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Sustainable Cleveland 2019 is 'aggressively inclusive'

Jenita  |  04/01/11 @ 11:32am

Marie Kittredge describes the Sustainable Cleveland 2019 Social Capital Working Group as "aggressively inclusive".  She is a founding member of the working group and also Executive Director of Slavic Village Development.  "Everyone who has participated in the Social Capital working group is 100% committed to developing people and human capital," Kittredge said.The Social Capital Working Group formed at the first Sustainability Summit in 2009."The Summits are a terrific entry point. People self identify what they care about; having people meet face-to-face is a powerful part of it," she said. "It really becomes transformational."To build on the work begun at the '09 Summit and enliven the working group established at the Summit, Kittredge invited others in the community engaged in building people power. She convened monthly meetings with individuals from many organizations including Neighborhood Connections, Currere, Inc., Policy Bridge, The Catholic Diocese, Neighborhood Leadership Institute, The Cleveland Leadership Center and Case Western Reserve University. She describes the power of the Sustainable Cleveland 2019 initiative as a way to amplify existing ideas."You can take an idea that is otherwise just a drop in a pool-a one-time thing, but if it gets hooked into the Summit, it becomes very powerful," she said.The Social Capital Working Group consists of people whose organizations are engaged in many initiatives throughout Cleveland. The group does not intend to create a new human capital agenda, but they aim to build relationships with one another to make sure that their work and intentions are aligned. In the past year and a half, several collaborations have emerged from the working group.

In September 2010, the working group hosted an orientation for new Summit participants to help them transition to participation in Sustainable Cleveland 2019. Tom O'Brien and Lee Kay of Neighborhood Connections, Mark Chupp of Case Western Reserve University, and Adele DiMarco Kious of Currere, Inc. collaborated with the City of Cleveland's Office of Sustainability to host an orientation to increase grassroots participation in Summit 2010. "We had an intention, we organized, we brought a group of people together with different skill sets and capacities to host the orientation," said Kious. "It went so well.  People were engaged and inspired and had ground under their feet to engage in the summit," she said. "There was so much positive energy that came out of it, I thought, what else can be possible?"

Since the orientation, Kious, Chupp, O'Brien, Kay and many others have partnered with Louis Alloro of Louis Alloro + Associates to host a serious of introductory Social-Emotional Leadership Labs.  Social-Emotional Leadership Labs (SOMO) is an intentional effort to inspire a thriving, vibrant Cleveland. The focus is to empower a more diverse group of people to be change agents in Cleveland. The group hosted sessions in February and March and plans to launch a 6-month series of Learning Labs for 100 participants in the future.When asked, 'what does social capital have to do with sustainability?' Kittredge welcomed the chance to make the connection clear. Building social capital and bridging social capital networks is the Equity part of the 3 E's of sustainability (Economics, Environment and Equity)."If you start talking about sustainability without being fundamentally committed to having everyone at the table, it's easy for it to be an exclusive group, and to limit the depth and reach of the sustainability movement. If we start from the basis that we want everyone there, it makes it more powerful," Kittredge said.The intent of Sustainable Cleveland 2019 is to build an economic engine to empower a green city on a blue lake. Kious describes the economy as just a system of exchanges and the role of social capital is to facilitate the human connections that support those exchanges."With a sustainable economy, we need new types of exchanges with different impacts than the ones we're making now, but it is inherently about building trust," she said.What will Clevelanders have to celebrate in the year 2019 when the Social Capital Working Group reaches its goals?"A much larger percent of Clevelanders who feel they have control over and ownership in what is happening in their neighborhoods. It might be on a small level-on their street, in their park, at their kid's school. Maybe they are spending less on energy, food and transportation and sustainability gives them more control over their lives," Kittredge said.Kious expanded on the vision for 2019 by painting a picture seen by those outside of Cleveland. "If we have solar panels on every house, but we don't know how to treat each other, it's not enough. In 2019 we will be known as a city of inclusivity, a city of incredible heart, incredible beauty, incredible intelligence and awareness."

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