On May 17th, 2023, Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP) partnered with Imagine Englewood If, WE Grow, and Teamwork Englewood to provide a listening tour to Dr. Akilah Watkins, the new executive director at Independent Sector. Independent Sector is an advocacy group for nonprofits. Dr. Watkins wants to have more of a grassroots experience through listening to people who do the work on the ground. To this end, Dr. Watkins is traveling to 9 different cities around the country to learn what is going on at non-profit organizations and to assess the needs of their communities to learn how Independent Sector can support the work as well as advocate for them.
The day began with a breakdown of SWOP’s work and history, sharing specifically about housing, workforce development, the Parent Mentor Program, and safety work via CP4P (Communities Partnering 4 Peace). A tour then took to the streets, allowing the group to discuss the history of the work within the context of the neighborhood; SWOP’s first rehabbed building, the transformation of the playground at Morrill Elementary, the 62nd and western development site aimed at becoming a community center, and a stop at Da Oasis, a rehabbed property for Devonta Boston’s nonprofit space for young people.
The final stop of the tour led to a plot of land on 64th and Honore where Imagine Englewood If Executive Director, Michelle Rashad, led a tour through a block of community centers called the “Peace Campus”. The group was able to walk through the community garden; where community members can collect fresh fruit and vegetables, learn about some of the ambitious projects surrounding the space and hear about the community basketball lots and media center that is in development.
The fight for a better community happens on a day-to-day basis and organizations like Independent Sector aim to continue to improve and advocate for the non-profit organizations putting in the work in our communities.