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Workshop Participants: Intros and Photos

Page history last edited by bgblogging 13 years, 2 months ago



Who We Are & Our Community Photo: 

 Take one photo that represents for you the essence of your community. Send it to me as a .jpg by Friday, October 1 or bring a print to Tuesday's workshop.  You can use your phone or a camera--whatever you have!


Barbara Ganley, Workshop Leader

In 2008, I left the writing faculty of Middlebury College after nineteen years to found and direct Community Expressions, LLC, a consultancy dedicated to helping small communities bring traditional and new forms of storytelling to civic engagement efforts. At Middlebury I explored the integration of social media and digital storytelling in the liberal arts and service learning, the results of which were so powerful for the students, the communities, and me that I left the safe confines of academia for the messy, wondrous work of small towns and cities. My work in social media and storytelling to engage citizens and to foster belonging has brought me to work with Orton Family Foundation in small towns in the Northeast and the Rocky Mountain West as well as with foundations and nonprofits on local, national and international levels. I give talks and workshops around the world through Community Expressions, LLC, and have written chapters and articles on storytelling, social media and local communities.  I am also exploring the relationship of the hyperlocal-gardens-- to community and to storytelling at http://openviewgardens.com and in a collaborative column, PATCHwork: Three Gardens, Many Kitchens at my local newspaper, The Addison Independent.





Shelley Brooks, Program Coordinator--CHP - South Berkshire Community Coalition    Great Barrington, MA

I am from the beautiful Berkshires of Massachusetts.  I am taking this workshop because I am new to this field of community building and must admit that until I learned of this conference, had never even heard of community storytelling.  I am a program coordinator of a community coalition, and through this conference I hope to gain a better understanding of what makes a community tick, and be able to come home with new skills for community engagement through storytelling!





Ben Gagnon

I just passed the five-year-mark as Special Projects Planner for the City of Aspen Community Development Department. We're just now finishing the Aspen Area Community Plan (2+ years of work). My previous career was a journalist and editor on Cape Cod, Northern NH and in Colorado.


I'm primarily interested in methods for improving and broadening participation in civic affairs – including non-traditional methods that can attract and engage people other than the “usual suspects.” As a former journalist, I'm particularly interested in story-telling as a basic form of human communication that is not often found in the world of planning – it seems that the methods of storytelling are too often secondary to an interior “code” language that the public can’t relate to.


I’m intrigued by storytelling as a tool for long range planning. These days I’m particularly focused on more nuanced meanings behind the long-range planning phrases we all hear, such as "community character," and "quality of life" -- and I wonder if storytelling can help us reach more specific and useful characterizations of community identity.




Katy Korkos, member services coordinator   Los Alamos Chamber of Commerce


I'm the member services coordinator for the Los Alamos Chamber of Commerce- I did introduce myself on the forum, but I'm tailoring a new introduction to all you storytellers. I grew up in a family of wordsmiths and designers. My father was an English and journalism teacher, an actor, a singer and a lover of stories. My mother spent her child-rearing years crafting a beautiful environment for us to live in, nurturing our creativity and modelling community involvement. After the kids were grown she spent many years in politics and working for non-profit social services organizations. My formal eduction took place in California, England (Daddy had a Fulbright exchange) and Germany (I was an AFSer), and upon my graduation from UC Santa Cruz, with a degree in German literature, I immediately found employment as a dishwasher in an Italian restaurant, as a salesperson in a tannery, and as a gardener. I was able to save a little money by working three jobs, and then bought a one-sixth share in the restaurant where I worked. My husband-to-be also worked in the restaurant. When we decided that we had enough experience to open our own place, I sold my share for $10,000 and went looking for a place that we could own and operate, eventually finding that place in Los Alamos, New Mexico (because the ad in the paper said they wanted $10,000 down). We ran that restaurant for 23 years, closing it in 2006 after a good run. Why did I stay in a tough business, physically demanding and very little money? For the stories. I love to find out who people are, what matters to them, what they're reading, if they've gotten involved in projects that have engaged them, what they're kids are doing. I love to know families throughout decades- meeting young couples when they're dating, seeing them marry and have kids, seeing the kids come in to celebrate good report cards, When you feed people, you get to know them- it's no accident that communion and community have the same roots. I became known to everyone as the person who knew what was going on in the community. The Los Alamos National Lab directors would ask me what people were saying, and how the mood of the town seemed to me. What I missed when I closed the restaurant was being part of that web. My other passion is fiber art I went to work as a reporter for our local paper in early 2007, where my beat was county government. I had taken a couple of writing classes and done some writing during the restaurant years, with an eye to doing some freelance creative non-fiction about art and design. The same thing that engaged me about the restaurant business also got me hooked on journalism- people tell you things, you get to know what's going on. While covering the county council, I learned in depth about our county government; while covering my town's masterplanning process I became deeply involved in that process and now serve on the steering committee for our master plan; What's hard about it is that you never have even a minute to call your own- with a morning deadline, afternoon research, and evening meetings, I really couldn't keep track of whether I was coming or going. Probably both. So I left the newspaper after a year and came to work for the Chamber of Commerce, and it has been a totally positive move. Chambers are by nature optimistic organizations, made up of extremely optimistic individuals. I still get to write, for a publication we produce called "The Essence of Los Alamos and White Rock" which is designed to strengthen the ties between Chamber members and the community.


I'm taking the workshop because I believe I'm uniquely positioned to help the community fashion a story with which we can grow and prosper. We are fighting against a conventional wisdom both from within and from outside the community- from within, there is a vocal minority who insists everything should stay exactly the way it was- that we should never try to slow traffic through town, or add more signage because we all know where things are, or that we don't need places to go in the evenings because nobody goes out in the evenings anyway, or that we don't need shops because everything is available on the internet, or that there is no poverty here and hence no reason to support social services, that we are immune from social ills of all kinds From without we hear that we are privileged, and in denial about our role in weapons production, that we take ourselves way too seriously, that we as a community think we know what's best for everybody else, that our kids are stuck up or prejudiced, that our shops only have overpriced goods, that we are polluting the land and water.


I'm looking forward to hearing everyone else's stories at the workshop. I'm sorry to have gone on so long- I need an editor.




Bliss Bruen

I divide my time between Colorado and Washington DC and it's stories that drive me. My background is video production, creating choices in education, charter schools, grassroots visioning and the gentle badgering of local government to include more people in meaningful ways for our collective future.

In the introduction (p. 10) of her paper, Barbara's description of people divided by data without the stories affirmed that this was precisely the right workshop for me! I think we've all been there... Without a storyline, people's passionate arguments for or against something simply send them to opposite corners of the boxing ring - not what we need right now!

It is a bizarre interest in other people's stories that makes me elicit embarrassingly poignant revelations from grocery store checkers I may never see again.My odd sampling methods suggest that underneath it all, a majority of us are on the same page, disturbed by the enormity of what lies ahead for the planet and therein lies the hope. Fascinated by those details of other people's lives, I am an unrepentant optimist working to develop a "New Media Center" for SW Colorado in the far Four Corners country. I have enjoyed reading all the introductions - like the rest of you I've held a few too many "jobs" - formal and informal - for my profile to fit on a business card.

I resonate with the recent intro from the former restaurant owner - those "third" and public spaces are such a key to community. Durango luckily abounds in such spaces and we have fresh leadership in every sector of local government who understand what engagement can be.

Here is one link to DCAT our Public Access TV station - from "Watch Online" look for digi docs and the The History of the Durango Power Plant. Produced in 1994 by  teaching middle schoolers and adults to videotape people's stories about endangered historic public buildings. Mini-docs using footage of The Mancos Colorado Opera House and the 1893 Durango Power Plant helped build a groundswell to save them - The Power Plant's grand opening as the Durango Discovery Museum is set for Oct. 14th! See http://durangodiscovery.org/


Josh Schachter
I greatly look forward to meeting you all. In my previous "life" I
worked in ecosystem management and studied ring-tailed lemurs,
endangered butterflies, freshwater turtles, migrating hawks,
harvesting ants.....After that I got my master's at the Yale School of
Forestry & Env. Studies, where I made a jump to social ecology and
photography. For the past 12 years, I have facilitated community-based
photography and media projects throughout the US, Africa and India. I
am based in the deserts of Tucson, AZ, so much of my work is focused
in the border region. I have a passion for collaborating with youth
and helping them develop the visual tools and language to more deeply
explore themselves and their community.  More recently, I have been
examining how to connect youth voices and perspectives to policy
change on the local and national levels. As an example, the refugee
and immigrant youth I work with in Tucson exhibited their photos and
writing in the U.S. Senate and presented their stories and immigration/
refugee policy reform recommendations at a Congressional briefing. I
can't say we reformed immigration policy but the students' heartfelt
stories and lived experiences helped make immigration and refugee
issues real for many policymakers. Currently, I am exploring models,
such as youth commissions, for connecting youth voices directly to
city and county planning and policy-making processes.

I also work as a documentary photographer. Right now I am examining
the connection between beef production and climate change through
photography. I am photographing a rancher who is trying to raise grass-
fed and finished beef right along the US/Mexico border. I am also
working on photographs for a children's book exploring the Sonoran
Desert and personal identity.

My true calling is searching for the perfect slice of pie. I have
traveled the corners of the earth from Pie Town to Cape Town, but
alas, I am still looking. Any suggestions are hugely appreciated. It
is a bit of a strange pursuit I realize, but for me, sharing pie and
pie stories is a metaphor and pathway for creating and honoring

Speaking of community, I am super excited to learn from all of you at
Community Matters. I am truly inspired by your varied experiences and
passions. I am coming to learn from you all and to help connect some
dots across my varied interests. I will be presenting on the "Power of
Stories" panel, so if you want to swing by and share some stories (and
pie ideas) please come on by.

You can view my work at www.joshphotos.com and www.findingvoiceproject.org




Robin Cox

  I recently - last year- accepted a faculty position at Royal Roads University in Victoria, British Columbia Canada where I teach and research in the Disaster and Emergency Management graduate program. Royal Roads is an online university and students and many of the faculty are only on campus for short intense residencies. So this position has brought me into a new kind of community, blended online and virtual, where many stories are mediated by technology. During this past year I have traveled frequently back and forth between my new communities and what had been my home community for many years, Vancouver. So, I feel as though I am only beginning to learn about my new geographic community and slowly creating new communities - of friends, colleagues, and neighbours.

Narratives and story-telling are a thread that weaves through and makes sense of my varied careers. Acting, journalism, counseling psychology, teaching and research - at their heart they are all about the creation and sharing of stories, the sacred act of listening and telling our stories. My work as an academic is driven by my passion for narratives and the many ways we have of sharing them and focused on community-centered approaches to enhancing disaster resilience and our collective ability to adapt to the many changes that disasters bring. 

I wanted to take this workshop primarily because I am thirsty for being with others who are passionate about the heart and soul of community and who believe in the power of storytelling for making sense of the world and generating new possibilities. I hope to be inspired, and create connections, and leave with some new skills and ideas to weave into my research and practice with communities grappling with transitions and uncertainty.

I look forward to meeting you all face to face and contributing to a creative and supportive learning space.


 Vicki Kenderes Eibner

  I have wanted to attend “Community Matters” for quite a few years now and this is finally the year!  I currently reside in the “Pocono Mountains” of northeastern Pennsylvania (though compared to the Rockies...they’re just kind of bumps!).   I have worked in Marketing and Advertising creating direct marketing and advertising programs for Home Shopping Network and Val-Pak (not very earth friendly work).  From there I started a “green housekeeping” business (20 years ago) but found myself constantly trying to explain to my clients the merits of baking soda and vinegar vs. “Tilex” and “Lysol”.  They just seemed to want that “clean” chemical scent wafting through their homes to feel assured that everything was, in fact....”Clean!”, my lungs couldn’t handle the toxins and so I moved on to my next adventure.   Onward to 6 fantastic and fulfilling years as a Public Speaker/Educator with the Fire Service for a small city in Pinellas County Florida.  Here I created and taught injury prevention programs which we took to schools, parks, convention centers and theaters throughout the state of Florida.  While working with the Fire Service I also began working on a local Children’s Television show.  This work earned me 5 Cable Ace Awards and the confidence to approach Jim Henson Co. in NY.  I was lucky, they started calling me.  I moved to NYC and was cast on a Henson/Disney collaboration and I have been a professional puppeteer ever since.  I have had some wonderful experiences working with the Jim Henson Company, Nickelodeon and Disney.....but I have dearly missed my life working with people....face to face, on programs that have a different kind substance.  That said I am here in Denver to attend Community Matters, meet all of you, learn, and share.  Then....I hope to be able to  weave my past work and experiences with what I’ve learned this week, and start out on a new path.  


Here’s to a wonderful week with all of you!


Bonnie Shaw

I'm super excited about the workshop tomorrow. Its been a while since
I've had privilege to be part of something like this...

I feel like I've already talked slot about my bacground, so for this
introduction, I want to share some of my passion for storytelling...

Both my dad and grandma are talented poets, and I grew up spending my
rainy days filling exercise books with epic 20 page poems of rhyming
couplets... Brown, frown, clown, town, down, etc.

As I got older, my passion shifted to collage and I would spend weeks
sourcing images from fashion magazines, vintage photographs, and
travel brochures to create huge sweeping scenes and landscapes...

At university I discovered photography and used it, and my
rediscovered love of collage and poetry, to tell stories about how
people make meaningfull connection with where they live. When I
graduated as an urban designer I worked in place visioning and
community engagement and had the privilege of helping to uncover these
embedded narratives for communities in Australia, China, the UAE and
the UK.

In 2006 I created snap-shot-city.com - a simultaneous world wide
photographic treasure hunt that was played by 1000's of people in
100's of cities. It was a giant technology enabled world wide party
aiming to open peoples eyes to the every day adventure around them and
to tell stories about where they live through photographs.

I left Australia, and moved to London where I got caught up in a group
of pervasive game designers and interactive theater directors. We had
lots of fun experimenting with entertainment cocreated with the
audience, and tran-media productions that use the city as a stage for
play.  My favorite piece was an unrealized production called You Are
Hear - a location based radio play and city tour where a selection of
characters would guide you on different audio journeys around the city
based on their version of the same story.

Now I'm based in Washington dc and run BYO consulting with Yasmin
Fodil. We plan and implement community engagement campaigns with a
focus on transparency, participation, collaboration and creativity!

I'm really looking forward to meeting you all tomorrow and hearing
your stories in person!



  Julia Nekessa
 I cannot wait to meet everyone, what a fascinating group of people!

a.  Introductions: Reply to All, introducing yourself and sharing with us why you are taking this workshop and what you hope to get out of it.  If you've already contributed an intro to the CM'10 forum, by all means send that along.

I am at the conference in the capacity of e-democracy, where I do community outreach in Minnesota's mostly densely populated neighborhood, the Cedar Riverside area, a neighborhood that is largely inhabited by mostly Somali immigrants. From this session, I am particularly interested in telling stories; and to share my successes and challenges in working in a community that is very oral; how do we move these stories from people's living rooms and coffee shops into a wider community/neighborhood online forum? How do we make a safe online space for neighbors who hardly know each other?

Some background about me. For the last ten years, I have called Minnesota home, but I also have another home in Kenya where I grew up. A few years ago, we started an alternative Kenyan online media platform "Kenya Imagine". We started out with only a handful of writers, but with over 1,000 authors/writers have now grown to become Kenya's largest community news portal. Building an online community from the Diaspora and within Kenya has been one of the most challenging and gratifying things that I have done.  (just this past week, we have been fighting a horde of very aggressive phishing attacks that have caused me several sleepless nights).

In uni, I studied Economics and International Business, but as soon as I graduated I found myself in media. I served as an editor for Mshale, an African paper based here in Minneapolis. I have since expanded my wings, and now freelance for several papers here in the Twin Cities. I mostly write on immigrant communities, immigration policies; and health.




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