Sunday, December 7, 2008

ABetterShreveport and The Civic Engagement Center get married!

There was no thrown rice or blushing bride, but it sure seems like we married a well-matched couple at our meeting last Thursday morning.

Stuart Greathouse acted as the "strategy facilitator" as we discussed the mission of ABetterShreveport (ABS) and how it was distinct from ABS' Greenways Committee, the Friends of Greenways Fund (tentatively titled), and the Center for Civic Engagement (CCE). After much talk about the purpose of each, the group arrived at a consensus that ABS should become a part of CCE. The following summarizes what the group discerned each organization to be:

Center for Civic Engagement: a 501 C3 non-profit organization intended to serve as an administrative and organizational resource center for collective efforts aimed at furthering pubic interests. The center does this by documenting processes involved in such efforts, archiving resources and accounts, and performing research in the public interest.

The center was started by Steve Shelburne, and is funded by a variety of grants and private donations. The primary private donor is Centenary College, which contributes monies, student internships, and a facility to house the center, as well as the Shreveport-Bossier Community Foundation.

ABetterShreveport: to serve as a forum for working on ideas for improving Shreveport and the region at large.

ABetterShreveport was started primarily by Loren Demerath and Ian Webb, but with much assistance from many others who've attended meetings over the past year and a half. It is unfunded, but meets, has an online presence, and has applied for grants using resources provided by the Centenary College Sociology Department.

The Shreveport Greenways Committee has been proposed through discussions to this point as follows: to serve as the driving force for making progress on the creation of a system of greenways that can be used for both recreation and alternative transportation in Shreveport and the surrounding area.

The Shreveport Greenways Committee would be made up of a specific, manageably small group of people who would be motivated, informed, and in a position to move the project forward.

While the group agreed to table the question of whether or not to create a separate non-profit organization for the Greenways project, one option that was discussed in past is to establish a separate "Friends of Shreveport Greenways" account within the Civic Engagement Center.

Much of last Thursday's meeting centered on how the mission of ABetterShreveport is similar to that of the Civic Engagement Center. Distinctions, though, include the way in which CCE is concerned with marshaling existing organizational resources, and ABS with providing an interaction forum that can act as an organizational incubator for forming to advance some public interest issue. In the end, the consensus seemed to be that the two organizations complemented each other and that it would be in the interests of both to work in conjunction with one another and see themselves as linked.

(So be it!)

We reserved some time at the end of the meeting to discuss how Ian and Loren should approach the meeting with Stacye Payne and Bill Lane of the National Park Service' Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program. There was discussion over whether a greenways network should serve transportation needs over recreation needs, or vice versa, and it was agreed that neither should be the case. Optimally, the network would serve both needs; it was said that if the network either provided for transportation but not recreation, or for recreation but not transportation, it wouldn't achieve the unique set of outcomes in health, quality of life, and sustainable development that another kind of network could achieve.

As part of the new conjoining of ABetterShreveport and the Center for Civic Engagement, CCE will typically send a person to those meetings, and ABS meetings generally, to document and report on them. Typically, the recorder will be in the form of one of CCE's student-staffers that have been trained in that capacity, though at tomorrow's meeting it will be Steve himself.

ABetterShreveport's next meeting will be some morning next week, likely Wednesday at 8:20 (to allow Tuesday and Thursday a.m. occupied people to join us, if they like). I'll announce it here and via the e-mail list soon.

(By the way, if you're not on that list, and would like to be added, just email me at

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