History & Health: What’s the Connection?

For many of us, we have choices regarding our health: access to fresh food & clean water, options for household location, and access to green space or nature, for example. But for some communities, these choices of individual and family health are far more limited and create a culture of survival rather than enjoyment or experimentation of a healthier lifestyle. Perhaps not surprisingly, policy decisions can play a large role in these choices. And in some cases, policy from days gone by oftentimes continues to affect communities in present day. To take a closer look at this connection between history and health, let’s compare Cuyahoga County’s historical redlining map to a racial density map derived from the 2010 US Census.

“Redlining” is the unethical practice (in this case regarding real estate) of discriminating against residents and refusing financial service, based on where the resident lives. Commonly, residents within a certain area will be subjected to the systematic denial of financial services (mortgages, insurance, or loans) based on address rather than individual qualifications or credit history. The map of Redlining in Cuyahoga County depicts the community sectioned into four security ratings; green areas were deemed the most “safe,” and red deemed the most “dangerous.” The practice of redlining was made illegal through the Fair Housing Act of 1968.

Redlining in Cuyahoga CountyWhile the practice of redlining ended before the 1970’s, evidence of redlining was still present in Cleveland’s communities in 2010. Comparing the map above to the map below, a higher density of minority groups is evident in areas which were deemed more “unsafe” in 1940. The source for this “one dot, one person” visual is based off individual responses of race alone from the 2010 Decennial Census.

Racial Density in Cuyahoga County, 2010

Racial Density in Cuyahoga County, 2010. Source: The Racial Dot Map, University of Virginia

While some communities have historically been disadvantaged, this is not to say that community organizations and partnerships are not working to create better opportunities and health equity. In Cuyahoga County, the Health Improvement Partnership (HIP-Cuyahoga) works to give everyone an opportunity to make healthier choices. To further learn about HIP-Cuyahoga’s effort, watch this video.

By acknowledging the history of the communities in which we work, we are able to better understand their unique and specific needs and challenges. Health equity requires a concentrated effort to increase opportunities for everyone to be healthier. This effort can be through the work that you do in your community, how and where you direct your purchasing power, understanding local policy changes and impacts, and reflecting on the lessons we have learned through history. Remember, you can be the change you wish to see in the world!

Sources:

https://www.federalreserve.gov/boarddocs/supmanual/cch/fair_lend_fhact.pdf

http://demographics.virginia.edu/DotMap/

https://hdm.livestories.com/s/redlining-and-health-is-there-a-connection-in-cuyahoga-county/5702ecdf5251d60013f92b1c/

http://hipcuyahoga.org/


Vargo, LaurenLauren Vargo is a program coordinator in Cuyahoga County.

Small Business Innovation Research – New Initiative to Launch in Ohio!

Did you know that nearly half (46%) of Ohio’s workforce is employed by small business enterprises? According to the Small Business Administration, Ohio is home to 927,691 small businesses, roughly 80% of all business in Ohio.

In 2018 I will be working with other Extension professionals from across the United States to bring the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) programming – coaching and support – to Ohio. I will be learning about the intricacies of the program and will be disseminating that information to each of our county offices. The ultimate goal: to attract and support Ohio’s entrepreneurs via SBIR funding.

The mission of the SBIR program is to support scientific excellence and technological innovation through investment of Federal research funds in key U.S. technologies. The ultimate goal is to support a strong economy through small business innovation and application. SBIR is a highly competitive program that encourages small businesses to engage in federal research and research and development efforts with potential for commercialization.

Car of the future?

SBIR specifically targets entrepreneurs, innovators, idea guys and gals, because this group is where most innovation and innovators thrive. The problem for this population historically has been the expense of conducting research and development. Many are boot strapping or funding their projects and start-ups. To combat this challenge, funds have been earmarked for these innovators and are distributed to qualified candidates through the competitive approval process.

The SBIR program blends four goals:

  • nurturing technological innovation
  • meeting federal research and development needs
  • extending special attention to under-represented groups (women, socially or economically disadvantaged individuals)
  • and driving private sector commercialization.

In short, the SBIR program offers an “incubator” of sorts that begins with innovation and ends with commercialization.

Annually, SBIR recognizes success stories from their alumna companies. I reviewed the list of those recognized by SBIR in 2015 and 2016. Of those 23 recognized by SBIR in 2015, only one was located in Ohio (Frontier Technology Inc.). And none were from Ohio in 2016. During 2015 and 2016 only 20 states had any companies recognized through SBIR for their work. But SBIR funding is available! Perhaps entrepreneurs are not aware?! It is my goal to present the SBIR challenge/opportunity throughout the state of Ohio and encourage would-be techies to give it a shot. Look for the date of the upcoming training, coming soon and plan to join us!

Here are two examples of the types of companies that received SBIR program funds:


Kyle White is an Extension educator, Medina County.

Food Label Lingo

Reading food labels

All food products have five standard components regulated by the FDA.

Each time you enter a supermarket, you are faced with nearly 40,000 products to choose from[1]. Each product brightly colored, strategically placed and wordsmithed perfectly to convince you not to leave the store without it. So, how as consumers can we decipher all the information food packages provide and use it to make better purchasing decisions for our families? We have to learn the food label lingo. First, it is important to recognize that all food products have five standard components regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

  1. Product Identity (product name that accurately describes the package contents)
  2. Net Content (product quantity or weight)
  3. Nutrition facts
  4. Ingredients/ allergen statement
  5. Signature Line (including company name and address of the manufacturer or distributor)

But most packages contain a slew of additional information that highlights anything from farm practices, to health benefits, to social and economic practices. There are three possible origins of food label claims and statements, 1) government agencies like the USDA and FDA; 2) third-party organizations like American Grassfed®, Non-GMO Project Verified, Fair Trade Certified, and Certified Angus Beef®; and 3) food manufacturers or producers.

Government issued labels were created to: ensure fair competition among producers, provide consumers with basic product information, and most importantly to reduce health and safety risks[2]. Government labels always have the agency from which the standards originate listed, for example USDA organic or Dolphin Safe, United States Department of Commerce. Government standards and record of companies holding their certifications can be accessed online or by contacting the respective agency.Dolphin Safe Seal

Third-party labels were created to enhance the intelligibility and credibility of certain food attributes through the use of standards, verification, certification, and enforcement[2]. Each organization is responsible for determining their own set of standards that producers must follow to use their trademarked seal. Third-party labels can vary from very strict standards that require yearly audits to very loose standards that are more like a subscription with no verification process. I encourage consumers to do additional research on labels they think align with their values to ensure they match.

Lastly, producers and manufacturers create a number of food label claims and statements to entice consumers. A few of the more current statements include: natural, 100% pure, all, made with real fruit, made with whole grains, lightly-sweetened, a good source of fiber, local, and strengthens your immune system[3]. Be wary of these statements because they are unregulated and defined entirely by the manufacturer.

To learn more, visit my website Understanding Food Labels. Here you will find hundreds of food labels, videos and educational resources that can be used in Extension program efforts.


Resources:

[1] Food Marketing Institute. (2017, November 13). Supermarket Facts. Retrieved 2017, from https://www.fmi.org/our-research/supermarket-facts

[2] Golan, E., Kuchler, F., & Mitchell, L. (2000). Economics of Food Labeling. Washington: Economic Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture. Retrieved from https://www.ers.usda.gov/webdocs/publications/41203/18885_aer793.pdf?v=41063

[3] Silverglade, B., & Heller, I. R. (2010). Food Labeling Chaos. Washington, DC: Center for Science in the Public Interest. Retrieved from https://cspinet.org/sites/default/files/attachment/food_labeling_chaos_report.pdf

Carol HamiltonCarol Hamilton is an Extension Educator (Delaware County).

Smart Cities, Healthy People: Community Development that Builds Social Capital

Have you ever stopped to consider your work as that of a ‘communal doctor’ whose efforts are designed to impact individual quality of life, mental health, and ultimately, overall community health?

There is a growth in recent scientific research that reinforces the correlation between how communities are designed and built and the mental health of their residents.[1] Our built cities have become urban ecosystems, biological communities of living things in a given area interacting with each other and the non-living environment. In a healthy ecosystem, each organism or element of the system has its own niche or contribution. There is a natural order of things that interconnect with each other, but many of our urban cities have failed to reach this harmony. It is becoming very apparent that social cohesion, relationships, and personal investment in the community – often referred to as ‘social capital’ – is an important determinant of overall community health, and therefore should play a bigger role in urban design.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that “The way that we design our communities and the commuting distances and times that result can affect the amount of time that is available for: extracurricular activities for our children, recreation/rejuvenation time for adults after work, community involvement activities such as neighborhood improvement projects and neighborhood association events, and time for family members to spend together. Circumstances that prevent or limit the availability of ‘social capital’ for a community and its members can have a negative effect on the health and well-being of the members of that community. These negative effects on health and well-being can in turn have negative effects on the community as a whole.”[2]

Figure 1: The Chief Public Health Officer’s Report on the State of Public Health in Canada 2017.  

Community development and urban planning fields originated in the early 19th century over concerns of public health problems created by overcrowded slums and dirty industries.[3] But the connection to public health and the built environment shortly thereafter began to diverge; public health focused more on genetics, biology, and behavior with an epidemiological, evidence based approach, while community development was preempted in designing its built environment around the automobile over the socioeconomic-wellbeing of its people. However, there seems to be a renewed interest in rejoining community development and public health to help address mental health, obesity, cardiovascular disease, depression, homelessness, violence, social inequality, affordability, mobility, etc.[4] Two centuries later, technology and innovation dominate everything, including community development.

In this new era of city building, people are seeing more tech industries involved and changing the metrics of community design, public health, and increasing inclusivity of its residents in the development process. The tech industry is actively developing an array of digital tools that are trying to make the community development process more transparent and interactive for people. Cities like Santa Monica, California are exploring smartphone technology that employs a Tinder approach, called CitySwipe, to influence community development decisions. Residents can swipe left or right and provide instant feedback on urban design decisions such as street furniture, green infrastructure, parking, proposed developments, murals, bike lanes, etc. The software is fairly basic, but it’s rapidly advancing and working to get the public more involved in the development consultation process without using lengthy mail-out response forms, wordy PDFs, online surveys, or asking people to attend inconvenient public comment hearings.

Google’s parent company, Alphabet, will be redeveloping the initial 12-acres Quayside District of Toronto’s waterfront. The project is called the Sidewalk and has an additional 800-acres from the adjacent district for future expansion. Its vision is to create a brand new mixed-use urban district “from the Internet up,” merging the physical with the digital while applying high-tech design concepts at scale. The community design is data-driven and connected, monitored with sensors, and generates big data collections to become the first “programmable public realm.” It is truly an urban district planned and programmed to build new societies and solve public health dilemmas of our age.[5]

Toronto’s Eastern Waterfront Map (Credit: Sidewalk Toronto)

To engage the public realm, Google offers a mix of traditional uses in flexible spaces with a system of asset monitoring. The company plans to design for ‘climate-positive living’ using smart appliances managed by remote sensors that support a range of commercial, institutional, and residential uses with diverse co-housing possibilities. The proposed timber-frame modular construction will use onsite assembly techniques that will allow for quick and easy structural adjustments that could accommodate a temporary change in use or living arrangement, such as a café expanding into a restaurant co-working space; or a parent, sibling, or friend moving in or out of the home. The company proposes to design a district-wide thermal energy grid, including underground garbage, waste, and composting infrastructure, deep-water cooling system, robotic package delivery, sensors for air and noise quality control, as well as sensors to manage wind, sun, and rain that could double the number of daylight hours and outside comfortability around the district.

Housing Vision (Credit: Sidewalk Toronto)

Self-driving and/or car-sharing vehicles are the only automobiles that will be permitted, providing point-to-point convenience without the safety risks and high costs of owning and maintaining private vehicles. (Americans can spend approximately $7,000 or more per year to own, maintain, insure, and drive a car and often choose their car over paying for adequate health insurance or needed medical care.) This feature will also eliminate the need for on and off-street parking requirements that dominate traditional urban design and zoning requirements. Additionally, the pedestrian and bike pathways in the tech-district are designed to melt snow, promoting safe year-round usage with the sole purpose of bolstering renewed street life and active multi-purpose public spaces.

Google is not the only tech company that has shown interest in the city building industry. Lyft, a transportation network company based in San Francisco, California has proposed street redesigns for a driverless future (e.g. Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angles); proposing transportation concepts that eliminate traffic lanes while doubling the transportation capacity of the street.

Proposed underground waste, recycling, and compost infrastructure (Credit: Sidewalk Toronto)

Studies have shown that mixed-use neighborhoods, with shops, schools, libraries, workplaces and homes designed around easy walking distance tend to support higher levels of physical activity and have lower rates of obesity.[6] People working in community development fields can utilize new technologies to engage communities and start retrofitting cities to strengthen their social capital and increase community health through urban design that is more responsive to needs of people, rather than cars.

One tool used in helping people visualize new developments and changes in their community is the augmented reality technology UrbanPlanAR. It overlays a 3D picture planned development within an actual urban environment in real-time. The technology enables one to hold their mobile device and use its camera to see what the proposed development would look like.

Mobility Vision (Credit: Sidewalk Toronto)

The tech industry is challenging how community development and urban planning has been done for decades. To improve quality of life, strengthen economies, and protect the environment, organizations like Future Cities Catapult in London, England are working in city labs to develop and test new technologies and prototype tools to make the planning process fit for the 21st century. Their efforts are designed to spread the innovations to cities and community development departments and practitioners across the world. Such developments excite people working in community development fields who are frustrated with old-school planning and community engagement tactics. Such innovations could both streamline the bureaucracy and make the whole community development process more transparent for community members. Such tech-tools could also help answer complex questions about trade-offs.

To aggregate the city’s physical, social, and green infrastructure, the city of Manchester in the UK has created an interactive tool called Greater Manchester Open Data Infrastructure Map using GIS technology. It shows transportation networks, real estate information, brownfields, proposed development sites and more, enabling interested individuals to see how the community is developing and be involved in the design process.

Physicians have focused on individual patient needs and health problems for decades, but when so many people start having similar problems, such as anxiety, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and depression, people must realize that poor health is not entirely caused by lack of personal governance, but may be the result of the built environment in which people live. In a way, people working in community development fields have to learn to become communal doctors powered by high-tech tools to improve urban design and community development programming.

 

Meghan Thoreau is an OSU Extension Educator for Pickaway County (Heart of Ohio EERA).

___________________________________________________________________________________________

[1] Frumkin, H. 2016. Environmental Health: From Global to Local (Public Health/Environmental Health). 3rd Edition. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

[2] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. n.d. Healthy Places: Social Capital. Accessed November 29, 2017. https://www.cdc.gov/healthyplaces/healthtopics/social.htm.

[3] Rosen G. A History of Public Health. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press; 1993.

[4] Jackson, Richard J. 2003. “The Impact of the Built Environment on Health: An Emerging Field.” American Journal of Public Health 93 (9): 1382-1384.

[5] Rider, David. 2017. Google firm wins competition to build high-tech Quayside neighbourhood in Toronto. 10 17. Accessed 12 1, 2017. https://www.thestar.com/news/city_hall/2017/10/17/google-firm-wins-competition-to-build-high-tech-quayside-neighbourhood-in-toronto.html.

[6] Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. n.d. Environmental Barriers to Activity: How Our Surroundings Can Help or Hinder Active Lifestyles. Accessed November 29, 2017. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/obesity-prevention-source/obesity-causes/physical-activity-environment/.

Beet Food Waste: Turnip at the Farmers’ Market

Did you know that more than 38 million tons of food waste was generated in the U.S. in 2014? To help address this issue, OSU Extension Cuyahoga County teamed up with two local partners this past summer to launch a Food Waste, Recovery, & Education pilot program at the Tremont Farmers’ Market. OSUE Cuyahoga County, Rust Belt Riders, and Stone Soup Cleveland piloted a community composting program, modeling the efforts of cities such as Washington, .D.C. and New York City. The pilot program aimed to help reduce food waste and divert scraps from landfills while providing education about food insecurity and food recovery systems.

So, how did it work?

The partners spent 4 weeks at the farmers’ market doing outreach and promotion before beginning 8 weeks of scrap collection. The pilot offered free sunflower planting for children (and adults!) with compost from Rust Belt Riders to help spark community engagement and begin dialogue about food waste in the county.

Residents who signed up for the free program 8 week were provided one-gallon containers with lids that they could take home and use to collect their compostable food scraps over the course of the week. Residents could bring their scraps to the farmers’ market to be weighed and recorded, helping them gauge their waste production and environmental impact. The containers were emptied into a larger bin that would be later delivered to Rust Belt Riders to be composted.

Over 30 community members actively participated in the Food Waste and Food Recovery pilot project at the Tremont Farmers’ Market. Over 8-weeks, residents were able to drop off their compostable food scraps and engage in food waste education. In just 8 weeks, over 750 pounds of food scraps were diverted from landfills. 88% if participants were surprised by how much food waste they were producing, and 94% of participants stated the program helped them become more conscious about the amount of food waste they produce.

While the program was designed to serve apartment dwellers, almost 30% of participants were homeowners with access to a yard who noted they did not know how to properly compost. Through this pilot, we learned that there may be a significant number of households in Cleveland who are not composting simply because they do not know how. Composting workshops have been set up to serve those participants and other homeowners who are interested.

As with any pilot project, you set out not really knowing what will happen and inevitably encounter a variety of challenges and valuable lessons. We were pleasantly surprised by the level of community engagement and support, but we did not consider any potential drawbacks such as odors. We quickly learned that we needed to ask program participants to place their containers in the fridge or freezer to slow decomposition and eliminate any unpleasant smells. A few very ripe containers caused some of our market neighbors to be a bit upset.

The pilot was well received by community members and market vendors, being seen as a valuable addition to the farmers’ market, but we did not have any next steps planned. As the pilot ended, program participants were anxious to know what they might do with their scraps. We had created a group of food waste conscious community members, but did not have a long-term solution for them. When we surveyed participants after the pilot ended, 41% said they would participate in fee-based residential compost services in the future. This finding sparked Rust Belt Riders to create a Community Supported Compost Program, where residents can pay for an annual membership that allows them to drop their scraps off at their facility to be composted at any time through the year.

The partners plan to host the program at the Tremont Farmers’ Market again next summer, extending the programming to be offered for a longer duration of 16-20 weeks!

What will you do to reduce your food waste? To learn more about food waste and food recovery systems, contact Amanda Osborne, County Extension Educator, Cuyahoga County & Western Reserve EERA.

Cleveland’s Greatest Gift

What comes to mind when you think of Cleveland, Ohio? Perhaps you know that it’s home to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the 2016 NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers. Maybe you’re familiar with the city’s rich legacy of business development, such as John D. Rockefeller’s establishment of Standard Oil in Cleveland in 1870. While the cultural and business accomplishments of this beautiful Midwestern city are impressive, Cleveland is also the birthplace to what may be one of the greatest gifts to the civilized world – and it all began with an inspired idea.

Cleveland as seen from Cleveland Metroparks Whiskey Island

More than 100 years ago, Frederick H. Goff, a successful lawyer and banker, envisioned an organization that would focus on developing Cleveland’s community by pulling together and harnessing the resources – the wealth – of the city’s philanthropists. That idea grew into the world’s first community foundation: The Cleveland Foundation. Within five years, Goff’s strategic idea inspired other cities, such as Chicago, Boston and Minneapolis, to establish their own community foundations. But the first – in the world – was born in Cleveland!

Today the Cleveland Foundation serves not only Cleveland, but counties nearby as well. With nearly $2 billion in assets, the organization has touched millions of lives by providing funding and by partnering with other organizations to strengthen the region’s schools and neighborhoods, health and wellness activities, cultural endeavors, and economic development.

Merwin’s Wharf in the Flats – Owned and operated by Cleveland Metroparks

One of the recipients of the many grants and scholarships offered through the foundation is the Cleveland Metroparks. This expansive area encompassing more than 23,000 acres includes 300 miles of trails, eight golf courses, eight lakefront parks, and the Cleveland Zoo. The Metroparks offers a myriad of outdoor activities focusing on education, recreation, conservation and sustainability – all within and surrounding this bustling, revitalized city. Perched on the southern shore of Lake Erie, the Metroparks provide urban residents and visitors opportunities for hiking, biking, kayaking, fishing (and ice fishing – Cleveland is a northern city, after all), dining, sledding, horseback riding, paddle boarding, swimming, and much more. This park system is funded by a variety of donations and grants, and presents tangible evidence of Frederick Goff’s idea to harness the wealth of the community for the benefit of all.

Cleveland Metroparks – Edgewater Park

Today, community foundations find ways to tap into the generosity of individuals from all economic levels. If it’s not in your budget to donate money to a charity of your choice, think about offering your time or expertise to help with their community outreach efforts. Winston Churchill said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” What an incredible gift Frederick Goff has given to the world – the idea that lying deep within the seed of generosity we plant today is the promise of a better tomorrow.

To learn more about OSU Extension’s educational programs focused on community development, visit go.osu.edu/seekexcellence.

 

Becky Nesbitt is an Assistant Professor and Extension Educator in Community Development with OSU Extension.

Economic Gardening: Changing Community Culture to Grow Entrepreneurs

Who among us doesn’t want to live, work and play in a vibrant community? In addition to supporting local entrepreneurs, each of us can help to cultivate community vitality by understanding the larger strategies designed to assist small businesses to grow and thrive. Programs that help to develop business plans, obtain financing and market and manage enterprises are frequently included in a community’s economic “tool box.” Universities, Small Business Development Centers and local Chambers of Commerce often provide direct assistance that can range from one-on-one consultation to classroom instruction and group workshops.

Pioneered in Littleton, Colorado in 1987, and based on David Birch’s research at MIT, the concept of “Economic Gardening” recognizes that small businesses create most of the new jobs in local economies. While providing skill training for individual entrepreneurs is a very important component of economic gardening, it is only part of the picture. If entrepreneurs are to have their best chance to grow and thrive, being part of a community culture that understands, values and supports entrepreneurship is also important.

Communities are sometimes unaware of the depth and breadth of the local entrepreneur base and its contribution to their overall economy. They might not understand the support the community can provide and the importance of a supportive culture. “Culture is a mindset built on commonly held and shared beliefs …about starting, owning encouraging and supporting our own companies and entrepreneurs. It is a way of thinking that drives a group to act.” (EDA University Center/Center of Northern Iowa) The actions of local leaders and residents demonstrating their support for entrepreneurship are at the core of this mindset.

There are various dimensions to entrepreneur friendly communities and many players need to contribute toward its creation. It is not just the responsibility of local leaders or economic developers. Cultural change is broad in its scope and goes beyond positional leadership to less formal social networks embedded in the community. With that said, local leaders – private and public – can be “change masters” by championing initiatives and attitudes that support entrepreneurs. The following are some examples. This list is not meant to be exhaustive, but to describe supportive services that emerge from a community mindset that nurtures entrepreneurs:

  1. Risk tolerance: At the most basic level, entrepreneurial communities embrace a mindset that tolerates risk and does not see trying and failing at an enterprise as a character flaw. It supports and encourages innovators who are willing to try time and again before reaching success.
  2. Consumer support of local business: Supportive communities have a “buy local” initiative, encouraging residents to support and patronize their businesses and services first.
  3. Celebration of success: Economic development organizations such as the Chamber promote the successes of local entrepreneurs and small businesses. Start-ups and expansions are recognized and championed through media coverage.
  4. Commitment of Public Officials and Offices: Local elected and appointed officials set a tone of appreciation for business innovators. They take the lead in insuring that local governmental offices and agencies, often the first stop for entrepreneurial enterprises, cut through red tape, streamline approvals, and coordinate with each other, perhaps through a “one stop” center approach.
  5. Public and private financing alternatives: It is important to offer a variety of different financing avenues for entrepreneurs in recognition of their special need for start-up capital and a fast turn-around time for project implementation. Building partnerships between private and public financing sources to reduce/share risks and provide incentive financing, shows support for entrepreneurs.
  6. Networks: Entrepreneurs benefit greatly from opportunities to network with their peers. Facilitating the creation of an entrepreneur network which can then take on a life of its own provides a supportive and strategically beneficial environment.
  7. Supportive services and spaces: Incubators for start-ups and expansions help to reduce initial expenses for facilities and services. Maker spaces are community centers that provide access to tools, equipment and other technology needed to test and launch new products and ideas.
  8. Infrastructure: Entrepreneurs need access to markets and resources. Broadband Internet capacity is a critical component of an entrepreneurial friendly community.

In short, the challenge for communities is to create an environment that nurtures, appreciates and values entrepreneurs and their unique needs and contributions. An adaptation of a quote by Roger Blackwell, Professor Emeritus in Marketing at The Ohio State University, is as follows:

To create a community culture, mindset and initiatives that support entrepreneurship, and to realize the benefits and investment from this economic development approach, what does a community need to become?

The following resources provide additional information:

EDA University Center/University of Northern Iowa: eda.uni.edu/supportive-culture

Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation: kauffman.org/what-we-do/resources/policy/economic-gardening

Myra Moss is an Associate Professor and Extension Educator (Heart of Ohio EERA).

Keeping Communities Safe through Education and Empowerment

OSU Extension goes beyond the walls to keep communities safe and restored citizens productive!

With most offender reentry programs, an ultimate goal is to reduce the recidivism rate. According to the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative (SVORI), in the U.S. over 600,000 individuals are released from prisons and jails each year. It is estimated that over two-thirds are re-incarcerated within three years.

Franklin County has the third highest population of ex-offenders being released from incarceration in the state of Ohio. Equally important and cause for concern is the increasing number of individuals returning to neighborhoods and communities throughout the country.

Not surprisingly, re-entering society poses numerous financial challenges, from paying for housing, food, transportation, and health care to finding a job, establishing credit, and paying off debts. Indeed, much of re-entry success depends on one’s ability to manage money. Unfortunately, an overwhelming number of newly freed individuals aren’t well prepared to make smart money decisions on their own, especially if they have long been under the control of others, lack basic resources and financial skills!

One of the keys to successful reintegration of these individuals returning to neighborhoods and communities has been and will continue to be Financial Education, thereby helping them gain control of their finances and future! Towards this end, OSU Extension’s Community/Economic Development (CED) team has not only served on the Franklin County Reentry Task Force/ Employment and Education Subcommittee, but has also made monthly visits to Franklin County Correctional Center and the Ohio Department of Youth Services to teach Personal Finance to adult and youth offenders respectively.

OSU Extension strives to improve the quality of life among ALL central Ohio residents through research, service and training. To learn more about OSU Extension and how to make a difference in  your community, visit: franklin.osu.edu or contact Susan Colbert (colbert.22@osu.edu), Program Director for Expansion and Engagement, Franklin County and Heart of Ohio EERA.

Better land use decisions via the American Citizen Planner program

I like to volunteer in my community. Doing so enables me to make a difference in other people’s lives and make some small contribution in return for the benefits I receive. But, years ago when I was asked to serve on my community’s Planning and Zoning committee it felt like I was in over my head.

I kept asking myself:

  • Will I make wise decisions regarding land use in my community?
  • Will I understand the complicated zoning codes and different land use tools such as comprehensive planning?
  • Will I carry out my duties and responsibilities correctly and wisely – and legally?
  • How will I deal with heated community response in difficult circumstances?

At least I was in good company – many volunteer planners continue to express the same concerns and struggle to find where to turn for accurate, useful and easily understandable information.

To make matters worse, local land use issues are becoming increasingly complex, requiring difficult decisions of volunteer citizen planners who often have little preparation or training. Fortunately, the new American Citizen Planner Program (ACP) can help prepare and train these volunteer planners as well as others who are interested in the basic concepts of public land use planning and community development best practices.

eXtension Land Use PlanningJust recently launched online through the eXtension Community Planning and Zoning Community of Practice, ACP provides continuing education for paraprofessional planners and zoning officials, offering the nationally recognized credential of Master Citizen Planner.

American Citizen PlannerThe online program offers two courses – ACP 101 and ACP 201. ACP 101 is designed to help participants learn the foundations of planning and zoning, including the historical context, and their role and responsibilities as planning officials. The 14 units cover such topics as ethics, comprehensive land use planning, working with the public, data collection and analysis, and community sustainability. ACP 201, also 14 units, digs deeper into such topics as land use planning, legal and constitutional authority, the zoning process, conducting effective public meetings and dealing with conflict.

After completion of ACP 101 and 201, participants are qualified to take the Master Citizen Planner Exam. With an exam score of 70% or better, within 60 days of completing the courses they will receive the Master Citizen Planner Credential. It is recommended that the credential be maintained through at least 6 hours a year of continuing education.

Learn more about the American Citizen Planner program, its cost and how to access the online courses here or by contacting Myra Moss at moss.63@osu.edu.

Myra Moss is an Associate Professor and Extension Educator (Heart of Ohio EERA).

Building healthy and productive lives together

Without a place to call home, it is difficult to build a healthy and productive life. And while being number one is usually a good thing; it is certainly not so in this case.

Franklin County has the highest number of evictions in the state, averaging 19,000 filings annually over the last 10 years. Matthew Desmond’s book, Evicted, indicates that evictions occur for a variety of reasons, including: a limited understanding of the tenant’s responsibilities and rights; lack of financial management and home maintenance skills; and, an untenable rent to income ratio.

Franklin County Extension is attempting to address this issue by offering to residents throughout the community a vast array of programs and services focused on, for example: HUD-certified home buyer education; money management; food production, preservation and nutrition; workforce development and much more!

To learn more, check out the materials shared on the Franklin County Extension website. To learn about what’s happening in your community and how OSU Extension can help, visit the OSU Extension website or call your local Extension office.

Susan Colbert is Program Director for Expansion and Engagement in Franklin County (Heart of Ohio EERA).