During last week’s meeting, I asked commissioner Ted Terry the best method to gauge what a community needs. He responded that the best method is to take the “grassroots” route and knock-on people’s doors within the community. You may get a lot of rejection or get physically ignored, but for those who do answer, you find that they are the ones who had been waiting for someone to ask their opinion about their community. The next step is to gather those who want to be involved in the decision-making in their community. The most efficient way is to hold an in-person meeting where people can voice their opinions and concerns and receive the feedback of others within their community. This was an interesting response to me as much of the past three years were held in a virtual space due to the pandemic.
I learned from commissioner Terry, someone who is consistently involved in the community, that there is a lot of value in direct, community engagement, and this should be a common method to engage communities in decision-making. As scientists and community activists, we must allow the community to be at the forefront of what they want to see in their community. We cannot make altering decisions in spaces where we do not spend most of our time without hearing from those who reside there. Listening and communicating are two ways that we express healthy community engagement.
Organizing around a movement takes a group of people to come together who are interested in achieving the same goal. This makes me think of protests that happen simultaneously in different cities but have the same goal at the forefront. This was observed during the summer 2020 protest, the protest for women’s reproductive rights this past summer, and continuous climate protests. Once you find a community of people who want to advocate or protest the same conditions or problems, you can begin to organize your agenda around what is occurring. Organizing with a group of people who all have the same end goal in mind can lead to great change.