Summer of Solutions Oakland comes to a stellar close

By Ruby Levine

I was extremely lucky to be able to visit the Summer of Solutions Oakland for their closing ceremony last night. Before I get into the bulk of my blog post and the fantastic work that the program leaders and participants have done with and for the Fruitvale community, I want to start out by asking you, the person reading this blog, to send $10, $20, $50, or $100 to their crowdfunding campaign. I just donated and I invite you to join me in supporting the locally driven efforts of Summer of Solutions Oakland. Here’s why.


SoS Oakland campers await their turn to graduate from camp.

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A Year of Solutions

This post is by Kwame Ntiri Owusu-Daaku, program leader at Iowa City Summer of Solutions.

I can’t believe I have changed this much in a year. I can’t believe I’ve stayed involved this much for a year either. What started out as a the need to find a summer internship in Iowa City has turned into an amazing journey of discovery from which I’m moving on to a PhD in Geography in which I plan to focus on development and climate change adaptation.


Kwame learns to caulk a window.

I came to Iowa City in August 2011 to begin a Masters in Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Iowa. Before then, climate change for me was something Americans and Europeans rambled on about. Coming from Ghana, I was more concerned about social and economic sustainability than environmental protection and preservation. For me then, the tensions inherent in environment versus people and economy saw an obvious winner – I wasn’t about to let people continue to be impoverished while the ground lay fallow. I’ve expanded my thought processes since then and now I have no clear cut solutions. Continue reading

Minnesota Youth Take Action

It’s 12:10 on a Sunday afternoon. I’m walking between two buildings at the University of Minnesota, carrying my carefully scribed flip-chart pages for the Next Generation Environmental Congress. We couldn’t get into the building where the event was being held until noon, right when registration started, and while I had promised to help with registration, I was running a little late. I was amazed to see, as I walked up the stairs, a line of people stretching back from the registration table. I quickly set up to help Abbie and Natalie check people into the event, and we were consistently welcoming new people until after the welcome speech started at 1pm.

This is the state of youth environmental activism in Minnesota, as I see it — fired up, ready to collaborate, and eager for opportunities. The Next Gen Environmental Congress was proposed by the state government in order to engage the youth voice in advance of the big Environmental Congress on March 15th. Organized by the MN Youth Environmental Network and the Young Environmental Advocates of MN, this conference brought together high schoolers, college students, and non-student youth from all corners of the state. I had the privilege of helping to plan the agenda for the day in order to create a positive experience while getting effective feedback to present at the Environmental Congress. Continue reading

January Gathering 2013: A Tale of Three Cities

Our journey begins on December 28th in our nation’s capital. A dozen young Solutionaries from all ends of the country are convening at the Steinbruck Center in downtown DC. From Arleta, California and Reno, Nevada in the west to West Virginia in the east, these intrepid travelers join up with hosts from the new Washington DC Summer of Solutions program to learn the skills they will need to empower other young people through their programs and produce real green economy solutions. It is the beginning of the first of the 2013 January Gathering trainings (yes, even in late December), where we will work together to transform our minds and get prepared to run incredible programs this summer.


Solutionaries at the DC January Gathering map their feelings of interconnectedness at the end of the week.

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Rain gardens, greenhouses, and hunger walks

This post is by sustainable community organizer Lookman Muhammed. You can read his first post here.

Lookman Muhammed (r) with Ethan Viets-VanLear, building a rain garden in Rogers Park.

My name is Lookman Muhammed. I work with A Just Harvest’s Genesis Project specifically the “Aquaponic Social Enterprise”. My first blog post explained a lot about my work here, what I do, and the purpose of my work with A Just Harvest and LETS GO Chicago. These two organizations have a common goal to fight hunger and poverty through urban agriculture. My responsibility is working to maintain and increase the effectiveness of our aquaponic system located in Gale Academy on Marshfield and Jonquil in the community of Rogers Park. The North of Howard area is where a great majority of the population we engage reside. Continue reading

Alternative economies in the Twin Cities

This post is by sustainable community organizer Patricia Lamas. You can read her first post here.

With the MN350 Barter-to-Cash Network project well underway, we’re now beginning to reach out to the community in search of talent, time, and underused belongings here in the Twin Cities. We have set November 30th as the official launch date for the online platform, just in time to give it a publicity jumpstart when Bill McKibben comes to town for his “Do the Math” Tour on the same day. (He’s touring the whole country! Do you have your ticket yet?) Continue reading

Solutionary energy business up for $5000

Cooperative Energy Futures (CEF) is a cooperative that has co-developed with the Twin Cities Summer of Solutions program over the last five years. Developing the legal structure and community organizing for CEF was one of the three projects that participants in the first Summer of Solutions collaborated on. The organization currently in the running for a $5000 online voting grant from Green America. Read about the project  and then vote for CEF once during the month of November! The top three vote-getters win.

If this is the first time you’re hearing about CEF, it’s an energy efficiency cooperative helping Minneapolis neighbors work together to make energy efficiency and clean energy accessible, easy, social, and fun. CEF helps communities make the biggest positive environmental impact possible by working together to lower energy bills, generate energy revenue, improve home comfort, and create a healthier community and planet.

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North Minneapolis Youth Visit the Urban Farm Project

Chad (L) sharing his knowledge with the students (R).

This is Carey with some updates from the YEA Corps program at Unity high school in Minneapolis where YEA is teaching sustainability and entrepreneurial education. YEA Corps is a month into our school programs, and recently we took students on a field trip. We got to the Unity campus last Wednesday prepped and ready to bring students to the Urban Farm Project. The first thing I heard once we got to the school was a couple students making jokes about churning butter and petting the cows at the ‘farm’. This was pretty funny, because there would be no cows, no farm animals, and no butter churning on this farm visit (although that would be fun). The Urban Farm Project is not your classical farm on the countryside. The Urban Farm Project is a for-profit operation in South Minneapolis that produces perch and a plethora of fresh vegetables, and they grow all of this through aquaponics systems in a large converted warehouse space. Continue reading

Barter to Cash with MN350

This is the fourth post in a series of introductions by Sustainable Community Organizers working in the Midwest. This post is by Patricia Lamas from the Twin Cities Summer of Solutions program.

ImageHello! My name is Patricia Lamas, and I began working with MN350 this September on a project called the “Barter to Cash Network.” We’re developing a new system for creative resource generation and community engagement, and we aim to spread it as a model for nonprofits and to our partners in climate movement. How will it work? Instead of sustaining our organization on direct monetary donations, we are inviting people to offer their diverse skills and resources – truly anything on hand. Maybe Susan has a surplus of cinder blocks, or a knack for home repair. Jim might take his dog to the park every morning, and wouldn’t mind picking up another playmate on the way. Whether or not MN350 can use these contributions, someone else in the community can! The idea is a system similar to, only the proceeds go to funding the work of the organization. This way, donations can be infinitely creative, and just as fun – all while creating new connections among members of the local community. Continue reading

Run a new Summer of Solutions or Local Initiative in 2013

An off-grid solar panel in Detroit. A bike shop in South Minneapolis. A chicken coop at the Coal River Mountain Watch homestead. Two hundred filled-out surveys on visions for the community in Portland. Five summer camps in Oakland, Raleigh, Lexington, Chicago, and Hartford. A dozen farm plots across the country.

Members of Middleton Summer of Solutions in their Children’s Garden.

Over 300 participants trained in community organizing, sustainable venture development, and distributed leadership. Young people who learned how to plant a seed for the first time. How to help a child believe in herself. How to develop a community owned solar business. How to listen. How to build something that works.

This is a small slice of the legacy of the sixteen 2012 Summer of Solutions programs. We are inviting other young people to join in and become a part of the Grand Aspirations network of empowerment through getting things done.

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