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A Day Devoted to Community Organizing

By Bill Woods

Are you concerned that citizens are often overlooked in public decisions in Cincinnati, Columbus, and Washington, D.C.? On Saturday February 23rd, the Murray and Agnes Seasongood Good Government Foundation is holding day long forum on citizen organizing. With the title "The Power of Organizing - Finding Your Community's Voice," the forum will feature panels and discussion groups on everything from basic neighborhood organizing to building coalitions in order to pass ballot initiatives. Karen Hobart Flynn, the President of Common Cause, will be the event's keynote speaker.

Flynn has a wealth of experience in organizing to bring about political reform. Before joining Common Cause's staff in Washington, D.C., she chaired Common Cause in Connecticut. She led a grassroots movement in the state that successfully brought about the public financing of election campaigns. When she first came to Washington, she was a regional director of a number of states including Ohio. As national president, she supports state chapters that are organizing to protect voting rights or to bring about redistricting reform.

A number of local organizers will be sharing their expertise and experiences as members of panels and as group discussion leaders. Josh Spring, Executive Director of the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition, Jennifer Summers, Director of the Peaslee Neighborhood Center, Michelle Dillingham, Director of Community Shares, Alice Schneider of Applied Information Resources, and Catherine Turcer, Director of Common Cause/Ohio are a few of the people involved in the day. Other local organizations taking part are CUFA, the Sierra Club, Bold New Democracy, One Westwood, Invest in Neighborhoods, and the Woman's City Club.

After Karen Hobart Flynn's keynote address, a panel led by Liz Blume of the Seasongood Board will explore common roadblocks that often get in the way of community problem solving and organizing. Following this panel, attendees will meet in discussion groups dealing with ways to organize around diverse issues that range from neighborhood concerns to the promotion of citywide policies.

A luncheon discussion will deal with the question of why citizen organizing is critical at this moment in U.S. public life, and an afternoon panel will focus on some local organizing activities that are currently underway. Next, Jeff Blevins, Chair of Journalism at the University of Cincinnati, will give a brief presentation on the role of the news media in community life and the ways grassroots movements can cultivate news coverage for their actions. Finally, a wrap up session will allow attendees to talk about, "where do we go from here?"

Since promoting good government is the goal of the Seasongood Foundation, it believes that citizen involvement in public decisions is critical to achieving that end. The Seasongood Board hopes that the Forum on February 23rd will stimulate some projects for future Foundation funding. This event will take place at the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Cincinnati from 9:00 to 4:00. For further information about attending, call (513)721-2180.

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