Update on Project Activities
On Thursday, Jackelyn, Celine, and I travelled two hours south to attend the Alisal Vibrancy Plan Visioning Workshop, facilitated by the City of Salinas. It was held in a school auditorium. The workshop was meant to allow for residents (both in Salinas and in Alisal) to be involved in the planning process for the Alisal Vibrancy Plan. This event was our first official introduction to the Alisal community, and our first form of contribution to the AVP. We are scheduled to talk with Carol McKibben this weekend and Andrea Jany the coming week. Talking with them will prepare us for when we conduct interviews with residents. We will also be debriefing the Visioning Workshop with Jonathan over the phone this week and we will hopefully be receiving scanned copies of the documents created by the attendees in the near future. We also received the long-awaited HTMA document today, and will be working on reading, dissecting, and translating that document next week.
What We Observed and Learned
One of our worries was that there wouldn’t be any residents or only few residents at the Visioning session but there were actually many residents. Some not specifically from Alisal, some were from Salinas the city generally that had businesses in Alisal. There was pretty good representation of people, old, young, and disabled. They set up the workshop by three questions asked to the residents. Each overarching section had three parts they wanted to address-- strengths, weakness, and possible strategies to address the weaknesses. There were two facilitators per table and they seemed very well versed on how to facilitate discussion. They asked the questions in a way that wasn’t leading toward a certain answer. They accepted all answers and wrote them down on the large sheets of paper displaying was what said. The residents were pretty participatory and sitting with them gave us a lot of insight into their needs and wants. It was interesting to hear actual stories put to the general issues we had read about. For example, crowding was an issue we read about but sitting with the residents made it more real as one talked about how crowding was a big issue with many families living in a home and their kids wouldn’t have a place to do homework. Another example was a story of how one of the resident’s friend’s landlord continued to up their rent and that it had gone up from $1,900 per month to $2,100 per month over the course of three months. One of the biggest issues they focused on was the lack of rent control and the need for policies to control this. They also emphasized the need to inform the residents of their rights. This was a general issue as well of residents not knowing where resources are. Speaking to one of the residents one on one, she told me she got most of her information on community programing through Facebook and flyers. A younger students told me she learned about opportunities through school. They are required to complete a certain number of community service hours to graduate and this is how she got involved in many of the youth councils in the city as well as internships. Knowing this information, we know in what forms our infographic would be most useful. Some of the other things they focused on where getting youth involved with different programs and with businesses in the community to gain mentors and financial assistance. Keeping the youth focused and expanding their leadership capabilities would keep them from spending time on the streets and would therefore reduce violence. Another issue was the lack of childcare facilities. It was interesting to see they focused most on the housing and the youth. It seemed that it was a general consensus that caring for the youth would eventually result in the lowering of violence and poverty. The Visioning Session was a good experience for us, not only because it was our first experience with the community, but because we were able to each establish relationships with different residents, some parents, some students, some community leaders, watch their collective thinking process as teams, listen to their ideas and see the ones that meant the most to them.
Critical Analysis/Moving Forward
As our next steps moving forward, we plan on meeting with Carol McKibben and Andrea Jany to get more background information and insight on how to conduct interviews with the residents. Each of us made connections with some residents and gathered contact information for the interviews. We will be working as a team to refine our interview questions and methodology, such as using video or audio recording when we speak with our interviewees. Celine took photos at the Visioning Session that we will use primarily for our presentation. We will review the photos and assess what other kinds of photos we want, such as photos of parts of neighborhoods in the Alisal. We were unable to get a tour of the area due to circumstances regarding the high amounts of traffic we experienced on the way to the session, but we hope to get a chance to explore a bit more of the area. Since we finally received the HTMA document, we are excited to comb through this information and identify any discrepancies we see, at first glance, from our experiences working with residents. We are now waiting for documents from the Visioning Session, including notes from each team’s table, to be sent to us. Once we have these, we can make more accurate comparisons with the HTMA document. Next Tuesday we will have a conference call with Jonathan to debrief and identify ways this community forum will be implemented in future planning for the project.
One of the things we enjoyed about the meeting is that the forum seemed overall very well-structured. Residents were seated at different tables to form small teams and work on answering questions together. The majority of tables were “Spanish-only” that composed of many bilingual residents and some monolingual residents. A few tables were designated as English-speaking so other residents could also participate. The majority of the event was run in Spanish and translations were always provided, even the main questions were asked in Spanish. This approach seemed very effective as monolingual Spanish speakers were given the power to express their thoughts and discuss these ideas in a low-pressure environment. We noticed that language barriers still persist, as ideas like “rent control” and “grants” were terms that bilingual speakers, who were often more highly educated, could not translate to Spanish. As this is something we will come across when we translate the HTMA document, we want to identify ways to best translate these ideas so that monolingual Spanish residents can be empowered by having the language to put towards these ideas.
We want to hear about other ways residents are involved besides semi-formal settings like these. We noticed that there was an issue expressed by many residents about the means of spreading information, such as community forums, to the community. We want to know how much pubbing is done in schools, local businesses, neighborhoods, and places commonly frequented by Alisal residents such as super markets. We would also like to identify who was and wasn’t present because of this issue. A few families were present, but we noticed that many adults participating were community leaders, people who work in different nonprofits or welfare agencies. One participant was a Salinas resident who is a Stanford graduate. We want to ensure that more of the general public, including the working class and undereducated demographics, are getting information about these meetings and are able to attend them.