Berea has a high level of civic and social engagement as indicated by the more than 100 registered non-profit organizations located in the city. Churches and schools are important focal points for bringing people together. City festivals and events such as the First Friday gatherings in Old Town are attractive to both locals and tourists. Thom Price’s network However, turnout for local elections is often low and community participation in city planning and zoning discussions is very limited. Issues such as the Fairness ordinance and the sale of alcohol expose social divisions, and a long-standing town/gown split persists.
First Friday Berea: Community block party
First Friday Berea is a monthly block party sponsored by Berea Tourism and the Village Trough, a worker-owned restaurant in Berea. The block party takes on a festival feel, with a variety of local businesses and artisan vendor booths set up along the streets of Old Town. Live music and performances are special highlights of the party, allowing people from the community to walk among the booths, talk with vendors, purchase dinner, and sit and enjoy the entertainment. First Friday Berea is a no pressure way to meet people from the community and college and build relationships with local businesses. This is especially important for students of Berea College, who may not otherwise know what resources are available to them through the city of Berea.
Brushy Fork Institute
Founded in 1988 by John B. Stephenson, a former president of Berea College, Brushy Fork Institute mission is to develop local leadership in mountain communities. Brushy Fork remains a program of the Berea College Appalachian Center, located on Berea’s campus. Brushy Fork Institute works to develop strong leadership in Appalachian communities in Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. Each September, Brushy Fork offers Annual Institute with a variety of leadership training, organizational development workshops and technical assistance to communities working for a better future. Brushy Fork also administers Appalachian Regional Commission Flex-E-Grants distributed to distressed counties in eastern Kentucky, overseeing more than a million dollars funds for capacity-building projects.
Examples From Other Communities
The Highline: From freight rail line to a free public park
The Highline, also known as High Line Park, is a 1.45-mile linear park built on a section of an abandoned rail line in New York City. The construction started in 2005 and the first section was opened for the public in June 9, 2009. The High Line is owned by the City of New York, and maintained and operated by Friends of the High Line. The Highline has become an extraordinary public space for all visitors to enjoy its trees, wildflowers and grasses. Also, many community events, public art, food and drink offerings, festivals are going on here all year round. An unused structure has been repurposed into an urban park.
Pumpipumpe Mailbox Stickers: Sharing among neighbors
Based in Switzerland, Pumpipumpe began as a way for cyclists to know which houses along a given street had tire pumps available to borrow. It evolved into a way to know what your neighbors have that they are willing to loan out. Pumpipumpe stickers show images of common household appliances and other, less conventional things that you or your neighbors care to share, like wi-fi access. With this level of cooperation, it’s no longer necessary for everyone on the block to own every single appliance. Afterall, why buy when you can borrow?
Transition Streets: Collaboration among households
Transition Streets is an initiative of Transition Town Totnes and seeks to build community cohesion by bringing together neighbors, one street at a time. One neighbor or community group can request Streets-wise training from the Transition Streets offices. They then gather their neighbors and begin holding informal meetings with them to discuss ways to reduce energy costs in each household. The initiative works by increasing awareness of what can be done to reduce energy use, along with making each person aware of what their neighbors are doing, a subtle form of peer pressure that encourages small changes with big impacts.
Clear Creek Festival: Education and community-building
The Clear Creek Festival is an interactive, community-based weekend event held annually at the end of August. The Festival includes a wide variety of workshops, entertainers, and educational events allowing local organizations and individuals to weigh in on social and environmental justice issues while camping out in a serene mountain environment. The Festival is held in Rockcastle County, Kentucky at the Clear Creek Festival grounds, a self-sustaining venue complete with solar panel grid for electrical generation.
Free Skillshare – Totnes
The skill-share project encourages anyone in the community to offer guidance on a topic likely to help increase the community’s resilience. Contributions of all kinds are welcome. People gather to pass on valuable skills as well as experiment, learn, practice generosity, form connections, inspire each other and have fun. Skillshares are offered as part of the Gift Economy (i.e. with no expectation of receiving anything in return) so they are always available for free to those who are unable to contribute monetarily. If appropriate, products made during the skillshare can be sold at material cost price for participants to take away with them.
Community Resilience Challenge Action Ideas:
At the core of any successful transition movement is the involvement of the community with the efforts of the group. It’s not enough to have a few dedicated people, the whole community needs to be involved. This resource is simply a list of ideas and links to help create community involvement.