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Looking Toward the Future

by Milenko Matanovic

As Pomegranate Center plans for its next steps, we asked our Board and supporters to help us improve our work and impact. As a part of this learning, we posted a survey to our mailing list.

We asked what our followers see as the most important benefits of our work. The highest rankings were for community betterment:

  1. Getting communities to work together and build relationships

  2. Increasing a community’s sense of ownership for where they live

  3. Making public meetings more meaningful

Creating gathering spaces was ranked lower. This is a confirmation of the pivot we made four years ago shifting to training community engagement skills and using gathering place projects as a hands-on component of that training. In numerous conversations we find that the greatest need is for people to reclaim their neighborhoods as safe places with identity and pride, and to create a better alignments with governments, non-profits and businesses – community collaboration.

How can Pomegranate Center thrive and continue to serve in the future? We were encouraged to continue doing what we’re doing and, if possible, expand our work:

Not enough organizations like you out there. Please continue showing the world how you can have a meaningful job that pays decently and pairs with education of professionals. Expand!”

“I see your work continuing along the same trajectory, particularly as the art and spirit of collaboration becomes ever more important and necessary to the health and success of our communities in the future.”

We also heard how our methods for community engagement should become more of a norm:

“Make PCs Ground Rules for Public Engagement a standard starting point for all communities.”

 “Train leaders to do the work that is needed within their communities, and provide a place of renewal and skill-building for politicians and others in the public eye.”

And this ambitious suggestion:

“I would suggest that you partner with the State Department to intervene in Israel and Palestine and get Netanyahu and Abbas together for a weekend facilitating the building of community relationships.”

Thank you for that vote of confidence but right now, our work is focused in Washington State and Southern California where we have an ongoing partnership with ARTS-A Reasons To Survive, a National City-based non-profit that has adopted our community engagement practices. We’ve trained four groups of individuals and are mentoring selected leaders as part of their 3-year Creating Vibrant Neighborhoods Initiative.

This is our preferred way to do work: create long-term partnerships; leverage every project for training that leaves behind local capacity represented by new leaders and skilled collaborators.

In Washington State we are working on the Olympic Peninsula with the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe to help them envision and design Tse-whit-zen, an ancestral village site and burial grounds. We are helping Walla Walla Community Council convene a year-long regional planning project to explore how different cities and towns can assist each other and create a collaborative region. Also, we are doing several design projects for schools and the City of Seattle.

Last, we asked how Pomegranate Center has influenced the way people work or interact in their professional and/or personal life? We were thrilled to hear how the very fact we exist provides an uplift and inspiration to some of you.

Pomegranate Center is a source of inspiration for recognizing the importance of building community and neighborhood relationships and volunteering in those types of projects.”

 “Your work is a huge motivation.”

  “You’re the model for how to do powerful meaningful public work.”

Others are using the skills from our trainings and talks to improve their own work:

“I have become a more effective facilitator, which has inspired others to value facilitation as an important role.”

 “I have used what I have learned from Pom Ctr projects in both my work and volunteer/community projects; Pomegranate approach has also helped start to change how my workplace approaches projects.”

“(Pomegranate Center) helped greatly to broaden my viewpoint and understanding the community process.”

This is music to my ears. We are delighted that people are using our approach and applying it to their respective professions and situations. By now, we have trained hundreds of individuals and we are planning for a series of different trainings, from shorter introductory workshops to longer intensives that accompany projects that serve as an instant practical application of skills learned in the classroom setting. We also plan to seek grants to fund an annual gathering of trainees with the goal of refining community engagement methods and learning from one another. The idea is to provide mentoring and support to individuals and groups who want to learn our model to further master their community collaboration skills. For us, this work is the ground zero of our times: learn to collaborate or continue to suffer.

For those interested in introducing our work to other places, the most effective first step is to invite Milenko or other Center leaders for talks and conversations. Please call (425) 557-6412 or email to schedule a time.