Context

Our commitment to civic involvement is part of a long history in Portland dating back to the late 60’s. Central Northeast Neighbors (CNN) is one of seven district coalitions that participates in the City’s civic engagement structure. Current and past systemic and institutional disparities reveal communities of color experience more barriers to engage in community and civic life in Portland.  In order to achieve equitable outcomes CNN is creating new spaces and opportunities to connect with groups that are underrepresented in our coalition area. Acknowledging community inequity is paramount to this effort. Community connection, inclusion of many backgrounds, and interdependence are the impetus for this project.

Through our partnership with the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability’s (BPS) NE District Liaison, we seek to broaden the discussion by adding new and more tables for creative change together.
Our Purpose
The Community Conversations Project fosters cross-cultural and cross-issue communications and relationships supported by community, local food, and engaging conversation. Providing the appropriate space to build relationships is fundamental to learn about and support each other in the work of community building. We recognize that more fundamental outcomes may come from building resiliency one conversation at a time over time.

Our goals

    • Collaborate with community groups to create meaningful opportunities for diverse neighbors to participate in community development efforts.
    • Support community and neighborhood impact on public decisions.
    • Create opportunities to expand community resources.
    • Promote equitable outcomes and reduce disparities within the CNN area.
    • Build community capacity and strengthen relationships between groups in the area.
      • Identify and work on common goals addressing complex interconnected issues.
    • Build civic power through cross-cultural, cross-issue sharing, and adaptive decision making.

Format

It is a collaborative relationship with community groups and organizations that are interested in co-hosting a community conversation to reach mutual benefit. The community group or organization participates in defining the nature, structure, and location of the conversation. The events are created through planning meetings and mutual cooperation with the host organization.  Together we create the space with local food and an informal atmosphere supporting culturally responsive, genuine, and communal small group conversations. Each group of participants are guided by table hosts culminating in inclusive community conversations around transformation and change.  The topics align with the interests of diverse groups and co-facilitated by the host group.  WorldCafé, Popular Education, Just Transition and other formats can be explored as it is suitable to the group that is co-hosting.

Thus far, there were on average 5 table hosts at each event.  Outreach was shared by the host and CNN to reach 20+ participants for an event.  Table conversation questions and topics were inspired by a sense of community and emerging leaders connecting with the City at IRCO AFC; cooperative power structures and the environment, climate change and equity with NAYA; community safety and livability with Hacienda CDC; and climate change preparedness with the Latino Network. We also collaborated with the Somali Coalition of Portland youth leadership group.  Events have been held on even months.