Program Manager, Center for Neighborhood Development, Cleveland State University
Interviewed by Julian Portilla, 2003
This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).
Q: Talk for a moment about the scale of the reentry problem. You dealt with a certain amount of people in this process. You can't possibly deal with everybody in these neighborhoods. How do you make the process sustainable so that you go from an individual transformation to a larger, communal transformation?
A: Well that's a very good question and I was talking to someone about that yesterday, and the one thing I would say, and we agreed on this, is that you cannot do this process in six months. I've been working in this neighborhood for two years and I fully expect it will be continuing for two more years. There are five community organizers that have taken this on and it's now changed the way they do organizing, so it's sustained in that sense. I think it was a good strategy that evolved of starting with a nucleus of like 35, and then doing these pairings to try to in some ways expand out section by section. We originally thought through these newspaper articles and things like that that we were going to blanket the neighborhood and we had planned to have four dinner parties in four parts of this 30,000-population neighborhood. That was not a realistic way. So I think growing it through block clubs, through existing organizations is much more realistic. But it's a long process and it's not a fast one.
What I've realized, and residents have been the ones more than organizers, that have said this, is that those one on one interviews always create the inspiration to go forward. Because some people, some of the organizers, in fact, would say well you know we've got the data, we've got the promising principles, why do we need to keep doing these one on one interviews at each of our monthly meetings? Can't we just make it like a business meeting? And it's the residents, the co-chairs of this group that have said, no, that is the most important thing we do every time because it's sitting down one on one with somebody and hearing something personal and deep that's important to them, that I connect with them, and you can't do that in a big meeting. So it's linking the personal to the larger group and so I think it has to grow that way and to keep sustaining it, it has to continue to have those personal transformations happening.
Q: Is it a rotating group of people or is it always the same 35?
A: I would say that probably 50 people have been involved at some point or another and it's usually around 25 or 30 that come at any one meeting. So at any one time I would say there's probably 30 or 35 that are kind of active.