Celebrating the light in the darkness
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This week's solstice invites us to celebrate the return of the light. During this winter season of reflection, Common Knowledge is grateful for the people who lit the way for us this year by demonstrating resilience in action.  A repeated refrain from our partners:  "We're figuring this out as we go, and each week we learn and adapt." Despite many challenges, we've seen wonderful new connections, insights and innovations emerge.  Some were small, some were large, and all have been in service of healthier communities.
Libraries Help Communities Adapt to Changing Conditions
When a featured speaker for a NorthNet Library System (NLS) network meeting cancelled at the last minute a few years ago, the NLS chair at the time, Tehama County Library Director Todd Deck, used the unexpected opening to address a topic on everyone's minds: How could libraries across Northern California support each other and their communities as they faced severe and recurring natural disasters? The approach of being opportunistic with what emerges has led to NorthNet's Recovering Together Project, which recently wrapped up an inaugural team-based learning cohort to improve library disaster preparedness and response.

The Recovering Together project has also built a growing network of support, anchored by a region-wide buddy system and comprehensive website,, featuring member-generated resources.
William Cooley is leading this project for Common Knowledge and we thank our ally and fellow coach Danis Kreimeier.  Together, we are inspired by the NorthNet library leaders who have demonstrated a commitment to community preparedness, while navigating constantly changing COVID conditions.

In his own community, Todd Deck's strategies include a jointly developed set of "living principles" and accessible multi-lingual community-facing information about disaster preparedness. Read more about the work of the ten teams in the inaugural Preparing to Respond and Recover cohort here.

Creating New Community Connections in the Time of COVID
Creating a culture of inclusion and cultural curiosity requires sustained intention and follow through. Due to the social distancing required during the pandemic, some assumed that fostering community connections would need to be put on hold until people can meet in person. Instead of waiting, our colleague Monica Cañas, a long-time local leader in parent engagement and now schoolboard member, knew that this year people needed positive community connections more than ever. 

By linking parent volunteers with enthusiastic school leadership, Monica found a way to start a powerful new tradition at her youngest daughter’s elementary school. Read here for the first installment in Monica’s blog series about engaging whole families to help a school community thrive.

Peer Educators Pivot Online to Increase Voter Participation
Adult students at California’s library literacy programs have long been some of our most valued co-creators and collaborators in designing accessible nonpartisan election information, such as the Easy Voter Guide. Last year, the California State Library supported a refresh of the Key to Community Voter Engagement Project. This photo shows adult learner leaders from around the state meeting in Sacramento in fall 2019 to be trained to lead voting workshops. 

After successfully leading in-person workshops for the March 2020 Primary, the team of peer educators of the Key to Community Project had to completely reinvent their approach for an online environment. Read here to learn about the creativity and commitment of this group of extraordinary community leaders who adapted to reach new voters in new ways.

Getting to the Heart of Community Engagement
Last month, we were pleased to participate in the first national conference dedicated to how libraries strengthen their local communities — Lead the Way: Libraries at the Heart of Community Engagement. Community-minded libraries across the country had a rich exchange at the two-day virtual conference facilitated by the Information School at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. We were pleased to partner with Redwood City Public Library on "Putting the Community at the Center of Everything" and also to present "Recovering Together: Libraries Strengthening Communities After Disaster." You can find these talks and other recent presentations by Common Knowledge here.

Hats off to the American Library Association for their Libraries Transforming Communities initiative and the collaboration with our friends at the National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation. NCDD was also a partner this year for Susan Stuart Clark's talk and article about Cultivating Community Capacity with Four Deep Wisdom Practices.  This extraordinary year of challenges and growth has led to new levels of discovery and evolution in the field of community engagement.  We are deeply grateful to all of our partners who show how authentic and sustained inclusion leads to more adaptive and resilient communities.

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