In 2018, the first cohort of the Community Innovation Network's (CIN) Foundations of Community Building program convened, bringing together 24 members from an array of backgrounds and affiliations—including residents of Glenville and East Cleveland, businesses owners and faculty at Case Western Reserve University. Within this first cohort, the Welcoming Campus Working Group (WCWG) was formed as a learning circle with the purpose of providing members with a space where they can come together and discuss how to make Case Western Reserve a more welcoming campus for community members. After organizing community listening sessions, a world café, and the first-ever Campus Community Play Date, the group determined a more formal neighborhood advisory council was necessary to successfully implement Pathway 3 of the university’s Think Big Strategic Plan: Achieve Social Impact.
Now, three years later, the university’s Neighborhood Advisory Council (NAC) is entering its inaugural year. Guided by the spirit of the WCWG, NAC—comprised of community residents and representatives of community-based service organizations and CWRU faculty, staff and students—will serve as a community advocate to university leadership, advising on relevant issues, programs and projects that significantly impact our neighbors in Cleveland and East Cleveland.
To celebrate, CIN brought together members of the WCWG and the NAC for a picnic earlier this month to provide a space for NAC members to catch the spirit of its predecessor while kick-starting the relationship-building process with fellow NAC members. Guests participated in relationship-building activities, a graffiti board exercise and a check-in discussion where people shared deeply and spoke truth to their experiences. A delicious lunch was provided by Vitamin Kandie—a health food café located in Glenville. Through a land acknowledgment led by Gwen Garth, the group was centered and reminded of the history of the land we now occupy. A spin art activity, also provided by Gwen, brought a fun, creative energy to the space.
Participants were able to get to know each other, have fun and get excited about the NAC launch and its potential for bridging the divide between the university and local residents, making the picnic a success that will hopefully give NAC members energy to draw upon as they move forward.
The NAC officially launched on Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021, complete with an orientation that included a meeting with Provost Ben Vinson III to learn about the crucial role the NAC and other community-driven initiatives have in the current CWRU Strategic Plan. NAC members concluded the orientation by having lunch with President Eric Kaler. The Community Innovation Network is excited to continue its support for the Neighborhood Advisory Council going forward.