Our Solutionary Power

This post is by Eli Shepherd, a program leader with the Iowa City, Iowa program.

This summer, the Iowa City Summer of Solutions (ICSoS) Our Power project hosted two public forums on rental energy efficiency issues. With all stakeholders working collaboratively- tenants, landlords, utilities, city officials, and community members- we developed a comprehensive list of barriers to energy efficiency for both tenants and landlords, as well as possible solutions. We then, with the help of a local energy efficiency consultant, developed a comprehensive recommendation to Iowa City City Council based on the most feasible solutions. Kira Stoller of the ICSoS Our Power team then prepared and presented our recommendation to council during the community comment period at the most recent council meeting and we will continue to communicate with the city in order to, with any luck, implement much if not all of our recommendations. Without further ado, here is what we came to council with, hope you like it!

Part of the Iowa City Our Power team following the first public forum.

Part of the Iowa City Our Power team following the first public forum.

Council Speech Continue reading
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Sustainable Art at Summer’s End

By Kate Johnson of the Iowa City, Iowa program.
This summer must have big plans for something fun in the fall, because it sure is in a hurry to get there! It has been a whirlwind of a few months here at Summer of Solutions in Iowa City, and we’ve been making the most of it in the ‘Sustainable Art’ group under the direction of Nick Gerken.  Though we have been sparsely populated, we’ve had some great assistance from our friends in ‘Our Power’ and ‘Iowa City Roots’.  With whoever we could grab, we have traveled to camps all summer, working on crafts with kids and talking to them about the environment.
These camps include Taproot, Pheasant Ridge, and two Wildlife camps (Hawk and Fox).  At Pheasant Ridge, we had the same group of kids that all live in the same neighborhood every Wednesday.  We did many projects with them and got to spend a lot of time with them.  Some of our crafts included weaving mats, pinwheels, and birdhouses.  We really enjoyed our time there, which we wrapped up July 31 by going to a nearby park after making parachute toys with plastic bags.  It brings a smile to my face when I think of some of the things our Pheasant Ridge kids talked to us about, even though we sometimes struggled to keep them on task. Continue reading

Painting Windows and Building Community

By William Perry of the Iowa City, Iowa program

After a week long orientation with our group leaders Nick Gerken, Eli Shepherd, and Kate Anstreicher, we split up into subgroups run by each leader geared toward specific causes.  Eli is in charge of ‘Our Power,’ which is an energy sustainability initiative with an end goal of addressing the split incentive issue for city counsel in regards to rental properties in Iowa City.  Kate leads ‘Iowa City Roots,’ which is a community gardening force working with the Iowa City landfill to implement a composting collection service for downtown businesses.  Then there is ‘Sustainable Art,’ the program that I am in.  Nick heads this subgroup and our weekly activities for a range of summer camps with the goal of educating about waste and waste management through hands on activities and recycled artwork.  Our group of about four people just recently came up with an idea we are very excited about: downtown window painting.

Children painting windows as part of the Iowa City Downtown District’s ‘Kidows’ initiative. Continue reading

Let the Solutionary Summer Commence

By: Eli Shepherd from Iowa City Summer of Solutions

The end of fall marked the rekindling of planning and organization. Winter came and plans were made, the leadership team organized. January rolled around and said team journeyed to Chicago for several days of intensive and enlightening training. Spring brought both metaphorical April showers and May flowers as plans and programs were dreamed up, debated, shot down, and solidified. Participant applications and grants alike came sporadically. Now it all comes down to summer.

The turning of the calendar to June marks the start of the Summer of Solutions. So, while program leaders like myself, Nick, and Kate (our 2013 leadership team) are scrambling to master our trainings and tie down the loose ends before our June 10 start date here in sunny, flooded Iowa City, I thought I would share an anecdote and a recipe from here in Iowa City! Continue reading

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.

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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

Inspiration to Join Summer of Solutions 2013 by April 14th!

The 2013 Summer of Solutions programs are accepting participant applications until April 14th!  Apply here!  Keep reading to learn about the life-changing experience that Summer of Solutions was for our alumni!

1Emily Stiever: “It was one of the first times where I could see what my life could look like in the future: the ability to work on social issues that I cared about and to live sustainably in community with people who shared a similar passion.” Read more…

1Ashley Trull: “I learned how to have creative confidence, which to me is being willing to put yourself and your ideas out there, boldly, knowing that you have the skills and resources within yourself and your community to make it a reality.” Read more…

1Nathaniel Cook: “Summer of Solutions was probably the most influential experience that I have ever had, and it has shaped me, my experiences, and my relationships ever since.” Read more…

1Shoshana Blank: “Even as young college students, we were able to do some big things in Summer of Solutions-Twin Cities because we were well organized. We could offer solutions to community members and be taken seriously because we had a plan of action and materials to back us up.”  Read more…

1Colin Higgins: “One of the main things that I took away is that I really enjoy teaching others, especially youth, about environmental issues and solutions.” Read more…

1Cecelia Watkins: “The greatest thing I took with me was a deep sense of practical empowerment—a sense that money is far from the only resource we can leverage for change, a sense that we are rich in those other resources.” Read more…

1Brianna Besch: “I still remember the first week of Summer of Solutions training as one of the most inspiring things I have ever done.” Read more…

2Ethan Viets-Vanlear: “SoS really taught me a way to help a community without being part of various systems of oppression and control that dominate most organizations and institutions in our society.” Read more…

Inspired yet?
Become a solutionary and apply to join Summer of Solutions 2013!

During the Summer of Solutions, you will receive training in community organizing and sustainable community development techniques. You will use these skills to demonstrate the promise of energy efficiency, community-based energy, green industry, local food production, and/or smart design as described in the locations you choose. Beyond the concrete skills you learn, Summer of Solutions will be a really fun community-based experience. It is a great chance to grow with, learn from, and work with other incredible young people and community leaders who are building a better future.

Now accepting participant applications: Arleta, CA; Chicago, IL; Hartford, CT; Iowa City, IA; Ithaca, NY; Johnson City, TN; Lexington, KY; Little Rock, AR; Middleton, WI; Oakland, CA; Raleigh, NC; Southern West Virginia; Twin Cities, MN; and Washington, DC!

Applications are due on 4/14/2013. Some programs may keep their local applications open beyond 4/14, but there is no guarantee that any specific program will do so.

Find more details and the online application here!

New Recruit at January Gathering

Imagine this.

You’ve just been accepted as a new intern for a Summer of Solutions program…let’s say Iowa City.  Aside from being jubilant with excitement, you read further down the email and find out that your cohorts will, in a little over a week, be hopping into a car and spending five days (at an undisclosed location) preparing for skill sets in leadership for the summer’s program.  You are enthusiastically welcomed (and subtly encouraged) to join the group on this outing.  Perplexed, you scratch your head.  You are new (not only to January Gathering, but to Summer of Solutions), but ambitious.  As such, you reply that you will be joining the crew for the January Gathering in Chicago.  You are set in your decision, though wondering who the members of your chapter are, what Grand Aspirations actually is, and, perhaps, how you got into the position that you’re in right now.  The feeling of affirmation and mild terror dance in your stomach.

This is exactly (and candidly) what happened to me the week and a half right before January Gathering.  Rest assured, I made it to and from Chicago in one piece and perhaps more importantly, I made it back a more ambitious person.  While I can only speak for myself and my experience with those that make Grand Aspirations grand, going to a January Gathering is as much a baptism by fire as it is a chance to find a genuine community of quality people who WILL make the world a better place.  There’s something to be said about jumping into the back seat of a Suburu Outback with two young guys, a young girl and her mother (the driver) and having enough humility to learn that those in the car with you are going to become some of the most impressive people you’ve ever met.  And that’s before even getting to Chicago. Continue reading