Push + Pull

This blog is written by one of 15 individuals attending the South By Southwest Conference in Austin with the intention to bring back ideas and to reimagine Richland County.

As I packed up my things Wednesday morning, I desperately looked around the hotel room making sure not to forget anything. I can’t believe it’s been a week already and the time to head back to Ohio has come so soon.

This was my first time at SXSW but I’m surely hoping not my last. I could not fathom all of the information, interactions and experiences I would take away from this trip meant to gather ideas to implement. Although I am completely mind-blown, I am not overwhelmed but rather inspired, invigorated and determined.

Leona Smith

Leona Smith.

Learning about many of the creative things that communities are doing across the country and the world in a broader sense is energizing, but one thing Mansfield is for sure is resilient.

I attended an interactive session during my time here titled “Reimagining the Civic Commons." The session detailed a $40 million investment in a national initiative, occurring in five cities across the U.S. to transform civic assets and create great public spaces shared by everyone. It is believed that shared public spaces are assets with the ability to influence positive social outcomes.

My focus during this trip has been Social Impact, which loosely defined is the impact of an individual, organization or business on its surrounding community. This project creatively looks at ways to increase civic engagement. I know that our community is full of assets, some underutilized, and we can re-use or repurpose them in a way to produce the most social benefit.

The panelist spoke about identifying the assets in the community through a process of asset mapping, which I am thoroughly familiar with as a tool used in Asset Based Community Development (ABCD). Asset mapping is a process of assessing and mobilizing the resources and strengths a community has. This process may reveal gaps but the solutions are often identified within the same community.

Reimagining the Civic Commons seeks to facilitate deep collaboration amongst resources like parks, libraries, rec centers, police stations, streets, etc. These are all resources that we have in Mansfield and many partnerships already exist amongst these assets, but there is always room to better connect the network. How do you connect to the network as an individual, organization, business, government entity, etc.?

What I have learned on this trip aside from the incredible, innovative things that are happening across the country, is that my teammates, in their respective sectors of business and life, are deeply invested in the advancement of our community. Over collaborative team dinners and informal meet-ups we have discussed a myriad of topics, all providing our input on ideas to solve problems as well as shared ideas for the things we think might benefit the community where we live, work, and play.

I don’t think I could be in the company of more brilliant people, that are collectively so passionate about investing in the future of Mansfield. While I will miss Austin, I will be glad to get back home and start working on the next phase of our project.

This is only the beginning.

Stay tuned and follow the progress via #SXSW419. And watch for more blogs at richlandsource.com/rising_from_rust/sxsw.

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South by Southwest Conference Blogger

Executive Coordinator at the North End Community Improvement Collaborative and Temp2Higher. NECIC’s focus is to improve the economic landscape of the North End community while Temp2Higher is an alternative staffing organization.