June 27, 2018 -- On June 24, thousands of northeast Ohio residents met at more than 100 locations across Cuyahoga, Lake and Geauga counties for the second annual Common Ground event, hosted by the Cleveland Foundation. This year, groups at each site explored the question, "Why does place matter?" from different perspectives and topic areas.
CH-UH was once again a host site, creating space atop Cain Park’s sledding hill with support from the Cleveland Heights Parks and Recreation Department. More than 30 participants, including parents, community members and CH-UH staff, enjoyed lunch and conversation.
Common Ground’s open forum was created for communities to share a meal and engage in conversations that could lead to specific action plans and build greater understanding. The school district’s topic area centered on collaborating with families and community to develop and enact a collective equity vision.
With three 20-minute rounds, tabletop discussions focused on answering questions like “Why does place matter, and what issues matter to you most when it comes to equity?” To ensure each voice was heard, facilitators used a structured process for moderating large community dialogue provided by Case Western Reserve’s Community Innovation Network.
Some recurring themes undeniably emerged, such as building relationships, respect and value for diversity, addressing issues around perception and gaining a greater understanding of racial equity.
"It gave us an opportunity to have conversations that we would not normally have with people; we jumped pretty quickly into some heavy duty issues, but all came away with ideas and enthusiasm for equity," said participant and Heights Middle School intervention specialist Lorna Askew.
According to the survey responses, 100% of participants spoke to someone they did not previously know and nearly all felt they had contributed a new idea or perspective into the conversation.
"As the district continues to make progress on its five-year strategic plan, this event helped us make critical connections to listen and talk with our families and the broader community,” said Lisa Hunt, Family Engagement Specialist. "Our families and community are central to that vision and critical to the support of our students."
According to the Cleveland Foundation, Common Ground’s event platform has grown from 40 sites in 2017 to 107 sites in 2018.