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Community Conversations

The Bowen Center for Public Affairs at Ball State University, Indiana Humanities, and several statewide partners are preparing to announce regions chosen for the fourth Community Conversations series, designed to help regions in Indiana address their most challenging concerns. Read an op-ed in The Indianapolis Star by Keira Amstutz and Sally Jo Vasicko about the importance of the having these conversations.

The deadline to submit a letter of interest was March 2. Communities will be selected and notified by mid-April.

The Bowen Center for Public Affairs and Indiana Humanities will work with local partners to:

  • Convene regional conversations among community leaders and citizens from public, private and non-profit sectors to address major challenges facing communities;
  • Evaluate possible solutions for addressing community challenges and discuss best practices; Provide regions with access to resources, technology, and expertise in the creation of solutions to regional problems;
  • Provide ongoing consultation to continue to address these challenges

These conversations help provide insights into developing competitive community strategies through collaboration, open dialogue, well-leveraged human capital, cultural assets, and a shared vision for the region across public, private and non-profit sectors. The agenda will be tailored to each community’s needs and be designed to bring communities into an open civic dialogue that recognizes the importance of both vision and action.

The workshops are typically a day-long meeting, beginning in the morning and concluding in mid-afternoon.  However, they can also be a two-hour event with a keynote speaker, a mobile bus tour, or anything in between. A nominal fee can be charged to participants to cover the cost of meals and materials. The cost of the speakers, planning and promotion will be covered by the Bowen Center for Public Affairs, Indiana Humanities, and event sponsors. After the workshops, The Bowen Center for Public Affairs will provide additional consultation as requested.

Communities were encouraged to create a customized program from the following menu of issues:

Working Together: Collaboration and Regional Community Development
Collaboration is more than a buzz word. Collaborative efforts can produce results that improve Hoosiers’ quality of life, education, and regional community development. Communities throughout Indiana have already discovered the advantages and value of collaboration with their individual communities, counties, and regions. The Bowen Center for Public Affairs and Indiana Humanities will foster community conversations about collaborative strategies that have worked in various communities and how bringing together diverse, cross-disciplinary organizations might assist communities to meet their stated goals and needs.

Quality of Place-Arts, Education, Environment
Why do individuals want to live or move to a particular community? A sense of “place” has been on the minds of many Hoosiers. They want their “place” to reflect an enjoyable and beneficial quality of life. This sense of place can combine such issues as the opportunities and strength of the educational system and cultural programs as well as a concern about the community’s approach to sustaining the environment. Numerous cities, towns, and counties have learned the value of embracing their arts, heritage, and educational cultural environments. These realizations have produced changes in attitudes and behaviors which have resulted in a stronger sense of “place” for residents of the larger community. The Bowen Center for Public Affairs and Indiana Humanities will aid in creating conversations about how cities, towns, and counties create, fund, and implement an arts, heritage, education or a cultural environment strategy. Replication of best practices will also be discussed.

Making Government Work-Collaboration and Civility in Local Government
Hoosiers are concerned about how their state and local governments function. Whether considering township, city, town, or county government policies, Hoosiers want to know how decisions are made. Over the past few years, the Indiana General Assembly has considered legislation about government consolidation. Several years ago, the Kernan-Shepard Report featured 27 recommendations to increase local government’s effectiveness. In response, some communities in Indiana have collaborated to seek areas where local governments can work together, sponsored sessions which emphasized more citizen participation, or engaged in local government consolidation. Civility in civic affairs is an integral part of this process. The manner in which issues are presented, and how we speak to and with each other can determine the outcome of any proposed change. The Bowen Center for Public Affairs and Indiana Humanities will help communities engage in a dialogue about making government work through collaboration and incorporate the concept of civility as an important aspect of the conversation. In addition, best practices that have been successful in making government work could also be part of the session.

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