Seven Neighborhoods: Strong History, Shared Future

In July 2021, Near West Side Partners brought together a wide variety of community stakeholders – from residents to business leaders, government officials to non-profit organizations – for a conversation about the future of Milwaukee’s Near West Side.

That conversation, structured as a three day Appreciative Inquiry summit, focused on accelerating NWSP’s mission to revitalize and sustain the Near West Side as a thriving business and residential corridor, through collaborative efforts to promote commercial development, improved housing, green spaces, and healthy food, unified neighborhoods, and improved safety for residents and business.

Each day prompted questions and discussions about the hopes and needs of the Near West Side community. Residents, students and business owners will pool their perspectives to envision and plan for what they want the Near West Side to look like 10 years from now and what steps can be taken over the next 2-3 years to realize that vision.

Unique Projects in the Near West Side

Following the Appreciative Inquiry Summit, Near West Side Partners identified five unique projects to build on the Near West Side’s strengths. These projects include:

1. Concordia 27:

An innovative community center bringing the best of the Near West Side services under one roof to address the needs and interests of Near West Side residents.

Exterior renderings of the Concordia 27 space.

2. Community Corners:

Improving the experience of all who travel through the Near West Side, ensuring streets are safe, clean and welcoming to all who live, work, play and stay.

3. Green & Renewing Near West Side:

An initiative to make the Near West Side a greener, more sustainable community through nature-based solutions for existing homes, businesses and new (re)developments to ensure healthier people, ecosystem, and planet.

4. Meaningful Opportunities for Youth:

Engaging youth and youth-serving organizations in meaningful opportunities to grow, learn, play and lead in the community while ensuring their voices are always part of the fabric of the Near West Side.

5. Magnetic Community of Choice:

Highlighting the Near West Side as a socially vibrant and diverse destination community of choice that provides meaningful, attractive and accessible opportunities and resources to all who live, work, play and visit.

Learn more about these projects and how the ideas created during the AI Summit have been incorporated into NWSP’s work, check out the Dreams to Action Plan.

Summit Objectives

  • To support Healthy and Happy People that thrive through great housing, schools, and food choices, with services that support physical and mental well-being and plenty of green space to play, gather and connect with each other.

  • To empower Thriving and United Communities by celebrating diversity as our greatest strength, advancing racial equity, commemorating our history, and strengthening our future through connectivity to rapid transit, arts and culture, improved civic engagement, and family-friendly activities.

  • To facilitate Vibrant and Equitable Economies where local businesses thrive alongside anchor institutions, creating an entrepreneurial and welcoming atmosphere where through policy, planning, and partnership there are opportunities for all people to thrive in this great neighborhood of neighborhoods!

DAY 1: Discovery & Dream

During the first day of the Summit, we explored the current strengths, opportunities, and aspirations of the community, and reviewed events and supports that already exist to fuel betterment in the community. We spent time imagining the shared future we want to create and shared scenes from the future that we know is possible, valued, and desired in terms of Healthy and Happy People, Thriving and United Communities, and Vibrant and Equitable Economies.

DAY 2: From Dream to Design

On day two, participants explored strategic opportunities, working on the ideas that emerged during the Discovery & Dream sessions. Beginning with the question, “How might we…?,” we collectively brainstormed actionable ideas, developed prototypes, and planned for the who, what, why, when, and how, and established measures of success. We even wrote stories about our ideal futures!

DAY 3: From Design to Delivery

On the final day, we created Aspiration Statements, refined our actions moving forward, and made personal pledges and commitments to carry forward the momentum of the Summit. To stay connected with the Summit participants and keep up-to-date on Summit-related activities, join the NWS Appreciative Inquiry Summit Group on Facebook.

What is Appreciative Inquiry?

Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is a strengths-based, positive approach to leadership development and organizational change.

AI distinguishes itself from other organizational visioning and change models by focusing on – appreciating – the best of what already exists and using that recognition as a platform to build future directions.

Questions? Feedback? Ideas?

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