On November 20, 2016, at the behest of several residents, the Winchester Multicultural Network (the Network) convened Civic Gathering #1 at the Winchester Public Library to discuss strategies for promoting social justice and protect civil rights in Winchester. Led by Aba Taylor, Network Executive Director, and Tom Howley, Network community advisor, a standing-room only crowd shared experiences of living, working, and worshipping in Winchester. The passion and sincerity underlying individual stories moved everyone there. The community needed to continue this public conversation.
Following those conversations came Civic Gathering #2, held on February 17, 2017, at the Jenks Center and jointly sponsored by the Network, the Board of Selectmen, and the School Committee. Tom Howley led attendees in compiling an inspiring list of groups already at work in Town supporting constructive causes, and demonstrating values to which residents aspire, after which participants moved into self-selected roundtable topics to explore issues and organize themselves toward action.
Moving to historic Sanborn House, Civic Gathering #3, on May 18, 2017, provided an opportunity for 15 to 18 newly formed active small civic groups, as well as older established groups to report on successes and challenges. A printed listing of groups with contact persons was distributed to encourage future collaboration and resource-sharing.
This Town Common Task Force, a loose-knit alliance of individuals and groups that arose out of Civic Gathering #3, led Civic Gathering #4 on September 18, 2017, at the Sons of Italy Hall. Front and center was an image of the iconic Town Center red oak tree. Participants discussed the mission and principles of a proposed “Town Common,” envisioned as both a live convener and virtual space for community engagement. Participants expressed a particular desire for a Town Common website and online calendar for support and information sharing.
Civic Gathering #5 continued the tradition of convening in person and was dedicated to fostering constructive collaboration. Essential Partners, a nationally-renowned nonprofit facilitation group, led a skill building exercise designed to enable groups and individuals in Winchester to have more constructive conversations. The evening will featured reports from several relatively new community groups, and solicited input about the work underway to establish a digital platform for the Town Common initiative.