Dialogue to Action Teams bring together community members from within specific city neighborhoods and county areas to engage in dialogue leading to a concrete action plan to address the needs of residents and improve their community. Since January of 2009, Erie Together has implemented the dialogue to action process in six areas within the Erie Region – a northeast side city neighborhood, Little Italy and a lower-central east side neighborhood in the City of Erie and Girard/Lake City, North East and the Northwestern School District in Erie County.
The process entails interested community members meeting in small groups to discuss the assets and challenges of the area they live in, and then establish some goals that they can work toward in order to improve the area. Participants from the small groups then come together for an Action Forum in which they share the goals they each came up with. From the list of goals they vote to determine the top goals that they want to work on first. An action plan for each goal is then developed by subcommittees, and they begin to work toward their goal.
An Action Team coordinator in each of the areas serves to ensure that committees are making progress and receiving support as needed.
Some of the overall outcomes of this process have been creating a community atmosphere of working together on common goals, building connections within the community and with the wider community, aligning resources, giving voice to those who otherwise may not have that opportunity, and developing indigenous leaders beyond the formal identified leadership in the community. Examples of concrete goals include:
- parenting/life skills class;
- activities for youth and seniors;
- better access to health care;
- increased transportation options;
- neighborhood improvement in regard to street lights and sidewalks;
- securing employment for more people in neighborhood;
- a community garden; and
- increased awareness of resources available.
The Little Italy Action Team, made up of volunteers from the neighborhood, including Bethesda-Trinity Center, Bundles of Love Daycare, Community Shelter Services, GECAC Adult Learning Center, Sisters of Saint Joseph Neighborhood Network and Triangle Tech. The Team identified several barriers to persons obtaining services and employment. Team members created a matrix of local services for people utilize when are in need of assistance. Click Little Italy Community Resource for more information.
The North East timeXchange was created by community members to meet the needs of local residents and “bring back the sense of community.” The timeXchange is based on the Time Bank concept, which is a pattern of reciprocal service exchange that uses units of time valued at an hour’s worth, as currency, an example of an alternative monetary system. Time banking is primarily used to provide incentives and rewards for work such as mentoring children, caring for the elderly, dental care, home design, landscaping, just being neighborly—work usually done on a volunteer basis—which a pure market system devalues. Essentially, the “time” one spends providing these types of community services earns “time” that one can spend to receive services. Time banking has been called a way to bring back a sense of community within neighborhoods. It is meant to create an economy where everyone has the ability to participate equally through caring actions. It does not matter what service is offered – everyone matters and everyone is empowered.
How to Get Involved In The Dialogue to Action Process
Everyone who lives in one of the areas named above is welcome to join one of the committees working in those areas. There are not strict boundaries.
Also, if this process sounds like something you would want in your neighborhood or county area and you know of others in the area who would participate, we encourage you to contact us.
If you have questions, or want to learn more about the Dialogue to Action process, please contact Jen Bach at (814) 824-3357 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.