By Katie Sobiech
There’s already a buzz around town about the Northeast Ohio Sustainable Communities Consortium (NEOSCC)…and they’re just getting started.
Over 50 people attended their first event at Paolo’s in Akron on April 17th.
“It was refreshing to see a great turnout and some very engaged young people so willing to give their feedback,” Tara Sturm, Akron native and one of the evenings speakers, said.
Jeff Anderle, NEOSCC Manager of Communications & Engagement, agreed “There was a good energy and dynamic in the room.”
The evening started with everyone answering the question ‘What does vibrant mean to you?’ and writing on their name tag.
“That was used as an introduction tool for the first 15 minutes for people to go around and introduce themselves to each other and talk about the things they think are vibrant in the region and in their own backgrounds and things,” Anderle said.
“Nobody quite understood what exactly the event would be like, but were all pleasantly surprised at the structure and casual nature of it,” Sturm shared.
What the Night Looked Like
Though no one knew exactly what the first night of NEOSCC was going to look like since they were testing new waters, one thing was for sure, everyone there had a desire to create a better place.
“We need passionate and motivated people to get behind these movements and start these movements where they don’t exist, and offer their voices so that their needs are addressed,” Sturm said.
There was a brief presentation at the beginning by Curtis Baker from the Akron Metropolitan Area Transportation Study, who gave an overview of the NEOSCC effort, followed by a personal story shared by Sturm, also an Akron area graduate student in Urban Planning.
“It’s not the older guys in board rooms or stuffy meetings that are going to make this region great. That kind of top-down management of the region is a thing of the past that has proven to cause the very issues we are trying to find solutions to today,” Sturm said.
She brought up the fact that our cities are hurting.
“Our region has so much grit, character, and so many other great qualities worth fostering and developing, so that when the citizens of my generation have children, we can offer them the same sense of community and place that I had when I was a child,” Sturm said.
“It’s not only a matter of dollars and cents; it’s a matter of realizing that we are all a part of this community and that what we do matters. We are the ones that have to change, and that’s what we at the NEOSCC are attempting to enable,” she continued.
The majority of the meeting revolved around group conversations, or “breakout sessions”, about the region within groups of complete strangers.
“Splitting up into small groups to talk about the region got people talking about issues they were passionate about. There seemed to be some fantastic conversations throughout the night, which not only provided NEOSCC with valuable feedback that can be used to inform our process and focus, but really gets people energetic about being part of the change in our region,” Sturm said.
“It was really exciting to see that come to life and form, simply because we brought people together and allowed them the chance to offer their voices,” she continued.
“We talked about the successes in the region and some of the things that are a little bit more challenging that need to be worked on and each group kind of ‘reported’ on that,” Anderle said.
The Impact of a City
“Tara told her personal story about life growing up and things from her childhood that she would like to see come back to the area – walkable communities, good schools, things like that, that bring a higher quality to life,” Anderle said.
Sturm remembers what it was like as a child growing up in Firestone Park, recalling the community center where her Girl Scout Troop held their meetings and where organized arts and crafts were held after school.
She refers to them as “The landmarks that shaped who I am today and how I experienced my space”.
“The park I passed on the way (to school), where I spent my time playing, and my teenage years hanging out with my friends,” she recalled.
“This simple experience was really representative of how I learned what a neighborhood is, without ever hearing the words ‘walkable, green space’ or understanding how school systems were funded. In a very raw and unfiltered way, I learned a sense of place and what it meant to be a part of a community,” she said.
These experiences spoke to her as to what makes a great city.
“I understood that it’s not just what I’m familiar or comfortable with, but a great city has wonderful assets. I really then grasped what it meant to be part of a city,” Sturm said.
These experiences, she says, are what motivated her to care.
“Not only about the things that really hit close to home in my own little bubble, but broadened my scope to look at things in a much broader way,” she said, “All of these little moving parts work together to create that sense of place that I talked about experiencing as a kid, and these are the places where people are working to make change,” she said.
Making Akron a Great Place
After listening to inspiring speakers and engaging in impactful conversations, postcards were handed out, outlining 8 different ways to get involved right now.
They include: Make your voice heard Whether it’s on Facebook, in a letter to the editor, or just in real-life conversations, speak out in favor of sustainability.Become a champion for NEOSCC We need young leaders to help us introduce us to the community.
Start the conversation
Get some friends together and talk about sustainable communities in NEO, or invite us to talk to your Board or group.
Young Leaders Group
Join us for one meeting per quarter and help us to create a Vibrant Northeast Ohio.
Share ideas through MyVibrantNEO
Are your creative bones itching to tell a short story through photographs or video about your view of what this region needs?
Tell us what you’re already doing!
We want to know if you already have a project that is making the region a better place. Tell us about it on Facebook or by tweeting @VibrantNEO or #VibrantNEO
Help bring VibrantNEO to your community
Our Board is bringing its meetings to all 12 counties. Help us make our visit to your community as great as it can be.
Develop your own way to be involved
None of the above working for you? Come up with your own way to get involved and tell us about it.
One of the biggest ways to get involved is to attend Vibrant NEO’s quarterly meetings. The next in Akron will be on July 17th.
“During that meeting we want to handle more direct dialogue about some of the work we have in mind that is coming,” Anderle said.
If you are interested in finding out more about this group please visit their website at http://www.neoscc.org . You can also find them on Facebook!