This week I had the privilege of sitting in on two meetings that are an outgrowth of the community connections and action plans formed during February’s Creative Atlantic City Call to Collaboration. Not surprisingly, the issues raised by our participants in our Atlantic City convening were very similar to those we’ve heard in our other creative communities such as Trenton.
The first post-convening meeting was between a group of AC residents, education professionals and social service organizations working on bringing the voice and perspective of youth to community discussions. This group is the Atlantic City Youth Advisory Council, spearheaded by Alejandra Sulpizio of The Arc of Atlantic County, and joined by representatives from The Boys & Girls Club, Atlantic Cape Community College, Robin’s Nest, Inc., and other organizations.
Together, they are working together to organize a Youth Convening modeled after Creative Atlantic City – which utilizes a process in which participants, in the case of the AC Youth Advisory Council it will be students – will be in charge of creating the agenda, leading the breakout sessions, and driving action plans. The Boys & Girls Club has offered to host the half-day convening and target dates are set for October.
The group’s goals are several – to bring different youth populations together (ages 15-21) from Atlantic City, to give young people a voice and opportunity to engage with each other and issues that are of importance to them, and to connect the youth that participate with other community groups working on those same issues.
We saw two similar initiatives launch after Creative Trenton’s Call to Collaboration in January 2014. Three months after Creative Trenton a Youth Summit was organized for middle-school aged children through a partnership between the Trenton school district and The College of New Jersey. We also saw a group of concerned citizens, led by the West Ward Alliance Youth Collaborative and our statewide partners The Citizens Campaign, organize a forum that brought together Trenton School District representatives, educators, conflict resolution experts and the Mayoral candidates to discuss the state of the Trenton School system,
The second meeting I attended was focused on another new initiative formed at Creative Atlantic City: Live.Work.AC is part of a multi-pronged effort focused on attracting businesses to AC in, for now, three different areas: healthcare, technology, and the creative industries. On Thursday, April 16th, Nick Palmisano from 11th Floor Creative Group, his business partner Brendon Jerome, and Janet Garraty from GoJaneNews.com led a collaborative brainstorming session about the first phase of this initiative with approximately 35 residents, business owners and municipal representatives.
Live.Work.AC’s website states that it is a collaborative effort to “grow the business community by highlighting the existing businesses in Atlantic City.” They “aim to promote that Atlantic City is more than just a place to play” by working in a grass roots fashion to gather an inventory on the businesses in town and create short features that can be easily pushed out on social media, starting with the networks of current business owners, employees and residents.
Check out Nick Palmisano’s short video on Live.Work.AC held as part of a unique public series of “Noon Time Talks” hosted by Elizabeth Terenik and the Atlantic City Planning Board.
In the first phase of this project, Live.Work.AC will utilize multiple online and social media outlets to highlight these businesses, including a website, a Facebook page and other social media. By crowd-sourcing the inventory and enlisting both business owners and their customers to help collectively highlight the businesses through social media, the hope is to build a presence and awareness quickly before moving into a second phase of targeted messaging around recruitment.
“We know that there are groups in Atlantic City, like the [Greater Atlantic City] Chamber of Commerce, who are diligently working to attract larger businesses, and we want to help by working from the bottom up: if we can meet in the middle, everyone wins,” said Palmisano as he kicked off the meeting.
Those present at the Live.Work.AC meeting identified several factors which pose challenges including a negative image of Atlantic City in the media and the effect of that negative perception on those outside of Atlantic City. Strategy discussions about how to help launch this initiative included reaching out to civic associations to spread the word among their members and working to integrate the Live.Work.AC content with the casino employee web portals that provide company news to thousands of employees.
Interestingly, we also heard similar conversations at Creative Trenton about boosting the visibility and image of Trenton in an attempt to overcome negative media and to introduce outsiders to the kinds of businesses that are seeing success in Trenton, which has been an entrenched problem for our capital city.
Since we are seeing similar issues raised in multiple communities it raises a couple of questions for our Creative New Jersey team: How can we leverage the learning that each individual community is doing to strengthen the fabric of our state as a whole? How can we connect our communities to each other so that we can become resources for each other?
Creative New Jersey’s Statewide Convening is coming up on June 3rd and during which we hope to start tackling those very questions, but in the meantime, we’d love to hear your thoughts: How can we, as New Jerseyans, align, leverage and promote our work and networks for mutual benefit and impact?
If you’d like to learn more about either of the Atlantic City projects or get involved, please email Kacy O’Brien at email@example.com. To register for Creative New Jersey’s Statewide convening, click here.
Photo at top: Live.Work.AC brainstorming session about using social media to promote and attract small business in Atlantic City.
Kacy O’Brien is the Program Manager at Creative New Jersey. She is also a member of Lead New Jersey’s 2015 class. Creative New Jersey is dedicated to fostering creativity, innovation, and sustainability by empowering cross-sector partnerships in commerce, education, philanthropy, government, and culture in order to ensure dynamic communities and a thriving economy. Creative New Jersey’s leaders and partners are regular contributors to the Dodge Blog.