I just got here to Fayetteville last night for the Grand Aspirations national gathering. So far, I have been extremely impressed with the level of real engagement with the community that I have seen here. I have been on the working group planning the event along with Amanda, Ryan, and Sarah here in Fayetteville and Matt from the Twin Cities. Our Fayetteville working group members kept telling us about all the donations that were coming in from the community, that people who they’d never met were calling them asking to bring produce from their farms. I’m really impressed with the way that the Fayetteville program is made up of people who are a part of this community and have been for years and working in a very integrated way with community partners.
The actual event of the gathering is going really well! We have people here from four Summer of Solutions programs so far, with two more cities on the way, plus a board member and two people from partner organizations. It’s wonderful to meet people from all around the country who are excited about making the green economy happen. So far we have gotten a tour of Fayetteville, done introductions and safe space, and had a dialogue about what brings us to this — this work, this organization, and this event. It was great to begin to share with people where we’re coming from. I’m currently waiting on dinner of hand-made pasta and pesto along with a watermelon salad.
In the next few days, we will share what we’ve been doing in our programs and begin to figure out what it means to run a successful Summer of Solutions program. We’ll set a national stretch goal, talk about how to effectively share the story of the summer, and integrate the people here into the national leadership structure. I’m really looking forward to seeing how the rest of this event shakes out, particularly the presentation to the Fayetteville community goes. Amanda tells me that we’ll have some local TV stations, as well as local politicians like possibly the mayor? Again, the connections that the Fayetteville program has managed to make in the city are incredibly impressive and I am so glad that we are having our gathering here.