Coming Soon to a Neighborhood Near You: DIY Lowell Projects in Action

Chris and I are excited to update our blog readers on how our DIY Lowell project has been taking shape. DIY Lowell is our attempt to contribute something to the Lowell community, and it’s been a lot of hard work and a lot of fun.

For those out of the loop, the way DIY Lowell works is, we ask people to submit ideas for small scale projects in public space. Small scale means under $1,000 dollars and finishable this year. Then we put the ideas up for a vote, with the top three ideas getting discussed at our Community Ideas Summit. There, action groups from to take the ideas forward, deciding on parameters, raising money, and consulting with relevant organizations. With a little luck, at the end of the year we have fun things happening that weren’t there before.

Since we last wrote about this project, a ton has happened. We ended up getting more than 50 ideas submitted, both online and through tabling. We visited neighborhood groups and community festivals, spoke on a panel at the Community Psychology conference, we were on the radio and in the paper. We got ideas from kids, seniors, teens, park rangers, and community leaders. You can check out all the ideas here, there are some that seem like “why the heck hasn’t anybody done that yet?” and others that make you think :”I would never have come up with that in a million years but I love it”.

Next, we put the ideas up for a vote. To vote, folks had to commit to either coming to the summit or helping out with a project as it goes forward. Obviously, it’s only ticking a box, and we can’t hold anyone to that. But it’s our hope that that ask means that the projects that got picked were the ones people were actually willing to spend their precious time and energy on. The vote was surprisingly close, with lots of ideas battling it out for the number three spot up to the last minute. Every single idea got at least one vote.

Francey Slater speaks to the group.

Francey Slater kicks us off by reminding us of how much can be accomplished by people dedicated to growing their community.

Finally, it was time for our big summit, and I have to admit, this was the most nerve wracking part of it all. Would anybody actually show up? Would they come ready to think flexibly, and would they be able to come to a consensus about how to move forward? We’d invited everyone to a party: would anybody come?

Honestly? It was more successful than I had imagined. Being in the stunning St. Jean Baptiste space, surrounded by a mix of friends, local leaders, and folks we’ve never met before, the energy in the room was was electrifying. With help from kickoff speaker Francey Slater of Mill City Grows, facilitators Todd Fry, Geoff Foster (also our amazing closing speaker), Nancy Coan, and Mary Taurus, groups of strangers came together, talked about their ideas, and formed concrete plans of attack on how to move forward.

Coming out of the summit, groups have formed around the three winning ideas: Downtown History Trail, Planting Fruit Trees, and Bus Stop Libraries. At the summit, we also had a wild card group, which chose two of the runner up ideas to take forward: Lowell-themed Bike Racks and Stargazing on Christian Hill. Don’t those all sound great?

Expect to see these ideas taking form in the next 6 months. If any of them sound like something you want to be involved in, it’s not too late! Just let us know and we’ll direct you to your new team. These ideas will also need community and financial support, so watch this space or our facebook page for opportunities to lend a hand.

Photo credit: Gabby Davis

The Bus Stop Libraries Group gets to work.

Finally, a huge thank you to everyone that’s helped us along the way. Donations, meeting with us as we developed our concept, coming to advisory committee meetings, helping out at our fundraiser, so many people have helped make this idea the success that its been so far. It’s been invigorating, humbling, and empowering. We can’t wait to see what happens next!

Large group of people poses with banner, photographed from above.

What a great group! It was so much fun. Photo by Gabby Davis.

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