Saturday, November 01, 2008

The Love and Wisdom of Community Organizers

I recently spent a week in Kalamazoo, Michigan at the W.K. Kellog Foundation's Rural People, Rural Policy conference. I was in attendance as a new media consultant to work with a network of community organizers and activists from the rural southwest.

I also had a chance to add my musical voice to the artistic collective and interactive theatre group; The Carpetbag Theatre
from Knoxville,TN which provided team-building inspirational songs.

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation supports children, families, and communities as they strengthen and create conditions that propel vulnerable children to achieve success as individuals and as contributors to the larger community and society.

The Rural People, Rural Policy (RPRP) Initiative welcomes 26 organizations joining the Rural Policy Networks. This multi-year initiative is designed to improve the lives of those living in small communities across the nation. Each organization receives a $100,000 grant (over five years) to participate in the Initiative.

Of the seven Networks, there are four regional ones: Central Appalachia, Great Plains, Mid-South, and Southwest. Two are non-regional: an At-Large network and a Network of National Organizations. In 2008, Kellogg funded an existing Michigan Network. The Networks bring together diverse organizations for developing policies locally, statewide, regionally and nationally that positively impact small communities.

The recent additions strengthen the Networks with rich expertise across various sectors including agriculture, land use policy, education, youth development and health.

“Our emphasis at the WKKF is to build and strengthen of the Networks while also encouraging their organic expansion and active engagement in policy change for rural people and places,” said Caroline Carpenter, Program Director, W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

During the Republican National Convention Senator Barack Obama was attacked for being a community organizer. After spending a week with community organizers from all parts of rural America, I can attest that they are indeed the salt of the earth. I have never been surrounded by so many genuinely loving and caring people in my life. It is no small wonder that Senator Obama's message, of social change from the ground up, resonates with this core group of rural people.