Seventy-five community residents gathered on May 4, in eight small groups at the Oak Park Main Library to develop ideas for action projects that promote a healthy, resilient community. Just a few examples of the creative ideas that came out of that lively dialogue include:
Create an open air festival with the Oak Park Art League in which artists would paint/draw/sculpt works that celebrate trees.
Develop "kick-ass" marketing to promote pesticide free lawn care.
Use personal stories to make natural lawn care accessible.
Start a “hot line” of master gardeners to answer questions.
Use humor and music to communicate messages.
Connections and synergy among the groups also began to emerge as the Learning Gardens, Wild Ones and GoGreen OPRF (natural lawn care) began to collaborate on putting together a “green block party package” to share with neighborhood groups.
Leadership for the small groups was provided by partnering organizations including West Cook Wild Ones, Sugar Beet Co-op, River Forest Sustainability Committee, Interfaith Green Network, The Learning Gardens, Mutual Aid Network, Our Village Life, GoGreen OPRF, Citizens Climate Lobby, and the Oak Park Environment and Energy Commission. Susan Lucci, a River Forest resident, served as the overall program facilitator.
The Green ProAction Café #2 was the second in a series of three gatherings intended to inspire environmental dialogue and action. The event was organized by Green Community Connections, and partially funded through a grant from OPRF Community Foundation. Green ProAction Café #3 will be held in August or early September and will be a celebration of sustainability-building accomplishments.
Additional Reflections on Green ProAction Café #2 by Moderator Susan M. Lucci
David Bernstein, author of How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas, searched the world over and found thousands of social entrepreneurs changing the world. He says, “(world changing) is not about a few extraordinary people saving the day for everyone else. At its deepest level, it is about revealing possibilities that are currently unseen and releasing the capacity within each person to reshape a part of the world . . . . by first hand engagement with the world — from asking a lot of questions and listening and observing with a deep caring to understand.” Listening is the skill that unlocks the golden ideas that lead to innovation. Right here in our own backyards, social entrepreneurs — our neighbors — are changing our world. How lucky are we?!
On Monday evening, eight community activists brought their projects to the table to be enlivened with ideas. They entrusted us with their passionate plans to design good food policy, create pesticide-free lawns and a time bank, to spread the good news about Oak Park’s Arboretum, to jumpstart a wildlife corridor, and to help us find our voices in the local and national policy conversations. More than 70 enthusiastic people leaned in to dream up what’s possible, to “give birth to our images . . . . to the future waiting to be born.” (Rainer Maria Rilke)
Margaret Wheatley believes, “We can change the world if we start listening to one other again. Conversation is the way we discover how to transform our world, together . . . . There is no power greater than a community discovering what it cares about.” In Oak Park/River Forest, we care about connecting, our children, community, the future, humor, good food, children, wildlife, nature, water and wondering what’s possible.
Community Somewhere there are people To whom we can speak with passion. Without having the words catch in our throats. Somewhere a circle of hands will open to receive us, Eyes will light up as we enter, voices will celebrate with us Whenever we come into our own power. Community means strength that joins our strength To do the work that needs to be done, Arms to hold us when we falter. A circle of healing. A circle of friends, Someplace Where we can be free.
-- by Starhawk, Dreaming the Dark