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Mobilizing For Sustainable Development
Volume 2, Issue 1 Spring, 2009 Sojourner-Douglass College

Transforming Communities From the Bottom Up

Helping In The CommunitySince its birth during the Civil Rights Movement, Sojourner-Douglass College has held fast to its original mission to help residents gain control over the forces which shape their lives. Now, in light of today's heightened interests in “transformation,” SDC intends to help define this notion as it relates to changing urban communities.

By mobilizing stakeholders around a common vision, identifying and assembling all the necessary technical and financial resources, and being the anchor to sustain the process over time, Sojourner-Douglass College is helping its neighbors write a new chapter on effective grass roots development. With the College and the resources of numerous partners behind them, the residents can develop and implement their own vision of the future.

To transform a community authentically, a shift away from the traditional top – down paradigm is necessary. The conditions and circumstances facing urban communities today require new approaches and replacement of an economy that does not serve the best interests of working class people.

S-DC's new approach identifies five core values: a comprehensive planning process; a model that will eliminate poverty; new rules of engagement to prevent exploitation of the community's assets by outsiders; resident engagement from the very beginning and at all levels of the process; and a replacement economy based on self-determination.

Sojourner-Douglass College and its community partners have developed a framework grounded in self-help. The aim is to weave the fabric of community with threads of civic engagement, cooperative economics and connectivity among the residents.

Imagine a community in which land use policies benefit residents instead of outside investors. Elected officials are accountable to the people. Career options and livable wages are available for adult populations. Ex-offenders and young Black males can find meaningful jobs and self employment opportunities.

Necessities such as food, housing, clothing and other commodities are produced by residents and the profits distributed and circulated many times within the community. Capital is available for home-ownership and small business development through a bank or credit union owned by the residents.

Such a community will result in systemic progress. Median incomes will rise, Black unemployment will drop, and Black homeownership will increase. Neighboring communities will purchase their goods and services because of their superior quality, further reinvigorating the local economy. This new paradigm will benefit the many, not just the few. It will create a new sense of pride amongst our children and a firm foundation for the next generation.

Please stay tuned…

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