Gaining momentum through community engagement

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LR Summer of Solutions hosted a booth on 12th Street to sign up residents for free home energy assessments.

By: Kara King
Location: Little Rock

The Little Rock Summer of Solutions team is officially half way through our 8 week program and our projects are really beginning to take off! We began the week by tending to the 12th and Oak garden. When I stepped into the garden this week after being away for over a week, I was blown away by the appearance of our garden! Despite some failed attempts in some of our beds and having to uproot some of the seasonal plants, the rest of the garden is flourishing. Our sunflowers are the height of most average adults and our tomatoes are constantly producing fruit! We continue to expand our garden by clearing new beds and planting new seeds. Continue reading

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A busy third week in Little Rock

By: Ashley Burton
Location: Little Rock
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This week has been very exciting for the Little Rock Summer of Solutions team! We started off the week with maintaining our garden and creating plans for achieving our goals! Through learning about ourselves through character tests we also gained the opportunity to better understand our team.

Tuesday we began another day of gardening, greeting community members, and furthering our entrepreneurship training! During this time, our team members Rebecca and Darryl furthered their weatherizing skills at Pulaski Tech. They passed their final test too and gained a wonderful certificate!

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Mind mapping for social entrepreneurship

By Merrill Schmidt
Location: Little Rock, Arkansas

We just finished the second week of Little Rock Summer of Solutions, and there’s a lot going on! We’ve been gardening, attending trainings, planning our summer projects, cooking community meals, and connecting with different organizations. Even though launch week is over, we’re still learning lots of new information—how to weatherize a house, how to lead a cooking class, how to start a business. In order to prepare for the rest of summer, we formed committees for planning specific programs, such as garden management and community dinners.

So far, I’ve particularly enjoyed our entrepreneurship workshops with Matt Hampton of Elevate Entrepreneurship Systems. Through weekly workshops, Matt is helping us develop social enterprises. Last week we learned about business modeling. Matt explained that there are four fundamentals of business: human resources, marketing, operations, and finances. First we practiced business modeling using Starbucks as an example. We mapped out how Starbucks carefully manages its operations, human resources, and marketing to create a cool coffeehouse environment. With its trendy vibe, Starbucks is able to sell $5 cups of coffee and bring in revenue.Image

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Environmental justice is a right, not a choice!

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Written by Katherine Dennis, a Nashville native and the Little Rock SoS Garden Manager!

This past week has been our orientation & training week for the Little Rock Summer of Solutions team. We have gone through a myriad of trainings including community organizing, conflict resolution, and social entrepreneurship.

One of the most meaningful trainings in which we participated was focused around environmental justice. I have studied this topic academically, and I understand what it generally means: how the environmental and people interact, and is it just. That is a really naive definition, and so I googled it to find out a little more about what it means. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, Environmental justice is “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, sex, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.” Okay, this is another academic definition, and I’m going to try and break it down a bit. Are people being treated fairly, regardless of their income, race, etc., in terms of the development and policies that are affecting them? I can think of national examples: The Exxon oil spill in Mayflower, AR on March 29, 2013 that killed flora and fauna. Another example are the oil operations in Niger that have spilled oil slowly over the past twenty years, thus, destroying their precious ecosystems. I understand environmental justice on the global scale, but how does it affect singular neighborhoods in the US?

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Ear to the ground

This post is from Little Rock Summer of Solutions!

One of my personal sheroes, the 97-year-old Detroit activist Grace Lee Boggs, talks often about the importance of keeping an “ear to the ground, ” or understanding deeply the evolution and current struggles of the community within which one is working.  But staying grounded and aware can be difficult, especially as a Summer of Solutions program coordinator responsible for logistical planning that leaves me with less time than I would like to be out directly engaging with community members and surveying the social/physical/economic/political environment.

Several recent occurrences have been jolting reminders of the importance of remaining grounded.  One realization was thanks to a friend who came to our April 27th garden work day and imparted some of her knowledge of Permaculture design.  She was helping us to build a lasagna bed, which basically incorporates layers of green material (nitrogen-rich) and brown material (carbon-rich) over a layer of weed block (pictures below!).  I was lamenting the fact that we hadn’t bought mulch or synthetic weed block, but she said, “what do you mean? It’s all around us for free!”  She sent a team down the alley behind the garden and they returned with wheelbarrows full of fallen leaves, which made excellent mulch.  We raided recycle bins nearby for discarded newspaper and snipped overgrown bushes and vines in an empty lot next door for green material.  The world is brimming with ample and free resources, if only we can open our eyes and our minds enough to SEE! Continue reading

A Day of Empowerment Leads to a Garden in the Sun

There are many BIG moves to come for the Little Rock, Arkansas based Summer of Solutions program.  We began the month of April with a Garden Work day on Saturday, April 6, 2013, which we hosted in conjunction with the Better Community Development’s Community Block Party.

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Working in the garden on 12th and Oak Street

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Better Community Development’s  Community Block Party

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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!