Oregon State University Extension staff will play a major role in creating a research-based guide that could help
across the nation address poverty, hunger, social justice issues and homelessness.
OSU Extension Regional Administrator to the Metro Region Patrick Proden and 4-H Outreach Coordinator Stacey Sowders will continue the work they put into the Rural Community Issue Guide - which identified problems rural residents face in their communities - extending their research to urban areas. In partnership with universities in Alaska, Washington, Colorado,Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio, OSU is leading the project where Extension will hold concern gathering sessions, conduct surveys and knock on doors in the Portland metro region asking residents about the problems they face in their communities.as they work to find solutions to their communities most pressing and 'wicked' challenges. As issues are named and framed, a guide is developed which will lead to further follow-up deliberation and dialogue in each urban community in each of these states.
The Kettering Foundation -- a nonprofit organization dedicated to researching social issues and making democracy accessible to all people -- will publish the work.
"People are dissociating from civic engagement and discourse," Proden said, which makes their efforts to engage all people paramount.
Proden and Sowders will use creative ways of garnering participation - one of the greatest challenges to conducting thorough research but essential to gathering accurate information. This includes walking through neighborhoods to talk with residents and reaching out to new partners. In addition to OSU Extension's traditional allies like the Oregon Food Bank, they'll also be working closely with arts and humanities organizations and local nonprofits to reach a wider variety of people.
"People know what they're their burning issues are but they don't always know where to go," said Proden. These upcoming community forums will help communities "convene and identify leaders within their communities."
OSU Extension staff will lead discussions to help communities will define their problems and figure out what they need to solve them, Proden said.
Not only will the effort help communities come together to identify common goals, OSU Extension staff members will also identify voids they can fill.
While conducting community discussions for the rural guide in Corbett where OSU Extension's work is primarily centered on 4-H, for example, residents communicated they wanted more help with community urban agriculture, focused on markets and small businesses, along with mediation. These are areas OSU could help with considering the Extension's extensive community agricultural programs such as the Master Gardener courses and personal development offerings such as their financial literacy classes.
"It's all about having conversations which lead to action," Proden said. "And introducing democracy to people who may have never before had an opportunity to participate.