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Published: Friday, 6/1/2007

2-day workshop to foster group relationships

BY CLYDE HUGHES
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Representatives from 32 community organizations from Northwest Ohio will meet with faculty and staff from numerous universities at the Sofia Quintero Art and Cultural Center, 1225 Broadway, starting today to find common interests and develop working relationships.

The Common Interest, Shared Efforts participatory action research workshop was organized by Bowling Green State University's Partnerships for Community Action and Center for Innovative Transformative Education.

The workshop, which begins at 6:30 p.m. and runs through Saturday, will assist community organizations with researching and evaluating issues and solutions, said Patrick Vrooman of Partnerships for Community Action.

"We've got about 100 people coming, which is more than what we were anticipating, so that's a good thing," Mr. Vrooman said. "Participatory action research basically is a research technique that says we are going to work together as a group and we won't hire some researcher to come in and do a project. We are going to get people who are interested in a topic to do research themselves."

One of tonight's speakers, Andrew Mott, director of the Community Learning Project and a senior fellow at New York University, will focus on "citizen monitors" and programs focusing on activism for community colleges and universities, Mr. Vrooman said.

"Citizens can learn how to research the issues they think are important to them instead of relying on supposed experts to do that," Mr. Vrooman said. "We want to work together with university people, community people from all sorts of organizations to learn how to do that or at least start to learn how to do that in this workshop."

Mary Brydon-Miller, a professor at the University of Cincinnati, will also participate. Ms. Brydon-Miller has been involved in both community and educational research.

Mr. Vrooman said the workshop grew out of a community engagement initiative at Bowling Green State University and his office was trying to assist faculty members in connecting with the community.

"I think primarily, the first goal [of the workshop] is that when [workshop attendees] leave, they have made connection with another organization or another person who has a common interest," Mr. Vrooman said. "One of the big things we'll do on Saturday morning is that people will make presentations and say, 'This is what we do,' and 'This is what we're interested in.' We hope to make connections with others who have a common interest."

Dennis Wisebaker, the executive director of the VIVA South Toledo community development corporation, said his organization has benefitted from a connection with Bowling Green State, which helped in preparing for a grant presentation. He said partnerships with university offices can enhance the services community organizations can provide to their neighborhoods.

"I need to talk away from [the workshop] with a way to hear the voice of the community," Mr. Wisebaker said.

"Many of these people coming from Bowling Green and [the University of Toledo] are used to doing this, but I'm not. The biggest thing I need out of this is a method of activating the residents in this community for their own development. I can also use some direction on alternative funding sources," he said.

Other sponsors of this event include the Sofia Quintero center, the Needmoor Fund, the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, the University of Toledo's department of foundations in education, and the communication studies school, American culture studies program, and sociology, education foundation, and inquiry departments at Bowling Green State University.

Contact Clyde Hughes at:

chughes@theblade.com

or 419-724-6095.



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