David West, a City and Regional Planning Grad Student at Cornell University, recently contacted Rob Goodspeed and me about Rethink College Park. He’s one of the several students that has approached us over the years to talk about this community participation and information sharing project. We had an interesting hour-long discussion about the site and at the end he sent me a follow up email with a great question that I thought I share it with you: “Is the project [Rethink College Park] more about community involvement or education?”
Keep in mind that of the 65 or so respondents to our 2007 Reader Survey, 16% reported contacting a University official and 23% a City official after reading the site. That was a self-selecting survey of our most avid readers and had a number of humbling comments, which I took great joy in reading again just now.
After some time thinking about David West’s question and providing him with some areas where I felt RTCP had real on-the-ground impact, I ended with the following:
“I’d say overall I recognize that a small minority of the population will really ever get involved actively in hyper-local politics, so I try not to get frustrated by the lack of involvement and instead embrace the fact that the site has quietly changed the way thousands of readers view College Park… it has given people hope where there was none before. I’m not talking about baseless hope. I’m talking about hope grounded in the economic opportunism of developers and a decade worth of nitty-gritty policy change instituted by forward-thinking people. We [Rethink College Park] just had the audacity to tell people what was actually going on in their community and try to help push it from paper to reality.”
I’m hoping that we’ll get more than the usual suspects commenting on this post:
I’d really like to see what people think. Is the project more about community involvement or education? What’s the impact of the project on how you view College Park?