Wisconsin Humanities Community Powered

What is Community Powered?

Community Powered is an initiative that builds resilience among Wisconsin communities by helping them recognize, communicate, and act upon their strengths, their challenges, and their histories to envision a vibrant future. Residents of participating Wisconsin communities will experience new ways to unearth and tell stories of their communities and will take concrete steps toward making their hometowns even better places to live.  

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How will Community Powered work?

For the 2022-23 pilot, CP will work with four communities from different regions of the state: Appleton, Racine, Spooner, and the Forest County Potawatomi nation. CP has partnered with a library or cultural organization to serve as the home base for Community Powered in each of these communities:

Alongside a selected local mentor from these organizations, CP has hired four recent college graduates from each of these communities. CP will train these young people and their local mentors in humanities and digital media skills, and then support them as they collaborate with local nonprofit organizations, businesses, and citizens to create a locally meaningful project.

Building on the work of the Buildings-Landscapes-Cultures field school in Milwaukee, CP will teach these creative young people and their local mentors humanities-based, community-engaged methods that prepare them to capture and share community experiences, values, and stories of the places they live and the people who live there. Through the process, community members will tackle a challenge identified by the community and will address it with a locally designed project. In the past, these methods have produced community gardens in vacant lots, or a pocket park and updated River Walk signs. These are just a few examples of projects that utilize community vision and local spaces to meet that community’s needs.

(Want to hear more? Check out Wisconsin Humanities’ Human Powered podcast!)

Building on the work of the Buildings-Landscapes-Cultures field school in Milwaukee, CP will teach these creative young people and their local mentors humanities-based, community-engaged methods that prepare them to share and capture community experiences, values, and stories of the places they live and the people who live there. Through the process, community members will tackle a challenge identified by the community and will address it with a locally designed project. In the past, these methods have produced community gardens in vacant lots, or a pocket park and updated River Walk signs. These are just a few examples of projects that utilize community vision and local spaces to meet that community’s needs.

(Want to hear more? Check out Wisconsin Humanities’ Human Powered podcast!)

Why "Community Powered"?

This work is “community powered” because it will harness the energy, inspiration, and experiences of each participating community to generate projects that matter to them. Through truly collaborative projects, everyone will be invited to engage equally, and everyone will be given a voice. Our CP project coordinators and their local mentors will participate in deep listening within their community to help the community identify and execute a project that fits their needs and vision for the future. They will also train community members to execute that vision, giving the power over project development and execution to the community itself. By being community powered, these projects will tell the community’s stories the way the community wants to tell them, meeting the community’s goals even as the community members build connections to one another and inspire hometown pride.

Made Possible by

Community Powered is possible thanks to the financial support of Wisconsin Humanities, a $150,000 Capacity Building Grant from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Rescue Plan (ARPA) Act, and a generous private donor. Additional support for building capacity in CP’s library partners was provided by a Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction ARPA Grant.

For more information, contact the Community Powered Co-Directors, Chrissy Widmayer or Arijit Sen.

Special thanks to our advisors

Anne Basting

UW-Milwaukee

Shawn Brommer

South Central Library System

Russ Castronovo

UW-Madison Center for the Humanities

Karen Goeschko

Wisconsin Arts Board

J.P. Leary

UW-Green Bay

Chad Moffet

Mead & Hunt

Ruth Olson

Center for the Study of Upper
Midwestern Cultures (UW-Madison)

Melinda Osterberg

Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.

Tammy Rivera

Southside Organizing Center

Robert S. Smith

Marquette University

Chia Vang

UW-Milwaukee