This blog will eventually become a conversation around the possibility of developing a sustainability-focused community building intiative in the Utica, NY area. I am a Utica native who has been living in Portland, Oregon for the past few years. Currently, I’m finishing up my masters in social work at Portland State University. My plans after graduation include a return to the Utica area to live closer to family and the place I will always call ‘home.’
My experiences in Portland and my studies at Portland State have put me in contact with some very innovative community development projects that simultaneously strengthen neighborhoods, support their local economies and promote environmental sustainability. These initiatives seem to be faring well in Portland, and I want to know if other communities are interested in learning about them and creating something similar for themselves.
Personally, I am excited about the possibilities that these initiatives might hold for the Utica area in terms of building better relationships in neighborhoods, creating a supportive local economy and fostering environmental sustainability. I see great potential for the Utica area to become a model of a sustainable town; a haven for those who value a commitment to people and place.
In mid-November, 2010, my brother, Matthew Ossowski (a Utica-based filmmaker and musician) will join me in Portland to produce a short film about Portland’s approaches to community development. This will be an informational film about the possibilities inherent in cultivating similar projects in Utica, NY. Drawing on first-hand experience and training in the field of social sustainability, and featuring interviews with Portlanders doing some innovative work in the field, the film will encourage the viewer to answer the following questions:
- Will people in Utica be interested in undertaking projects like the ones described in the film?
- Will these projects do well in Utica?
- What adaptations will the community in Utica make to these projects, if they adopt any of them?
- Will these projects be part of a movement that builds a critical mass of people making a long-term, sustained investment to the Utica community?
A final note: this will not be a film about how to “fix” Utica. Nor will it suggest that Portland does everything perfectly. Instead, it is intended to describe a model that seems to be a success in terms of strengths-based, sustainable community development.
I welcome any comments and I am looking forward to the conversation generated by this project!