Holyoke Planning Network
Who we are:
We are an association of community organizations, activists, academics, professionals, and students who are working to build mutually beneficial partnerships between local institutions of higher education and the community of Holyoke.
Our aim is to promote social, political and economic equality in the city of Holyoke through a participatory community-driven approach to sustainable development.
Our association seeks to bring together Holyoke community-based organizations, community institutions and governmental institutions with the research and educational resources of the region, those of Five Colleges and beyond. . We recognize this process as community-led, whereby local institutions of higher education will take direction and leadership from the residents and community-based organizations of Holyoke.
We are committed to changing the historic relationship between the Five Colleges and the community of Holyoke that has often been based on an imbalance of power, whereby the Five Colleges have gained tangible benefits from the community of Holyoke (internships for students, research opportunities, teaching sites, dissertation material, community service placements, etc). Over the years, specific campus/community projects have worked well, and yet all too often the community of Holyoke has been left resource-deprived and disappointed after community-based organizations and leaders dedicated countless hours to mentoring, training and empowering Five College students and faculty over the past 30 years. After careful reflection and examination of this appropriating dynamic, Hampshire College and Nueva Esperanza initiated a coalition to host the June 2002 National Planners Network Conference in Holyoke. Using this opportunity as a vehicle to address urgent issues between the Five Colleges and Holyoke, it was also a critical moment to build upon and celebrate the respectful partnerships that have been mutually successful. With over 400 conference participants from all over the northeast region, much energy and enthusiasm was generated around the themes of community and economic development, community/university partnerships, environmental justice, urban agriculture, youth as agents of change, the role of the arts in urban revitalization, urban school reform, affordable housing, participatory planning and development, undoing racism and community organizing. It is now the charge of our association to carry on the challenging work before us of creating and facilitating avenues to bring about economic equality and social justice in Holyoke.
Projects that Holyoke leaders have helped to identify so far include:
· Improve transportation between the Five College area and the city of Holyoke (PVTA)
· Support proposed plan for long-range economic development of the Main Street commercial corridor of South Holyoke
· Improve enrollment levels of Holyoke youth in the Five Colleges (scholarships)
· Critically examine CBL (community-based learning) and PAR (participatory action research) and how these methods can be utilized by area colleges to meet community stated needs in Holyoke
· Support efforts of Nueva Esperanza to develop a five-year plan that includes the creation of an endowment for sustainability
· Critically examine Holyoke public schools, institutional racism and MCAS testing
· Support ongoing environmental justice projects
· Create and implement a mandatory training for all area college student volunteers, interns, work-study students and tutors who want to be involved in community-based work in Holyoke (this training would be conducted in Holyoke, led by Holyoke community leaders and would provide an overview of the history of Holyoke, the Puerto Rican community and local CBOs, address the issues of power and privilege inherent in college students working in a working-class community of color, discuss the differences between social service and social change work, identify clear methods for action-reflection-evaluation that will be mutually beneficial to the Holyoke CBO and the college student volunteer/tutor/intern/worker)