the GriffinHarte Foundation
My Feminist Thinking

“I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is. I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat.”

- Rebecca West, 1913.

2016 Grant:
Founding Whittier's Neighborhood Councils

Megan Hobza
Catalyst Network of Communities
Make Space: Free Store & Artisan Work Lab
6355 Greenleaf Avenue
Whittier, CA 90601
Telephone: (562) 457-0450
megan.hobza@gocatalyst.org

Biography

Megan Hobza

Catalyst Network of Communities Regional Director Megan Hobza has lived in Whittier, CA for over 25 years. Under Catalyst, she directs Make Space: Free Store & Artisan Work Lab, including quarterly Repair & Share Fairs, the brick-and-mortar Whittier Free Store, and the Artisan Work Lab, a tool library, co-work space, and small business incubator providing art and business classes, and diverted waste materials, to arts and engineering entrepreneurs. Hobza edits the weekly Sustainable Whittier community events newsletter, which creates access to local news for over 2,000 subscribers. She provides oversight for other Catalyst programs including the Whittier Time Bank, which facilitates skill-sharing and skill-building to promote reciprocity and community self-reliance. Hobza is a board member of The Whole Place at First Christian Church, a community possibility engine which co-locates local nonprofits, including Catalyst. To catalyze Whittier’s network of communities, Hobza convenes Whole Place member groups to plan collaborative programming. Resulting programs include the Vital Worship Music Program for intergenerational healing with First Christian Church and New Heart Community Church; a restorative justice pilot at Whittier High School with The Just Love Coalition; a nonprofit management internship program with The Whole Place; a youth resiliency program with Hilltoppers 4-H; and, the Artisan Work Lab’s after school e-waste robotics program in partnership with Rio Hondo College.

Hobza’s background in community change-making includes founding roles in the Altadena Urban Farmers Market, Strub Avenue Urban Farm, the Whittier Area Environmental Coalition, Village Sudbury School, and the Urban Dinner Socials pop-up locavore vegan gastropub. Hobza's profession as a strategic planning and proposal writing consultant for school districts, service agencies, and healthcare institutions has informed her work as a community-building catalyst. She is a past board member of Pasadena Child Development Associates, Inc. and Echo Park Time Bank, and served as board chair of the Arroyo Time Bank. She has a B.A. in English from Whittier College and a Master’s in Business Administration. Hobza was the recipient of a National Arts Strategies 2015 Creative Community Fellowship.

Abstract

The proposed project, Founding Whittier’s Neighborhood Councils, promotes civil conversations about issues that divide us in the city of Whittier, CA, which are often contentious and difficult to sort through. Whittier, once known as “White-ier,” today is 70% Latino/30% Caucasian/Other, with an active voter base of 50% younger progressive/50% older conservative -- with low voter turnouts and costly political conflict. While neighborliness, sharing, and a sense of community bring us together, we are most divided around issues of preserving our heritage, building our economy, and promoting social and environmental justice. In an atmosphere of political opposition and even hostility, it can be difficult to invite young, new, and in particular female and Latino participants to make their contribution to the conversation. Founding Whittier’s Neighborhood Councils capitalizes on Whittier’s newly demarcated voting districts by offering community events in each district, and offers a clean-slate approach for newly active citizens to contribute to and build a movement around civil discourse.

Catalyst Network of Communities’ quarterly Repair & Share Fairs, which begin in September 2017, are Whittier events for neighborly sharing and community repair. The event recruits handy volunteers to repair appliances, furniture, clothing, and more. The Repair & Share Fairs also feature creative reuse art workshops as well as civil discourse training funded by the GriffinHarte Foundation. The Fairs’ civil discourse training workshops will address fairness, equity, respect, identity, and the complex ways we are connected to other people. The Fairs’ comprehensive approach to sharing and repair is designed to help neighbors communicate effectively, share more, waste less, connect, and live fuller lives. Traveling to each of four newly established voting districts, each Fair will conclude with neighborhood planning meetings, facilitated with support from our civil discourse consultant. Using this training, Whittier’s neighbors can move toward the formation of neighborhood councils in each of the four new voting districts, with support from existing neighborhood organizations as conveners. This training provides a unique opportunity to establish the practice of civil discourse in our city through coaching new participants in civic life best practices. By becoming people who communicate not dispute, who reuse not dispose, who share not hoard, who include not exclude, we can create value here in our own community – while repairing our community relationships, economy, and environment.