As Buffalo inflicted one last bout of bitter winter cold upon its residents, the staff of Open Buffalo and several of its organizational partners met with staff from the Open Society Foundations (OSF) and directors of Open Places Initiative (OPI) sites across the country to share strategies and prepare for more active engagement with our communities in the wake of the spring thaw.
Hosted graciously by OSF and our friends at Espacios Abiertos, the Open Places All-Site Convening met from February 18 through 20 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Over the course of two and a half days, Open Buffalo participated in a series of intensive meetings and seminars aimed at helping each “open place” hone its strategies in the coming year.
One day of seminars focused on how best to tell the story of our organizations and movements to the people we hope to reach. It marked the beginning of the Scribe Project, which involves collecting and sharing the stories of individuals in our communities, and archiving the story of a movement as it happens at each OPI site. (Learn about Open Buffalo’s newly hired Scribe, Adrienne C. Hill, here.) A second day focused on economic justice, and Open Buffalo had the opportunity to strategize with OPI actors in Puerto Rico and San Diego, as well as with experts around the country, about how to imagine policy changes, leverage local laws, and create community partnerships to remedy long-standing economic inequities.
In addition to attending seminars, Espacios Abiertos showed us some of the work that they and their partners in the city of San Juan had done to open up economic, civic, and cultural participation to the residents of an island on which elections are only held once every four years, and a large share of the adult population works outside of the formal economy. Espacios Abiertos staff showed us the victories of a burgeoning community garden movement in one of San Juan’s poorer neighborhoods, and brought us to the neighborhood of Santurce, the site of an increasingly renowned public art movement that has begun to draw muralists from all over the world.
Open Buffalo left the All-Site Convening with a growing sense of solidarity with our friends in San Diego and Puerto Rico, and an eagerness to put what we learned at the convening into practice at home. As Executive Director Franchelle Hart said, reflecting upon Open Buffalo’s purpose in the wake of the convening: “We’re not just shaking up the status quo within the city. We’re shaking up the status quo in the progressive movement, too.” As winter gives way to spring, Open Buffalo and our partners look forward to sharing what we learned at the All-Site Convening in February with our city, with the aim of giving our communities the shake-up they need.