Building Toward CommonBound 2016, Together: A Reportback and a Call for Proposals

03/31/2016 - 6:28pm
NEC staff and volunteer coordinators in winter gear posing outside the WASH Project, a bright yellow building

CommonBound 2016 is nearly here! It may still be three months away, but with temperatures just starting to heat up on the East Coast, we’re more ready than ever for summer--and to bring you a couple of exciting announcements about this year’s conference.

As you might have heard, this July, 700-900 of the sharpest organizers and thinkers from around the US and Canada--and beyond!--will converge on Buffalo, NY, itself an important piece of the New Economy story.

To get ready, NEC staff met with track and network gathering coordinators a few weeks back at the Grant Street Neighborhood Center, a former library that now hosts PUSH Buffalo’s offices along with an array of after-school and community programming. Together, we discussed our vision for the conference and the nitty-gritty details for making it happen. While we were there, members of the Crossroads Collaborative--our host in Buffalo, comprised of 8 visionary community organizations--grounded us in the city with a tour through its extensive network of worker cooperatives, art galleries, community centers and more. 

Aaron Bartley, executive director of PUSH Buffalo, showed us around two NetZero houses that serve as job training centers, where Buffalonians can learn about renewable energy installation and green construction. The houses are part of a 110-block Green Development Zone, intended as a buffer against gentrification and a center of fair, community-driven economic development.

A farmer and organizer with the Massachusetts Avenue Project, or “MAP,” showed us the site of their Growing Green Urban Farm, an acre of reclaimed land on Buffalo’s West Side that’s now home to 2 greenhouses, an aquaponics system, chickens, tilapia and bees. Through this and other projects, MAP hopes to provide quality, affordable and culturally appropriate food--along with economic opportunities--to people across income levels.

We also visited the WASH Project, a laundromat and community center run by and for Buffalo’s vibrant refugee community. In the last five years, over 30 percent of refugees coming to New York State have been resettled in Buffalo, coming from Burma, Thailand, Nepal, Kenya, Chad, Tanzania and elsewhere. The WASH Project offers a mix of vital community services, such as language classes, as well as cultural and recreational events on the city’s West Side.

Take a virtual tour of what else we saw of Buffalo’s growing solidarity economy (and more) here.

Days after leaving Buffalo, NEC staff worked with track and network gathering coordinators to solidify descriptions and calls for participation and get them out into the world, ready for potential presenters to pour over. We’re happy to say the work paid off in kind.

Check out our full list of workshop tracks here. And, most importantly, propose your own sessions! We’re looking for organizers, practitioners and thought leaders of all backgrounds to share their skills, stories and big ideas.

A few highlights from our roster of 16 tracks

  • Black Lives, Labor and Liberation in the New Economy
  • Development Without Displacement
  • The Art of Futuremaking: Cultural Strategies for a New Economy
  • Building the New Economy in Red and Rural America

Here’s the catch: None of these exciting tracks can happen without your proposals. So why not submit your ideas today? (Or, at the very least, by our deadline on April 4th.)

In the next few days, we’ll open early bird registration along with more details on how you can sign up for network gatherings (full list here). See you then on the internet, and this summer in Buffalo.

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