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August 3, 2021

Groundwork RI – Consolidate + Consensus | Jason Hebert, Juliana Soltys | MID ’22

by Jason Hebert

Week 3: Consolidate + Consensus

Intended Curriculum

Week 3 came down to finding consensus over the various problems the groups noticed; the goal was to define the problem to drive the development phase. To do so, we continued to walk and talk. After some heads-down time, each person shared 3 ideas written out on sticky notes to the rest of the group. Placing them on a whiteboard, Juliana and I rearranged them to begin drawing connections and patterns. From this, a list of general problems was detailed, and the youth placed votes over the ones they were interested in. Slowly, the topics with the least votes were eliminated until only one remained. This finalized the define and discover phases.

PVD Monday

Walking on and around Prairie Avenue, the youth continued the discovery work they started the week prior. This time, the group found interest in a rundown church, the copious amounts of litter, and the low tree canopy cover. (And aside, they helped move a car that broke down at an intersection!)

At the end of the walk, we went into the South Providence library to begin finding consensus. Topics of interest included the previously mentioned church, waste, signage, and the farmstand. Many placed particular interest in the church because of the backyard space; despite the lovely greenery, veranda, and grills, it was covered with litter and felt like it lacked regular maintenance. Waste was an issue they noticed previously. They attributed the problem to the irregular placement of trash bins and an overall sense of community unawareness. Building off this, signs were discussed to help promote Groundwork and the greenhouse. Topics of the farmstand related to advertisement: produce wasn’t labeled, and passersby were sometimes hesitant over whether they could take them from the table for free. 

Despite the awkward moments, a consensus was found on addressing the waste problem with ideas to create waste bins to place around. Hosting a street clean-up event was also on the table. We were finally able to proceed with the development phase.

PCF Thursday

We first met with the Thursday Pawtucket + Central Falls group at Hope Artiste Village. Soon after, we headed to Galego garden to begin discussing problems. One youth, who lived in the community and worked there, gave us a tour of the space, highlighting the areas of concern. Sitting in the shady but itchy alcove nestled behind an overgrown path, we wrote out our thoughts on sticky notes and placed them on the whiteboard. Here, the youth were invested in garden signage, distressed pathways, weeds, and overgrowth. As it lacked overall signage, the many spaces in the garden were hidden away. Moreover, the communal spaces where produce could be taken were unbeknownst to the general public. Driving this problem further, the pathways were overgrown with weeds, with stinging nettles even making some paths dangerous. The overgrowth of these nettles and knotweed made the garden seem much smaller than it actually was. 

After discussing these problems with the garden manager, a consensus was found on signage. Landscaping was planned for the space in the future meaning the pathways and overgrowth would be addressed later. With consensus being found, we returned to Hope Artiste Village and brainstormed the plethora of necessary signs. Particularly, we wanted to point out the paths, the plots, the plants, and the supplies that made up the garden. 

PCF Monday – Cancelled

Sadly, we were unable to meet with the Monday Pawtucket/Central Falls group as they were needed for a tree stewardship event. From what we heard, they were going around to label the trees that were planted during previous tree planting sessions.

Additional Activities

As the end of the summer approached, we took it upon ourselves to begin planning out two separate events to showcase the youths’ works. Additionally, this was an opportunity to bring awareness to the Galego Garden and the Providence Greenhouse. The Galego community was open to this event; therefore, planning began immediately. Planning for the Providence event was trickier as there was yet a location in mind. We attempted to call the church that we passed by earlier; however, they were unresponsive. Event planning would have to continue the following week.

Reflections

As is usually the case, the consensus-building process was overall difficult. Many of the youth were disinterested in the conversation with one even falling asleep. Additionally, getting the youth to vote for the different topics involved a lot of encouragement from the other Groundwork coordinators. We mentioned that the consensus phase is always the least interesting and most frustrating; moreover, we promised to make the development phase of their projects the most exciting. Beyond our involvement with the youth, community outreach for planning the event was tricky. Many of the organizations and individuals we contacted never returned our communications. We slowly had to eliminate potential collaborations because of this.

All in all, it was a very productive week! Many of the problems were decided, and the future of our involvement with Groundwork was becoming clearer. Our personal excitement was building.

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