economic decline in three neighborhoods spanning a 20-block area. Recognizing residents as the key drivers of change in their own neighborhoods, the project is bringing them together and creating spaces where they can turn their hopes for their neighborhoods into reality.
The project started with local youth and adult leaders and local business owners engaging residents in one-on-one and group conversations about the types of developments they would like to see in their neighborhood. The ideas have flowed; for example, one early envisioned project is developing empty lots in small scale ways such as community gardens, pop-up art events and musical performances. The ToP training will strengthen the partners' ability to maximize the impact of neighborhood meetings and to create a long-term platform for neighborhood-level citizen action as they look to commercial development.
Dan Pederson, Director of the Vista Partnership in Southwest Detroit shared his positive experience using ToP methods with a meeting of 40 veterans to develop "Park Rules" for a new park. He found the training to be "invaluable, as within 30 seconds of starting, a couple [members] of the group tried to dominate the discussion...I was able to respectfully listen and then direct us back to the question...We ended up with some great park rules that were created by the veterans present...My training helped to give everyone a voice and it did not shut out the most dominant, but leveled the volume in a way that everyone felt heard."