what’s your GOODat?

When Enterprise was awarded eight $5,000 grants from the Fetzer Institute to be used for love and forgiveness based events, I had a little trouble explaining to the local team what this meant. It turned out to be a question of semantics though, and we moved to framing the question of love in the context of value. What surfaced through this conversation was the importance of valuing oneself, and that this is a prerequisite to being a parent, child, employee, employer, teammate, neighbor, and human who is loving and forgiving. One step further, we asked ourselves how we acknowledge value, or skills and talents, across cultures in the United States. The answer was in the simple phrase, “You are good at…..” or “I am good at…..”

Based on the discovery of GOODat, and the possibility for spreading love that it brought, we began planning the third annual Baptist Town Community Day around a theme of asking and showcasing what the residents of Baptist Town are good at. We asked each other in meetings, “What are you good at?”, and my co-planner Carl Winters and I asked people as they walked, drove or biked down the street, “What’s your GOODat?” Sometimes people were uncomfortable with the question, sometimes they had lengthy answers, but what became clear is that the residents of Baptist Town (and Greenwood) are GOODat a lot things.

Activities throughout the day were planned around the responses to, “What’s your GOODat?”, and as we finished setting up, neighborhood kids were already showing how good they are at jumping and playing. After that, the day officially kicked off at 11 and residents began to visit booths set up by the Leflore County Health Center, the WIN Job Center, and the Harvard Community Development Project. At each booth, important information was available, as well as raffle tickets for door prizes. The cost of a raffle ticket? Answering the question, “What are you GOODat?”

Face painting also began at this time, and Keyauna Gatston showed her artistic skill throughout the day.

The most common answer to the GOODat question was “cooking”. Residents volunteered to cook and serve chicken, ribs, hot dogs, hamburgers, baked beans, cole slaw, and fruit. Willie Fisher, shown below, began manning the grill at 8 AM and was still serving up chicken and ribs when I left in the evening.

While lunch was being prepared, the DJ opened up the mike to anyone interested in sharing a musical talent. Lady Trucker, a professional singer, got the crowd dancing with her music, and she was followed by a praise dance by a local teen.

There was about an hour of rain in the afternoon, but few people left the event, and stayed to enjoy afternoon activities including art, bingo, a cake walk, more face painting, the inflatables and the new playground. Rosalind Wilcox led the art activities and created house numbers and name plates for residents to attach to their homes, while many residents painted their own sign boards.

While many resident shared what they are GOODat through activities, others wrote on the GOODat chalkboard (to be hung in the neighborhood community center when it is complete), shared their stories of growing up in Baptist Town with the event videographer Dash Brown, or included their skills as a door prize in the form of a GOODat gift certificate. Raffle winners could choose from a hair cut, nail art, dance lessons, or car detailing from their entrepreneurial neighbors.

GOODAt gift certificate

Throughout the day and the planning process, I was impressed with the many volunteers who shared their time and efforts and the support from the greater Greenwood community (especially the City Public Works Department). As we asked each other, “What’s your GOODat?”, I believe we were acknowledging that we are all valuable, and that was the magic of the day: each individual and what they contribute to the community by simply showing up.

a meeting without an agenda

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Those of us working in the field of social impact design attempt to enhance neighborhoods, introduce design where it is lacking, and reduce social and economic inequities. Though fellows work hard to serve the public and engage communities, the road to realize projects is often rocky, with the interests of various groups and individuals coming into conflict with each other, the project, or the way in which it is being implemented.

In recent weeks, local politics threw a road block in the way of the housing portion of the Baptist Town neighborhood revitalization project in Greenwood, Mississippi . The road block may have been posturing or it may have been the result of poor communication, but in either case, mud was slung and tempers rose over a deed issue. Diplomacy eventually won out, and the project only suffered slight delays. In the midst of navigating this sensitive situation, a community meeting unlike any I had previously experienced was a refreshing reminder of the big picture goals of this neighborhood wide project.

The Kids Only Community meeting on April 20th involved chalk, markers and imaginations. Neighborhood kids were invited to the playground (currently a basketball court, swings and a few spring rockers), to share their ideas of what could exist on the site. Slides and monkey bars were top recommendations, but we also asked students how this park could incorporate their favorite subject in school (The overwhelming response was math!). Project H’s LearningLandscapes served as a great precedent that allowed both the kids and the adults who helped collect feedback understand how a playground could be a fun and active space, while providing opportunities for learning and fit within a limited budget.

We collected dozens of drawings and photographed the chalk art that spread across the basketball court throughout the meeting. Kids were excited to share their ideas, especially when we asked them to dream up things they hadn’t seen before. An addition to the swing set that would make it look like a dragon, an unlimited supply of sidewalk chalk, and hills to roll down were just a few of the ideas we took away.

Though this playground is a smaller scale and less contentious project than the twenty-six home affordable housing effort that is taking place a block away, the enthusiasm and flexibility that the kids of Baptist Town shared with me on Saturday will be a reminder of the best way to approach future challenges as they arise.


looking for something?


The first Public Interest Design week happened in Minneapolis last week. As one attendee put it, “I found my people.” If you are new to community led architecture, this post is for you. These conferences allow an open format for discourse about architecture, development, design, and the way we work to progress.

The field can sometimes be frustrating because it is difficult to know what is happening in the field and how to take part when so much of the work is through grassroots efforts. The program for last weeks conference documents many opportunities in the field – educational, fellowships, jobs, papers, etc. Most of this is at the end of the document below, so go apply for something new and exciting.