In my opinion, part of the problem is that there are so few people who live east of the river who work in positions of leadership in District government. It is very telling (and a little demoralizing) to sit in a meeting with organizations (including DC agencies) discussing important Ward 8 issues (like unemployment and economic development) and realizing that not one of them lives in our community. I think that some of the missteps we have seen in Ward 8 can be tracked back to the lack of representation in the decision making positions. To quote Boyz n the Hood, "Either they don't know, don't show, or don't care about what goes on in the hood."
I don't think it is as malicious as a lack of caring but perhaps a lack of perspective?
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Let me be clear, Ward 8 is not perfect and our residents and community leaders can (and do) benefit from outside collaboration but we also have an idea of what works in our community. Where an outside consultant may assume, a local resident has first-hand experience. There is a reason that some Ward 8 residents chuckle when they hear some of the ideas for the Saint Elizabeths project.
Despite this disconnect I do think some DC agencies and their representatives are on the right track when it comes to engaging the community and local resources for East of the River projects. The ability of some agency staff to be proactive, innovative and inclusive sends them to the head of the class when it comes to community engagement. Over the next few weeks I am going to try to highlight some of those instances where thinking outside of the box (or within the Ward) is having a positive impact.
Hopefully this will encourage others to do the same. Consider this more free (but not really) advice.
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