Fayetteville Summer of Solutions Grows Community Power!

As Communications Facilitator for Summer of Solutions, I’m featuring every program to paint a broad picture of the depth and variety of solutions young people are building across the nation.

This post is drawn from a conversation I had with Amanda Bancroft, an AmeriCorps*VISTA volunteer at the OMNI Center for Peace, Justice, and Ecology. The main organizers of Fayetteville SoS are: Andrea Love, Maggie Strain, Karina Hunt, Banah Ghadbian, Jeanie Lopez-Hall, Chelsea Mouber, and Brian Kupillas. The post is co-authored by me and the Fayetteville team.

Leaders in the program have a strong interest in gardening and permaculture. There are already over 50 gardening projects, organizations, and networks in Fayetteville, and so Amanda sees the role of Summer of Solutions as one that will connect these already dynamic organizations together. The Fayetteville team has already partnered with the OMNI Center’s garden, the World Peace Wetlands Prairie, and the community garden at Unity church. In addition, the group has been given several acres of land and a greenhouse, which the team is hoping to develop for gardening.

Through building collective growing power in Fayetteville, Summer of Solutions participants will be facilitating a beautiful expansion of the amazing work already happening around the city.
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Summer of Solutions Hits the Streets in Cleveland, OH!

As Communications facilitator of Grand Aspirations, I am featuring local programs to paint a picture of the diversity of solutions young people are building across the country. This week, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tim Krueger and Nora Graubard, two of the program leaders for Cleveland SoS. The other program leaders are Erika Zarowin, Ben Shapiro, and Phoebe Flaherty.

Leaders of Cleveland Summer of Solutions focus on connecting participants and interns with the broad network of organizations in Cleveland already working on issues of community development and sustainability.

Summer of Solutions in Cleveland is a project of the Ohio Student Environmental Coalition (OSEC). This coalition is a statewide network of student groups that work together to create a clean, safe, and just future. Participants in this program will be hired as interns of the OSEC, and will participate in as many aspects of the summer as they choose.

Members of the OSEC at their most recent retreat

The program’s main initiative is an energy efficiency project with the potential to effect change across the city.

Cleveland is an amazing city, with wonderful city officials to go with it. The goal of these elected officials is to weatherize every home in Cleveland in the next nine years. They are therefore partnering with SoS to collect data on weatherization in two key neighborhoods – Detroit-Shoreway and Clark Metro.

Participants will schedule interviews with residents of these blocks, collect data about receptivity to weatherization, residents’ income levels, and how much work is needed on the homes. As well as gathering information, participants will also teach residents about weatherization and energy efficiency.

After these interviews have been conducted, solutionaries will figure out what programs residents may be eligible for. This kind of follow-up will continue throughout the summer, with participants constantly striving to find the best way to meet the needs of residents, and by personally weatherizing homes.

Residents of Cleveland face the problem of food inaccessibility. Sometimes, Clevelandites have to travel across several neighborhoods to get to a grocery store. Many organizations throughout Cleveland have started up to focus on food availability, and gardening is one of the tactics employed to solve this problem. Though Cleveland is a national leader in urban gardening projects, there is still more work to be done.

Because the growing season is fairly short, one project is to look into forms of alternative agriculture and food justice initiatives that will last longer than the original growing season. In particular, they will be exploring straw-bale greenhouses on the East Side of Cleveland, near the Detroit-Shoreway and Clark Metro neighborhoods.

Cleveland Summer of Solutions is a multi-faceted program designed to make a sound, green future available to everyone. By focusing on these two neighborhoods in particular, solutionaries will be able to make dynamic, personalized changes to problems that are very real. Tim, Nora, Erika, Phoebe, and Ben are incredibly excited to meet the participants in the program, and to get the program running!

If you have specific questions about Cleveland SoS, contact the team at osecsummer [@] gmail [.] com.

If you know you would like to apply for this or any other Summer of Solutions program, please go here.

The priority deadline for application has already passed, but the program will be accepting applicants until April 19th.

Summer of Solutions in Burlington, Vermont

As communications director for Summer of Solutions, I’m featuring every program to paint a picture of the diversity of solutions young people are building across the country. This post will feature the amazing work happening in Burlington, VT and the dynamic leaders there.

There are seven projects happening this summer in Burlington. Some are continuations/expansions of last summer’s programs, and others are completely new.

The Programs: There are seven basic contiguous programs set to run this summer. Here’s a sampling of four programs:

1. Vermont Sustainable Heating Initiative

Last summer, participants worked with the Vermont Sustainable Heating Initiative to bring pellet-stove heating systems to low-income households. They received a grant for $20,000 to buy and install pellet stoves. Over the year, Tom and Beth Tailor have been keeping in touch with/checking up on recipients of the stoves. There are currently 15 different stoves in 2 counties in the state (Addison and Washington).

This summer, they are applying for another grant to expand this project. The program participants will continue the process of bringing pellet stoves to low-income households, and will be ahead of the learning curve, picking up the project after a year of research.

2. Bio-Fuel Feasibility study for Chittenden County

The program leaders received $25,000 in federal money, and $5,000 in local funding. This study will be researching the feasibility of starting a pellet manufacturing co-op in Chittenden County. Tom said that while it’s great to give pellet stoves to low-income people, a whole systems change also means a way to provide jobs. In particular, the manufacturing plant would be aimed at producing grass-based pellets, as a more sustainable pellet than wood.

3.  Passive Community Refrigerator/Freezer

Construction of a passive refrigerator freezer  construction for community use using W(n)IMBY {Why not  In My Back Yard}. The passive community freezer will freeze 2000 two liter soda bottles next winter and use them to keep the freezer cold year round.  It will be made in part out of recycled and natural materials. Construction of eatible landscape, including localavore rabbit warren, and sustainable gardens.

4. Vermont Engineering Summer Camp at UVM

Another aspect of the program involves educating high school students about green engineering. Last summer, Summer of Solutions program participants taught for a week at the Vermont Engineering Summer Program. According to Beth and Tom, this was one of the most fun aspects of the summer, and they are looking to partner as trainers again.

Last year, SoS participants and high school students built a small-scale, working windmill. This summer, a new strand of the engineering camp will focus on the engineering aspects of de-commissioning a nuclear plant.

The other three projects include starting a rabbit colony for meat and yarn, a permaculture garden, and a community garden.

To apply as a participant to Summer of Solutions – Burlington, go here: http://grandaspirations.org/apply/burlington.html

For more information, contact Tom and Beth Tailer at: tbtailer [@] hotmail[.]com

This Summer Filled with Solutions in Corvallis, OR

As communications director for Summer of Solutions, I’m featuring every program to paint a picture of the diversity of solutions young people are building across the country. This post features the powerful work happening in Corvallis, OR, as related to me by Nathan Jones.

Oregon’s Summer of Solutions program is three years in the making. In the summer of 2008, Nathan and others led a summer program called the Northwest Institute for Community Enrichment. Throughout the summer, the NICE kept in touch with Summer of Solutions – Twin Cities, and at the end of the summer they decided to team up for summer 2009 to run their programs simultaneously on a national scale.

Since then, the NICE has turned into an organization that runs year-round, and the programs have been growing and expanding.

The Projects: This summer, the Summer of Solutions – Corvallis team will be continuing a listening project that has already started. While the team currently working on the listening project finishes it up, new program participants will begin a replica of the listening project in another neighborhood.

Teams of solutionaries will enter specific neighborhoods in Corvallis and conduct a listening project surrounding how solutions for energy efficiency. After the listening has been conducted, the people working on the listening project will provide specific follow-up and support to this neighborhood, at the same time that a new listening project is begun in a different neighborhood in Corvallis.

After this initial follow-up stage is completed, solutionaries will bring interested community leaders together in a forum. Nathan said he’s not quite sure what will come out of these forums, but that’s part of the point. Community members will form groups around their interests that will create community-based solutions for Corvallis.

NICE Projects: The NICE is positioned to run Grand Aspirations programs year-round. Programs that he and his fellow Oregon-ites are moving forward with are designed to be year-long programs that Summer of Solutions participants can plug into.

One really exciting project in particular is the development of a permanent site for the Northwest regional Summer of Solutions. The idea is to get an old abandoned house, school, church, any sort of building, and then fix it up. The building would serve as a model for sustainable living, as well as a space to host people for conferences and gatherings.

The physical space for the NICE building will more likely be in Portland than in Corvallis, but participants who are interested in this particular project would be able to plug in in various ways.

To apply:

As a Coordinator: Go here

As a Participant: Go here

For more information, contact Nathan Jones at nathan [@]thenice[.]org

Twin Cities Summer of Solutions hits the ground running!

This is the first post in our National Blog Series, and we’ll be featuring … The Twin Cities program!

After two summers of amazing work and programs in the Twin Cities, the TC Summer of Solutions Planning Team is back in business and ready to amplify their already very strong programs!

Programs in the Twin Cities: The TC Summer of Solutions is the first program run, and two of the projects from that very first summer are still maintained.

CEF LogoCooperative Energy Futures (CEF) is a business that connects home- and business-owners in St. Paul with the resources to weatherize homes and implement very practical energy efficiency strategies to save energy and money. The broad vision of CEF is to reframe the debate about energy and climate change by demonstrating how the average household can play a role in building solutions through community collaboration. First envisioned in early 2008, and is running strong today.

The Alliance to Re-Industrialize for a Sustainable Economy is a coalition of groups working together to transform the St. Paul Ford Plant, which is slotted to close, into a mixed-use site that would act as an example of how green manufacturing can very positively act as an ecosystem-like community. The manufacturing spaces already existing on the site would be converted to manufacturing solar panels or wind equipment. Within the blueprints for the site are high-density, mixed-use housing, green space, business establishments, and transit systems. The site would be a whole community. Last summer, SoS participants took an integral part in developing a fiscal impact statement, and the project was taken to the St. Paul City Planners in the fall.

These are two programs that have been running for a while, but Twin Cities leaders have told me they have much more up their sleeves for this summer!

Much of the program expansion this summer is in the exciting move out of the Macalester Neighborhood. Program leaders the past two summers benefited greatly from the local community around Macalester College, but the projects of the Summer of Solutions – Twin Cities are meant to be scalable into many different neighborhoods, and have reached a point of stability where that is possible.

However, there are a couple of really new, exciting opportunities that set this summer apart from other summers. A local bike co-op is hoping to implement a bike loan program this summer for those coming from low-income backgrounds to save costs on transportation. There are also several exciting opportunities to collaborate with local urban agriculture/community gardening groups, and the program leaders are excited to expand their focus on Community Gardens this summer.

About the Cities: St. Paul and Minneapolis, MN have grown together since the mid-late 1800s into a center point for urban life in the Midwest. Matt explained that the Twin Cities are the most metropolitan area within 300 miles, and are extremely neighborhood focused.

Jason highlighted the cities as a focal point for immigration to the Midwest – until about the 1970s, that immigration had been largely white, but has become very diverse. Three immigrant populations in particular are highly present in the Twin Cities metro area: East African, Hmong, and Mexican populations thrive within the two cities. The Twin Cities are very bikable, have a (decent?) transportation system, and, in true Minnesota fashion, are a very friendly place to live.

The Planners: Full-time planners for this summer are Timothy DenHerder-Thomas, Matt Kazinka, William Raedy, Jason Rodney, and Ruby Levine. For more detailed information about these wonderful people, check out their bios on our website.

We hope to see you here in June! Apply here to participate in the Twin Cities Summer of Solutions!

If you have any further questions, please email Matt at matt.kazinka@grandaspirations.org

Summer of Solutions 2010 National Blog Series!

Hello, beautiful solutionaries!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted here, but fear not, lots of cool new developments have been going down in my absence from the blogosphere.

I have returned triumphantly to announce the 2010 Summer of Solutions National Blog Series!

Each week, the Solutionaries blog will feature a different local program. Blog posts will include interviews with local program leaders, pictures of the towns where the programs will be taking place, and information about the city and projects that you would be working on if you participated in one of our Summer of Solutions programs.

Here’s a list of the programs you’ll be learning about:

Asheville, NC

Austin, TX

Burlington, VT

Cleveland, OH

Corvallis, OR

Dallas, TX

Detroit, MI

Fayetteville, AR

Harrisburg, PA

Iowa City, IA

Santa Fe, NM

Twin Cities, MN

Worcester, MA

To jump start the series, this week we’ll be featuring SoS Twin Cities and Asheville!

The St. Paul Summer of Solutions program is what started it all back in 2008, and the program is looking really strong this year. Yesterday, I sat down and had a very dynamic talk with Timothy, Matt and Jason – all program planners, and all very excited to get their story out there.

Asheville is in North Carolina, at the bottom of the Appalachian range. The program is new this summer, and leaders JC and Tiffany have some really great ideas for development work in their community.

The post on the Twin Cities should be up sometime tomorrow, and the post on Asheville will be up Thursday or Friday. Keep checkin’ Back!


In other blogging/web news, you’ll notice that over this week, the face of our site will be changing gradually. Pantelis Korovilas, an amazing graphic designer, has created a logo for us, and we’ll be updating Solutionaries and our website with the fresh new look. This is a project of five months in the making, and I’m really, really excited about seeing it come to fruition!

That’s all for now – I’ll be back tomorrow with a post featuring the Twin Cities!

Reflecting on a Grand Aspirations Leadership Gathering

x-posted to It’s Getting Hot In Here

Over the past ten days, 19 youth activists involved in the Summer of Solutions converged in chilly St. Paul, MN to build a strategy for reshaping our economy from the ground up. We learned how to run an effective summer program dedicated to finding tangible, local solutions to the problems of climate change, the economic downturn, and environmental injustice.

The program began in the summer of 2008 with one program of 20 participants, and over the course of last year grew into 9 programs across the United States. Collectively, there were 150 youth activists involved around the nation.

That was this last summer. Now, we’re looking forward to next summer and the growth it has in store for us.

I have had the amazing experience of working with folks from around the nation over the past 10 days at the Grand Aspirations Winter Leadership Gathering. Grand Aspirations is the organization that facilitates Summer of Solutions programs around the nation. The purpose of the gathering was to bring local Summer of Solutions program planners together to strategize at the national level on how to make our programs effective, how to connect with the communities we live in and train participants.

Participants in Grand Aspirations’ Summer of Solutions program have created businesses around cooperative energy, held community forums called “barn raisings” to raise awareness about energy issues, and have enhanced the power of their own organizations, such as the Northwest Institute for Community Energy. Last summer also saw a huge growth in community gardening and local food projects, listening projects to bring communities together around development issues, and general education and awareness raising.

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What’s up? Winter Leadership Gathering is Up!

The day is finally here!

Well, it was here Monday. But still. Excitement is here, because a whole bunch of organizers who are involved with Grand Aspirations are in St. Paul. People that I’ve only met on conference calls have bodies, who would have thought?

This blog post is going to be a little raggedy, but that’s all right at this point.

A huge theme of the gathering thus far has been communication. How we communicate, what we are doing to change the framing in our own work, and getting to know one another are integral to the process of building community. As a growing organization, we have a lot of practical decisions that we need to make, but we also need to really get to know one another, and to reach some sort of group consensus about what we value and how to take what we value and turn it into some sort of action.

I am really excited to translate this passion for changing the way that we frame and speak to one another into a broader communication system for Grand Aspirations, and I’m excited to tell more of the story of this gathering. Sarah Murphy, a brilliant woman from New Hampshire, has joined us mainly to film the gathering. Video is one of the ways that we will be able to tell this story in a dynamic new way, and I can’t wait to help her go through the footage and choose the good bits and put them together in (many) different videos.

What I’m hoping to get out of the gathering is fairly personal, but what has really been exciting me so far is the potential to really build this organization. We’ve had some amazing people apply to lead programs, and I’m excited to see what comes out of those programs this summer. We’ve also got the awesome opportunity to really iron out some things about the way the organization is working now and into the future.

Building the non-profit – or whatever we are to become – must be done in a way that is reflective of the society that we want to create. That is why organizational development is so important. We want to get things accomplished, but we want to do them in a new way. By initially making changes in the way that we do things as an organization to better fit the world we’ve dreamed as the future, we are providing a model to others who want to do the same kind of transformative work that it will take to create the new energy economy.

I know that I’ve just opened a HUGE can of worms, and I can’t really close it up yet (just because the gathering is still going). I will continue to blog throughout the week, so keep checking back for exciting news related to Grand Aspirations!

On Overcoming Monsters.

Today is the last day for the Twin Cities Summer of Solutions program.

I began this program feeling like it was an exercise in “seeing what is to come.” Back in January, I decided that I wanted to work more intensely on issues of environmental justice than what I was working on at the time, as it felt more sustainable and more exciting. Since then, it’s been a practice in working Zen: be here, now.

That is all I can do. While the planet weeps, and the coal industry battles with clean industries, and people everywhere cry out against injustice, I am here. In the presence of such sweeping injustice, I am here.

Change that signifier, this ain’t no “I,” it’s a we! We are here, in this moment. We take it in, see what needs to be done, and do it. Our actions may not be quiet, but they are powerful. Continue reading

Building strong initiatives means building strong communities

After today, our first week of Summer of Solutions – Twin Cities will be over.


It’s been tumultuous, fascinating, inspiring, and overwhelming all at once. I’ve had a lot of thinking to do, and not much time to sit down and meditate.

We’ve had a lot of good thought happening this week. I’ve met some really amazing people that I would really like to get to know. However, my own role in the Summer of Solutions seems to be a precarious one.

I don’t have nearly as much experience as most of the people I’m working with. And while that’s completely fine – I attended the SSC’s training program last summer, I have been working on my campus as best I can, but really, I haven’t accomplished nearly as much as these amazing people, and feel self-conscious about it. I know I don’t have as much experience to bring to the table, and am frustrated with myself for having wasted so much time not organizing.

I don’t want to come up with excuses for my lack of experience. It’s simply where I’m at right now in my activist journey. And I know that this summer, I will learn so much from these people.

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