As part of Portland Sustainability Institute's 2011 EcoDistrict Summit, Foster Green was proud to host an on-site workshop entitled, "How do we weave a thriving future from a diverse past?" Beginning with a bus tour along a former streetcar route, and along Foster Road, coordinating committee members Jessica Anders and Jonathan Brandt provided historical and demographic context for Foster Green's recent work with engagement and organization. The tour soon arrived at Leach Botantical Gardens where fellow coordinating committee member David Porter further illuminated the geographical and thematic elements of our EcoDistrict, including a brief history of the Gardens and it's hopeful future as part of the "Eastern Eden" of Foster Green. It was here that more participants arrived to fill the room at sixteen attendees from geographically diverse, well-educated backgrounds.
The facilitated discussion that followed, courtesy of Alisa of Portland BPS, served us well to explore the intersections of cultural diversity and infrastructure. There were great questions raised such as, "Are ethnic enclaves a strength or a weakness?"
We attempted to identify bridges that could span the social fragmentation of our EcoDistrict, while examining the potential for infrastructure's "common ground" that could serve as unifying elements throughout Foster Green. One program that found general support among the group was a series of international food and culture/film festivals that would progress up and down Foster Road throughout the year, thus drawing folks out to mingle with a larger and more diverse population of neighbors across the community.
As we honed in on the two focus areas of infrastructure and social cohesion, we rested on three big take-aways for future work:
- Restoring value to our diverse cultures by celebrations in public space.Building the social capital by first understanding how everyone is part of this neighborhood.
- How do groups and individuals see themselves and how that is manifested in the use of third places?
- Encouraging others to be curious about each other as a strategy to engage, learn and be pleasantly surprised - appreciating differences and new ways of seeing and living.
- Jonathan Brandt