For many community organizations, finding a meaningful way to engage with other diverse voices is never a straightforward task – but for 1000 Friends of Oregon and Metro, an initiative to prepare community leaders and advocates with knowledge about issues that matter to them provides a place to start.
On March 4, 1000 Friends of Oregon and Metro hosted training on land use and development in Oregon for a group of 12 community leaders and advocates.
At 1000 Friends of Oregon, the Land Use Leadership Initiative has become a useful way for the land use-advocacy nonprofit and Metro to introduce more ways for leaders to gain a better understanding of what Metro is responsible for as a way to become effective advocates.
“The relationship between 1000 Friends and Metro is important because we share a lot of objectives, in terms of promoting good principles of land use, good urban development and regional growth,” said Andrew Riley, a community engagement coordinator at 1000 Friends of Oregon.
Launched in 2012, the Land Use Leadership Initiative serves as a way to prepare leaders by providing access to information surrounding land use and environmental quality throughout Oregon. This year’s initiative focused on the Southwest Corridor plan, a Metro transportation project to build a light rail line, reduce congestion and improve safety in a corridor from Portland to Tigard and Tualatin.
At the initiative’s meeting, Metro Councilor Craig Dirksen talked about how Metro functions and how community leaders can get involved in decision-making processes. And Kayse Jama, executive director of Unite Oregon, talked about his experience working with Metro as part of a nonprofit.
“We have work to do to diversify our leadership and workforce at Metro,” said Peggy Morell, a community partnership program manager at Metro. “That happens on many levels. By focusing on the community advocates who are interested in the issues and want to learn how to become more effective, we can provide multiple options for engaging with Metro, whether serving on committees, testifying at public hearings or building relationships with decision-makers.”
The relationship between 1000 Friends and Metro goes beyond the initiative, though. Metro Councilor Bob Stacey served as executive director of 1000 Friends. Several initiative graduates, including Milwaukie Mayor Mark Gamba, have gone on to take leadership roles in organizations throughout the Portland region.
Metro’s efforts to engage with diverse communities is a result of Metro’s plan to advance racial equity, diversity and inclusion. The plan, published last summer, has goals that outline ways for Metro to advance racial equity throughout the region. One of those goals is for Metro to meaningfully engage with communities of color.
“The more the community learns about what we do and the decisions we make – the plans, the programs we’re responsible for – the more likely they are to get involved,” Morell said.
One of the initiative participants includes Daisy Quiñonez, a program organizer at the Bus Project. She said she participated because of her interest in planning and community development in East Portland, where she quickly learned about inequities growing up.
“I want to learn how this works, and how agencies like Metro and TriMet make the decisions they make, because a lot of times we don’t know how that happens,” Quiñonez said. “Partnerships like this are very useful and I hope they continue building partnerships like this.”
Quiñonez has also served on a variety of different committees and organizations such as the Multnomah Youth Commission and Planned Parenthood – organizations that all tie back to the place where she grew up, East Portland.
“Of course, I think from an organizing perspective, I would do a lot of those things very differently,” Quiñonez said. “But I do feel like I gained a better understanding of their thought process behind why they do community outreach the way they do.”
Community members are invited to apply to the initiative, and are encouraged to bring their own perspectives. The next wave of applications will be due at the beginning of April. Riley encourages any person interested in learning more about land use to apply.
“It’s a really excellent program to learn the ins and outs of land use, which I think can often look unapproachable from the outside,” Riley said. “It’s a great opportunity to learn how to deploy that toolbox of land use advocacy techniques to really drive community-supported goals.”