Today’s guest blogger is Harwood Certified Coach Carlton Sears. You can learn more about Carlton by visiting his bio on our site.

Carlton SearsThere’s award-winning music, wonderful parks and good neighbors in Youngstown, where I live.  It’s a pretty nice place, or was so until a few years ago when a couple of people were elected that didn’t jell. Their disagreements became a source of derision.  People began to talk about being embarrassed to live here. It wasn’t long before those leaders were replaced.

About this time a few residents began to talk about renewing the community pride that had been diminished. The few grew to many and eventually the group became a sounding board for the new leaders. As the group considered what to do, the suggestion was made to use Harwood’s community conversations. The conversations revealed things that were not expected. People talked about wanting to know their neighbors, about having block parties and wanting to work with town departments on abandoned property issues. They said pride would come with leaders that were open, honest and respectful.

Building on these insights, departments, union members, and elected officials of the town were brought together for another Harwood exercise. Town leaders hoped Community Rhythms would build bonds and trust. About halfway through, a comment was made that seemed to sum up the experience:

I have to start thinking about how my actions affect the community.’

I learned later that the comment came from one of the town’s most visible critics. Community rhythms had somehow succeeded at enabling individuals who had lived and worked together for years to gain a fuller understanding of the place they called home. They realized the impact of their actions on a larger scale.

In months since the town leaders have been easily re-elected. There seems to be an atmosphere of greater cooperation and respect. And the group that came together to instill pride has moved on.

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4 Responses to Change Happens in Youngstown

  1. Joanne Hala says:

    Interesting to hear that it was an individual’s self-reflection in the context of community that marked a critical turning point. Thank you for the reminder that both are key.

  2. Herb Schwartz says:

    Just this last week in the NY Times there was an article about Chatham in Chicago
    A neighborhood that is “holding its own” because of neighborhood groups, block groups, people helping one another. They actually got together to “take back a park” in their area. Chatham has a long history — a culture if you will–of neighborhood activity. Youngstown is world’s away from Chatham but it shows once people decide “its up to them” that “they can’t wait for others” good things can happen..

  3. Herb Schwartz says:

    My family lived in Chatham 50 years ago. It was a real neighborhood even then. Neighborhood groups, Block groups. People helping one another. It was written up in the New York times last week. Its now a black middle class neighborhood. Same culture. They know their actions affected their community.
    The people of Chatham and the people of Youngstown are worlds apart. I lived there too.
    They speak the same language. There is no “I” in community.

  4. [...] Mr. Cooney started off with the theme that Americans are yearning for a sense of community and because librarians are trusted members of the community and libraries are natural centers for community gathering. Both Cooney and Sullivan emphasized that they wanted to work with individual communities emphasizing “don’t want to adopt and not adapt.” This means that they do not want a one-size-fits-all approach to community engagement, but they want to respond to individual community needs. Cooney focused upon the Harwood Youngstown project. http://www.theharwoodinstitute.org/2013/01/change-happens-in-youngstown/ [...]