Decatur Next

Decatur Diary | September 1, 2015

250+ Gather to Launch Better Together Community Conversation

On Saturday, August 29, more than 250 Decatur neighbors — residents, students, business owners, retirees and others — gathered in the Ebster Gym and devoted five hours of their day to a frank and focused conversation on diversity — sharing their Decatur experience and listening as others did the same.

The event marked the formal launch of the Better Together initiative, a substantive community conversation around the myriad differences — in culture, race, age, abilities, politics, economic resources, and more — that make us who we are.

Guided by trained facilitators and working from a printed conversation guide (.pdf), the group explored multiple perspectives on what it means to be a part of the Decatur community and how, from community/police relations to rising taxes to the decreasing affordability of our housing, different individuals have been personally impacted.

Who participated?

Perhaps reinforcing the fact that the issues we face as a community affect us all in one way or another, the make-up of the room was notably consistent with the broader community — reflecting very closely the demographic findings of last years diversity report (.pdf), which used the latest U.S. Census data. Here’s how attendance shook out (self-defined via real-time polling):

Better Together quick recap for Decatur Next

Better Together quick recap for Decatur Next

How It Worked

The day was kicked off by a welcome from Commissioner Patti Garrett and Mayor Emerita Elizabeth Wilson, after which participants sat at round tables in groups of 6 to 8 and talked of their personal experiences in Decatur. As the day went on, those stories began to solidify into a variety of diversity-related ideas that were shared with the larger group. From that came proposed actions that may work their way into the developing Community Action Plan, the policy and implementation guide for Decatur’s leadership to be presented for review and adoption by the city commission at the conclusion of this process.

What Comes Next?

Better Together is committed to orchestrating a meaningful and legitimate process. One in which anyone who wants to contribute, whatever their views, will have opportunity to do so. So far, it’s working. Between the more than 250 participants in the kick-off and the citizen surveys completed to-date, we’ve already heard from over a thousand people. And that number continues to grow.

One way we’ll be engaging more voices is through small group discussions taking place in the coming weeks at kitchen tables, schools, places of worship or anywhere with a handful of chairs and a few people looking to share. You’re encouraged to attend one of these discussions or, better yet, host one yourself. Download a copy of the Conversation Toolkit (.pdf) for everything you need to put together your own small event.

Here’s a collection of images from the day, courtesy of photographer Hector Amador:





















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