From my brief analysis, all four Es; Education, Economic, Environment, and Equity; are the important elements toward sustainability; but the last E, Engagement, will be a catalyst to help the four Es contribute well in this cycle. The City Hall is a trigger to engage with the business partners, developers, and its community by public hearings, program, and project facilitation.
One thing we experienced quite often during our stay in Middleton was public hearings and meetings. People in this community are embraced to engage and voice their needs. More importantly, there is a chance for developers to raise their initiatives in community project, which needs support from the City in term of facilitation and budget, after getting permission from the city administration. Beyond Middleton, once we joined a public hearing in Madison, which was in Dane County Board of Supervisors meeting. It was such an active public participation in local government process. The local citizens were raising their own problems and concerns in their community. It is the best practical experience to see how the local government tries to solve the community challenges within a proposed budget through the local people’s engagement. They were so active to bring their issues on the stage, and it was so inspirational. Those problems were such as homelessness and affordable housing, public transportation and safe biking trail, climate change, water and land quality…etc.
As we have seen, besides the City Hall, other relevant stakeholders also use this spirit to leverage the community value. Those are such as – Middleton senior center, Chamber of Commerce, Schools, Police Department, and National Public Library. However, we went to visit the Middleton National Public Library. This library has a social function to bring knowledge, social participation, and big source of information to the public in this community. It improves the life quality of the next generation by giving them the right to seek or retrieve information from all points of view without restriction, regardless of diversity. There are also some social programs launched by the library. For example, there is an outreaching library program to the community, and the library also celebrates the seasonal festivals for the locals to enjoy. Some rooms in the library can be used for small lectures, trainings, and interview. People can get accessed to information through books and online for free. This is how the library tries to engage the local people to exercise their value and gain access to information beneficial for their study and employment.
Another example of community engagement is a volunteerism during the National Election day. High School students were given a chance to help during the election process, and I got a chance to be a volunteer during that time too. It is good to learn about the election in the US, and this is such a great history of mine to be here at an amazing time by taking this chance to learn from the US context during its election, so do the other teenagers in this community who got a chance to involve positively in politics and learn about their own democracy.
There are some events that could involve the community to celebrate and enjoy together. We were going to the Roaring 20s, which is often held annually at the Stamm House for Historical Society Fundraiser. This event is a fund-raiser to help Middleton Area Historical Society keep Middleton’s history alive by composing its theme as Roaring ‘20s with costume contest for those who wish to dress up in ’20s styles. For this fund raising, Stamm House will donate 50% of the proceeds of the ticket sales. Hence, this does not only raise the awareness of their history and bring some fund for charity, but people also have fun with their fellows through this participation. It is such another good platform for the locals to be socially engaged. Also, we joined the Kiwanis Pancake Breakfast and Fish Fry Friday at St. Peter’s Catholic School, and these events aim for charity too. By the way, still the chance for community volunteerism and participation is a good by-product.
Going beyond Middleton, we also joined a workshop on Madison Public Market that the relevant stakeholders were invited to discuss and input their perspectives on what make a public market good, what challenges it bears, what solutions should be taken, and which appropriate structural design should be chosen to satisfy the majority. The invited people were mostly retailers, residents, business owners, and local authority.
All in all, a vigorous community engagement comes from the social structure, events, initiatives, and the locals’ core heart of energetic volunteerism which is always strong in Middleton regardless of people’s age and profession. Everyone is inspired to demonstrate and share in a mutual understanding and interests; this is a model of community harmony in economic prospect.