First Neighborhood Summit draws big crowd, big ideas
The morning began with a short video in which elementary school students shared their visions for the Atlanta region’s future. Their big ideas - jet packs!, cars that run on trash, people who are “more careful and think before they do things” - set the tone for the day. Following opening remarks from Charles Walker, vice president for area development with the United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta, Civic League chair Lesley Grady outlined the Summit’s three goals: developing skills that will strengthen neighborhood associations; establishing connections between neighborhood issues and regional ones; and facilitating peer learning and relationship building. Participants then moved on to one of five concurrent workshops presented by individuals and organizations that have taken innovative approaches to improving their communities. (Each of these presentations will be featured in an upcoming issue of Regionally Speaking.)
At lunchtime, keynote speaker Angela Glover Blackwell reiterated Grady’s earlier remarks linking local issues to broader regional, national and even international issues. Blackwell is chief executive officer of PolicyLink, a national research and action institute dedicated to advancing economic and social equity, and from her perspective, community-based solutions are the first steps to resolving problems common across the country.
“Every problem has a local solution somewhere. The problem is they don’t go beyond that place,” she said. “What you are doing here today is not just a nice thing. You are doing the work of the nation. You are doing the work of the future.”
The Summit concluded with a panel discussion featuring county commissioners from six Metro Atlanta counties. Through their responses to questions posed by the moderator and members of the audience, the commissioners said that they have gotten better at working together and they praised Atlanta Regional Commission chair Sam Olens, who also chairs the Cobb County Commission, for bringing suburban and urban counties together on shared issues like transportation. The commissioners agreed that transit is at the top of the regional priority list and brought to the forefront another issue that government officials and citizens agree is critical to the region’s well-being: public safety.
The Neighborhood Summit also featured an exhibit hall, which was open all day with booths from some 30 organizations, ranging from a natural foods co-op to a program that teaches kids to make better life choices by engaging them in soccer.
The Civic League is grateful to the following organizations for their support of the Neighborhood Summit: Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership, Inc., The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, Neighborhood Fund, Kaiser Permanente, United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta, Publix, The Loudermilk Center, Gwinnett Village Community Improvement District, Public Broadcasting Atlanta, Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation, Weed and Seed, The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, Atlanta Community Food Bank and the Community Foundation for Northeast Georgia.