The Community Connection to Reduce Gun Violence Project helped diffuse conflict in the street by hosting a leadership summit with local high schools. The goal was to connect and inspire the neighborhood under one common vision. The project connected student leaders through activities, story sharing, table talks, and trust walks.
"If we connect people, we will start building a community. If we build a community, we can build relationships and trust. If we build relationships and trust, people will look out for one another. There will be more love and support. If there is more love and support, there will be less gun violence. We, the youth, envision that adults will be able to diffuse conflict going on the streets if they know who the kids involved are."
- Student Reflection
Exploring Stories of Youth-Led Changemaking
Students began by exploring the purpose of the FEEL stage, researching other youth-led changemaking, reflecting on their reactions and feelings about their community, conducting a variety of listening, organizing and empathizing activities – including community interviews. After debriefing their own emotions, they also discussed their reactions to their community interviews. Finally, they selected the topic that most aligned to the themes that had bubbled up – gun violence. Once the topic was selected, to further engage the community, they conducted a Town Hall on the topic.
Evaluating Ideas to Select a Solution
Based on their personal stories and community interviews, students selected the issue of gun violence. They took the following steps to move from their topic idea to project ideas: sharing takeaways from their research on gun violence, collecting stories from offenders themselves and families of offenders and victims and families of victims, engaging in a circle of concern, conducting a systems of power analysis and a root cause analysis. They then developed their WHY statements. To further generate ideas, they watched documentaries about the topic. They began brainstorming by listing ideas for responses to and solutions around the issue of gun violence, analyzed the list by unpacking each idea and teasing out action steps. They were able to evaluate the ideas’ feasibility and potential impact.
Designing and Hosting a Leadership Summit
After evaluating their ideas, they committed to designing a leadership summit. First, they developed a vision statement for the summit and developed an agenda. They then worked to secure guest speakers and participants. They connected to and inspired fellow youth in their community - recruiting and sending invitations to area high schools in their immediate neighborhood. In order to plan for the event they, first, brainstormed all the items involved in excellent event planning while considering sustainability, feasibility, and detail orientation. They created a process map, task assignments, and deadlines. Ultimately students managed the event details, including all of the programmatic activities, and hosted the summit in May.
Sharing Their Passion
Following their event, students have continued sharing their passion around this topic – as well as the buzz of their leadership summit.