Shadowing: For nine hours, I accompanied an African American community leader and urgan gardener in LA, as he held meetings with neighbors, planted in his garden, and held more meetings with sponsors, well-wishers, and potential investors. It was interesting to learn that despite high unemployment rates in his community, he could not find gardeners to train because of a gardening mindset problem. African Americans in his neighborhood equate gardening with slavery, so they want nothing to do with it even if it promises economic opportunity and self-sufficiency. This community leader has the tough task of changing mindsets and subsequently running an educational campaign on the benefits of being a gardener and growing one’s own food.
Foreign Correspondent: I interviewed a local urban gardener and community leader in Lagos, Nigeria to understand their needs and challenges. I anticipated comparing it to the needs of other urban gardeners in the US. The urban gardener confirm that while some irrigation tools were expensive to acquire, they had all they needed to grow food locally – seeds, land, demand from customers and local labor. What they lacked was a technology platform to facilitate connections from gardener to customer at scale. What we take for granted in the West – a simply created Wix website, turns out to still be a challenge in the Global South.
Five Whys: When visiting the community leader of a successful art program in Boston, I asked her five whys in four areas:
- Why did you decide on an art program instead of STEM?
- Why did you select this community in Boston?
- Why did you decide to focus on youth?
- Why do the youth keep returning?
The take-aways were illuminating: neighborhoods are smaller than we imagine and are defined by the residents, who communicate with and are close – personally and proximity – to certain streets. Locally-drawn lines (think zip codes and subdivisions) do not help to understand what constitutes community closeness.