Ideas All Around

Greetings to you all out there in blogging land!  I hope that all is going well for you this February.  In Middleton, things have been going extremely well!

January 17th through February 8th has been a glorious rush of ideas and planning for us.  This all began when we arrived at the United Church of Rogers Park in Chicago.  This was the location of one of Grand Aspiration’s January Gatherings this year, where all the leaders of programs throughout the Midwest (and this year from Hartford, CT, too) gathered to learn, teach, and enjoy each other’s company.  Though I have been involved in Growing Food and Sustainability for over a year, this was my first January Gathering and it was quite an experience.  The week contained trainings on everything from the abstract early in the week (the green economy, and the larger systems organizing our world) to the concrete towards the end of the week (such as the best way to message and frame the work that we are doing). I also helped to facilitate a community organizing training, which was a relatively new and informative experience for me, as I had never facilitated a training for such a large group of people before.  Towards the end of the week, we had some time to get together as a team and begin to create plans and share our ideas for our summer, and everything that goes into making it possible.  It was a process that was slightly overwhelming, but in the end yielded many great ideas and much excitement for the semester ahead.

1Facilitating the Community Organizing Training

Upon returning from the gathering (leaving the church at 4:30AM to catch a 6AM bus back to Madison), I promptly arrived at my first class of the spring semester at UW-Madison.  I was swept back up into the world of textbooks, lectures and meetings, though many of the ideas generated at the January Gathering were still on my mind.  Once we settled into the semester a bit, the Middleton team began our next big project: applying for the Wisconsin Idea Fellowship.  This Fellowship, if we receive it, will give us funding to work with high school students to create a youth engagement project: a project that will benefit their community and that will be completely led by them (with some support and mentorship from us).  This fellowship was quite fun to prepare, as we collaboratively wrote it as a team (thank you google docs!).  It really illustrated to me how well we work together, as it provided each of us a chance to use our specific talents for different aspects of the application.  Since one of the requirements of the fellowship is that the project is run by UW-Madison students, a community partner, and a UW faculty member, it also put us in contact with an amazing professor who is doing research on projects similar to those that we are working on, which was quite exciting to see!  We finished and turned in the fellowship on February 8th, ending the rush of ideas that had engulfed us for the past month!  (Not to say that we don’t have a lot more ideas coming….But you’ll have to wait for our next blog post to hear about that!)

– Colin, Program Leader

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