Take Action Portland
Location: Portland, Maine
Project Team: Amanda Lehman
How are you making Maine a better place for young people?
For many young people, free time is viewed as a good opportunity to socialize; a chance to meet new people and catch up with old friends. Grabbing a drink in town is an easy option, especially since Portland is known for its diverse selection of bars and restaurants. I want to create an alternative way to socialize that does not revolve around unhealthy consumption – a social environment that enables young people to affect positive change in the community.
There is a real need for young people to have opportunities to engage in meaningful ways and in diverse environments. In cities we often find that people’s circles reflect their own class, background or professional work. Through Take Action Portland (TAP), I want to create an environment that is both inviting to a wide audience as well as inclusive of diverse needs and interests. As evidenced in many sectors of society, but no place more then the political climate right now, there is a clear need for spaces where people can work with each other in constructive ways, building communities and opening dialogue. TAP will be a venue that engages young people in a creative community while at the same time supporting meaningful work. It is essential that we continue to generate places in our society that are models of healthy socializing, while simultaneously contributing to the good of our world.
TAP will work to change the way young people view community service. It will make volunteering fun, social and engaging, while strengthening young people’s senses of civic engagement and community involvement.
What challenges in your community are you addressing?
As the economic downturn continues in Maine, local non-profit organizations are in greater need of support. Non-profits in Portland are competing for less funding from fewer resources. With inadequate funding sources, many non-profits are not receiving the help they need to make a difference in the community. Community action is becoming increasingly important. TAP will coordinate community action events as a way to implement creative solutions for non-profit organizations with limited resources. It will bridge the gap between volunteers and organizations, bringing people together that want to take action in Portland.
Who will benefit? How will people access and learn about the work you are doing?
TAP will be focused on both promoting personal and social growth for young people in Portland, and supporting local community-based non-profit organizations in need. As a result, young people and local organizations will be complimentary beneficiaries of this community action work.
Through TAP I plan to reach out to a different local organization in Portland each month, and work with them to determine if a volunteer-based work event will fulfill their needs. Each organization can be as much or as little involved as they want to be in the event coordination. The only requirement will be a 1-2 hour brainstorming session where key members of the organization participate in a facilitated discussion to determine an appropriate project based on the needs of the organization. TAP will ‘take it from there’ in terms of planning, preparation, marketing, and event facilitation.
For young people, marketing and outreach will be critical to the success of TAP volunteer events. Marketing will begin with flyers, posters and word-of-mouth as a way to put together a comprehensive email distribution list of interested volunteers. The email distribution list will be used to send digital newsletters that link volunteers with the TAP website, which will house a clearly organized and interactive calendar of events. Interested volunteers will use this calendar to find pre-arranged volunteer opportunities that fit their interests and commitment levels. The calendar will provide specific details about each event (project type and outcome, location, timeframe, availability and skillset needed), with the goal of making volunteering easy.
What major success would you like to see at the end or apex of your project?
Community action events will begin as monthly “done-in-day” hands-on projects where volunteers work together to develop creative solutions using limited resources. These projects will be based on the needs of each organization, and could include work such as trail construction/maintenance, park restoration, building rehabilitation, community event facilitation and other small-scale work projects. Success of TAP events will be measured by the number of interested volunteers (new and returning), the number of interested community-based organizations, and the ability to achieve the project outcome at each event.
I do not see an end to this project. I hope TAP will continue to grow and expand, and I believe success is congruent with momentum. Success comes in the ability to grow, and growth comes from the success of volunteer events from the perspectives of both volunteer and non-profit organizations in Portland.