Name: Veronica Watson
Year of graduation: May 2014
Major(s): International Studies, Diplomatic Studies Concentration
Community Partner: WBRP & MCCA
Veronica Watson’s Reflection:
My project started after I started attending some of the meetings for the West Bloomington Housing Collaborative. The Housing Collaborative is made up of the WBRP, MCCA, Habitat for Humanity, and a few other community stakeholders, who all worked together to win a $1.5 million grant for revitalizing West Bloomington neighborhood. The grant money is specifically meant for building or improving homes, in an attempt to bring more homeowners to the area. However, the housing market in this neighborhood is not the only issue that needs to be addressed, so the Housing Collaborative would like to consider other projects that help with the neighborhood revitalization. In order to help tie any future projects to the current housing projects, Collaborative members want a community identity or “brand” that all of the projects could work under.
With this in mind, I was tasked with holding focus groups in West Bloomington for local residents to voice their opinions on a possible community identity. This would give Collaborative organizations more of a framework to work under in the community, and it would give community members the chance to be more a part of the revitalization efforts. I held 3 focus groups at Eric’s Restaurant, and 1 at MCCA; each was attended by 2-4 local residents. While some ideas for a community identity were discussed at these focus groups, mostly residents took these groups as an opportunity to talk about their concerns for the community. Topics like crime, lack of activities for kids, and lack of diverse businesses were all things that residents wanted Collaborative organizations to know about and help address.
Maybe this project didn’t accomplish what it was supposed to in terms of identifying a community brand, but I think it was incredibly useful as a reminder to Collaborative members that there are major issues in West Bloomington besides housing. More importantly, I think these groups show how much residents care about West Bloomington, and how willing they would be help with its revitalization, if someone took the time to show them exactly how they can be more involved.