APACC identifies community engagement opportunities and tackles internal challenges

This is the fifth in a series of monthly blog posts highlighting the activities and other work of APACC members, APACC working groups, and the collaborative as a whole.

At the November 9 monthly APACC Assembly meeting, member organization representatives brainstormed ideas for potential collaborative project proposals utilizing the APACC Fund to support implementation activities. The APACC Assembly adopted initial parameters for the APACC Fund at the October monthly meeting in preparation for doing the work required to accomplish elements of the network’s work plan and building capacity towards greater collaboration.

Participants at the November meeting organized themselves into five capacity building breakout groups to discuss ideas for utilizing the APACC Fund in 2019, Year 3 of our grant from the Chesapeake Bay Funders Network. Discussions focused mostly on identifying community and member engagement strategies and activities for implementation during the first quarter of the coming year. Our breakout groups included:

  • communication

  • events

  • public policy

  • outreach and engagement

  • training and internal capacity

Community and member engagement

A common thread of working group discussions for was the need for APACC to connect and directly engage with residents of Ward 7 and 8. (Even though many of us are organizations based in Wards 7 and 8, we always need to be engaging with our constituents).

Chair of the communications group Erin Garnaas-Holmes (Anacostia Waterfront Trust) and Stuart Anderson (Anacostia Coordinating Council) suggested implementing a texting platform to notify members and community residents of important events and action items, and engaging and connecting residents with the park and the activities of APACC member organizations through an interactive website featuring member video spotlights.

The events group chair Reverend Keith Kitchen (Progressive National Baptist Convention Community Development Corporation) along with Maya Douglas (Friends of Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens) and Trey Sherard (Anacostia Riverkeeper) presented ideas for community engagement activities, including establishing a mentorship program for young men recently released from prison, organizing “fish your park” days, and hosting a BBQ at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens.

On behalf of the outreach and engagement group, Nathan Harrington (the Committee to Restore Shepherd Parkway) and meeting guest Akiima Price (community engagement consultant to the National Park Service) presented a robust list of strategies to cultivate greater civic participation and community-level discussions around issues such as park stewardship and plastic litter prevention policies.

Representing the training and capacity building group, Michael Bochynski (Clean Water Fund) and Minnie Allen (East River Family Strengthening Collaborative) outlined potential activities to complement and expand existing member programs and projects such as Building Bridges Across the River’s Ward 8 Community Leadership Empowerment Workshop (C.L.E.W.) and East River Family Strengthening Collaborative’s Ward 7 Safe Passages Initiative to implement a community watch program for public and charter schools.

Finally, Graylin Presbury (Fairlawn Citizens Association) spoke on behalf of the policy group – highlighting outreach strategies for increasing public policy engagement and dialogue among policy-makers and residents on future policy priorities.

Internal challenges

There are many ideas and opportunities for fostering the growth of a thriving, diverse, and sustainable Anacostia River corridor. But challenges within APACC make moving from a facilitated phase to a decentralized, self-organizing phase difficult. And rightly so. In part, it's a result of a diverse membership—organizations are working to address complex and unique social and environmental problems on their own. In part, it's a result of the diversity addressing challenges collectively.

Limited staff time and organization capacity to participate in collaborative activities outside of monthly meetings is also an issue for the leadership team. The push and pull between leading the network and cultivating additional leadership remains an unresolved tension.

While the APACC Fund is designed to address some of capacity issues and the APACC Policy Agenda (to be finalized by the end of 2019) is anticipated to help the network gel around a shared set of specific public policy priorities, one big question that remains to be answered is this: What is the fundamental purpose and function of APACC (besides a description of a shared vision and public policy positions) and what role/voice do community residents have in the decision-making process (besides representation from local institutions)?

Network principles

The development of network principles is an attempt to address part of that question by strengthening the fundamental values guiding APACC. Network principles is an idea taken directly from Movement NetLab’s Swarmlab trainings. At the crux of the principle development process is consideration of the problems we will face as a network and identify people the network wants to include.

Like a constitution for APACC, principles are intended to embody the culture the network and of serve as a set of operating agreements among members that hold the structure together and help the network function. They include answers to challenges that will keep the network from growing at the margins and how to enforce principles when they are threatened or compromised.

Network principles are not a detailed structure or process document, and are not about the vision of the world or the mission state of APACC. They are meant to be employed in everyday interactions that allow people to build the network and work together more effectively by clarifying issues at the forefront which can require less need for decision-making. Network principles help create boundaries, help scale participation without bottlenecks, and enforce rules that will prevent problems foreseen to arise.

Looking ahead: APACC Assembly meeting Friday, December 14

On December 7, members will submit their final 2019 Winter/Spring APACC Fund project proposals for consideration and the APACC Assembly will have its last meeting of 2018 on Friday, December 14 at THEARC. Although members have had one-on-one and small group discussions about what APACC’s network principles could theoretically look like, the meeting will be the first time the APACC Assembly as whole will have a chance to weigh in. The primary purpose will be to have an open brainstorm on network principles to identify and discuss potential challenges we will face both in the development of a set of principles in the short-term and implementation of a shared policy agenda in the long-term. The DC Appleseed Center for Law & Justice will conclude the meeting with an overview of the current development process of the shared policy agenda, including the outreach and engagement plan to elicit community feedback on future policy priorities of the network. Stay tuned for additional updates on community engagement projects and development of network principles.


Written by Michael Bochynski, Standing Chair, APACC Steering Committee and Chesapeake Program Manager, Clean Water Fund