Roundtable Dialogues for a Democratic Economy

    Over the last month human dignity organizers in Crook, Polk, Clackamas & Umatilla Counties hosted a Roundtable in their county to look at the state of the local economy and to explore options for how we move forward.  From city councilors and service providers to legislators, farmers and labor leaders, community leaders are coming together to take a look at what’s working and what’s not in our communities.  Ideas and conversations ranged from hometown strategies to national and statewide barriers and solutions.

    This is all a part of ROP’s effort to support Hometown Strategies for Democratic Economy.  The goal is to open up dialogue with a cross section of community leadership to really think together about just what this notion of Democratic Economy could look like and local steps that could be taken to move toward this vision.  The Roundtables are addressing both short term strategies to help people through this economic crisis, and longer term visioning to help us get closer to a people-centered economy in rural and small town Oregon.

    We all know this economy is not working for us, but changing this to be a people centered economy that is locally controlled and sustainable and fair and equitable is a huge and daunting challenge.  But there are some real cracks showing in the system – communities are switching from big corporate banks to credit unions and local banks, there is work afoot to create an Oregon State Bank; green jobs is the buzz word when it comes to economic development, and there are grassroots gardening projects popping up left and right.  How can we push on some of those cracks?  How can we support ongoing efforts?  And how can we come up with some real ideas that will start moving us in the right direction right now for our communities – what we are calling Hometown Strategies.  These are some of the questions being explored at the Roundtables.

    Coming out of the Roundtables, local organizers are developing next steps that range from organizing for a utility assistance program in Prineville to creating the Clackamas County People for Democracy & Sustainable Economy.

    Hear first hand about the Roundtables from those who organized them at the Rural Caucus & Strategy Session this Saturday, April 10th in Albany.  And let us know now if you would like ROP to support your organizing for a Roundtable in your community this year by emailing cara@rop.org.

    In the meantime, check out the below article that features the Roundtable hosted by the Human Dignity Advocates of Crook County.

all my best, Cara

–Roundtable focuses on economic strategy
The Human Dignity Advocates of Crook County are planning to hold similar future events with guest speakers

Kevin Gaboury

March 12, 2010

With Crook County experiencing difficult economic times, one local group is bringing community leaders together to discuss a new economic strategy centered on the community.

The Human Dignity Advocates of Crook County (HDA) held a round-table discussion with local business, health, education, government, public safety, agriculture, and social service leaders to talk about current economic impacts and opportunities facing the people of Crook County. The HDA is a social justice organization of volunteers working to build a community-centered economy.

"It’s an economy that relies on the individuals who live there and the businesses that work there," said Kathleen Paterno of HDA of Crook County. "It’s creating an economy that is self-sustaining so that we’re not as reliant on outside sources and funding from various sources. How can we really support each other?"

The event was one of many grassroots community gatherings happening in rural communities across Oregon sponsored by local human dignity groups and the Rural Organizing Project (ROP). During the round table held last Saturday, participants discussed what programs or services are working in Crook County and which ones are not.

"Everybody was very proud of the community," Paterno said. "There was a great sense from all of these people that they have great confidence in the organizations that we have and how they’re functioning. There were a lot of examples of good things that are happening."

An example of what’s working is the newly formed Rimrock Health Alliance. This coordination and collaboration of local health providers helps more people receive the healthcare they need.

What’s not working, however, is the perception of the Crook County School District.

"A lot of people spoke of (how) our school district doesn’t have the best reputation in Central Oregon or elsewhere, when actually it’s a very good school system," Paterno said. "It’s a matter of getting the word out of what our good attributes are."

In addition, communication among entities and the public needs to be improved. The next steps will include implementing effective ways to connect more people to services, including informative brochures or Web sites.

"A lot of people are working in a lot of different directions, but nobody is paying attention to how they fit," Paterno said. "We also felt like there are a lot of services available, but people generally don’t know how to access them. We saw that one of the roles we may be able to play is in getting that information to the general public."

According to Prineville Mayor Mike Wendel, who was in attendance Saturday, it was eye-opening to bring the issues facing the community out in the open.

"I think it was educational for some people to understand that the city, county, school district and other entities involved in our local community do work together and we have been working together for quite some time," he said.

The overriding theme of the meeting, Paterno said, was the need to move into action. The information from the meeting will be used to address some of the immediate needs of residents while looking into long-term structure that support and strengthen the community.

"There are people who are in crisis right now, people who are hurting," she said. "There’s a lot of stress going on right now with unemployment issues and foreclosures. We think there is some immediate care that is needed in our community right now. We need to get active."

The group is planning future events for the public that will involve various guest speakers exchanging ideas and solutions regarding their areas of expertise, Paterno added.

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