Near West Side Appreciative Inquiry Summit tailored actions for brighter future

An icon graphic representing Social Responsibility Through Community Engagement from the Beyond Boundries Strategic PlanIn the summer of 2021, a three-day Appreciative Inquiry Summit was held in Milwaukee to explore action for a brighter future for the Near West Side. Near West Side Partners Inc. brought a diverse set of community stakeholders together, including business owners and government officials, to discuss the future of Milwaukee’s Near West Side.  

Over the three days, conversations surrounded businesses, promotion of commercial corridors, housing improvements, nutritious food, green spaces, neighborhood rapport and safety initiatives. The three summit objectives included supporting healthy and happy people, empowering thriving and united communities, and facilitating vibrant and equitable economies. Revitalization and sustainability of the Near West Side were two of the summit’s major themes. 

Day 1 of the summit, “Discovery and Dream,” explored strengths, opportunities and aspirations of the community. Additionally, the group discussed events and already established systems that fuel community enhancement.

On Day 2 of the summit, “From Dream to Design,” participants explored the ideas that emerged during “Discovery and Dream.” Summit participants brainstormed and developed prototypes to establish the who, what, when, where, why and how of each idea.  

On the final day of the Summit, “From Design to Delivery,” the group made aspiration statements, commitments to move the projects forward and personal commitments to continue the momentum of the summit.  

As a direct result of the 2021 AI Summit, Near West Side Partners identified five action projects to enhance Milwaukee’s Near West Side.  

  1. Concordia 27: An innovative community center and housing development. 
  2. Community Corners: An initiative to improve travel through the Near West Side by establishing clean, safe and welcoming streets for all who live, work, play and stay. 
  3. Green & Renewing Near West Side: A strategy to make the Near West Side a more sustainable community through nature-based solutions. The first annual Arbor Fest was a successful event for community members to connect and learn about sustainability with free native plants, workshops, resources, food and music. Read more about Arbor Fest here. 
  4. Meaningful Opportunities for Youth: Youth voices are valuable. A group meets every month to identify Near West Side organizations that ensure youth voices are always empowered. 
  5. Magnetic Community of Choice: An action to promote housing opportunities in the Near West Side through increasing home ownership, stabilizing the renting population and working with landlords to make referrals of tenants at risk of eviction.