The Lakeside Community Collaborative is back on track, months after the nonprofit lost its leadership and its direction.
The local collaborative is one among many in the county whose mission is to promote health, education, social and recreational services to enhance the health and safety of our community. But earlier this year the group found itself rudderless and without leadership – so they reached out to the Institute for Public Strategies for help.
IPS operates similarly to the Lakeside collaborative, but on a national level. Their mission is to address specific community concerns and issues with training and coaching, aiming “to change entire communities rather than individual behavior.”
IPS works with numerous local groups toward their goals. Based on his past work with the Collaborative, local IPS program manager David Shorey was asked to step in as the new coordinator for the Lakeside Community Coordinator. Shorey felt there was a need to check in with Lakeside.
“I was asked to help the collaborative,” Shorey said. “The reason for the town hall meeting was to reengage the community.”
The idea was to reassess the needs and concerns of Lakeside and find a direction for the group. The “Town Hall Meeting” concept was used to attract the community’s attention. Leading with a panel of experts was a starting point for conversation and would serve as a perspective on any possible disconnect between service providers and residents.
However, the event ultimately raised more questions than it answered. Held at the Lakeside Community Center on May 29, many community members attended the well-publicized meeting out of curiosity, more than anything else. More than 40 residents filled the seats – not a bad showing of concerned citizens.
It began with input from a panel which included the local fire chief, the commanding officer of the Sheriff’s Lakeside substation and even a representative from the District Attorney’s Office. Each was asked the question usually reserved for stakeholders, i.e., the community: What is Lakeside’s greatest need?
“I found it interesting that 34 people turned out and that the question of ‘what is Lakeside’s greatest need?’ was posed to the panel members and not the community members,” said Terry Burke-Eiserling, a well-known Lakeside resident and activist. “I felt, at that time, that our Lakeside Fire, Lakeside Sheriffs and San Diego County District Attorney were able to address questions, but that IPS had limited familiarity with our community or our needs.”
Community concerns were later addressed by means of 3 x 5 cards that attendees were given before the meeting. Each was asked to write a question or concern to be shared with the audience. Some general discussion was allowed, but the meeting’s format seemed to discourage this.
A follow-up meeting was immediately scheduled for June 18, 2019. About a dozen people showed up for another go at it, again led by Shorey. This gathering was designed to identify specific community concerns and determine any priority issues – from a group of only about six actual community members. These members came away feeling underwhelmed by the experience.
“We were told that they were there to help give us the power of community engagement to work with strategies and form support systems,” said Burke-Eiserling, who attended both meetings. “Having been in the community and involved in multiple projects over many years’ time, there is a redundancy of not only currently active groups working on projects, (but) projects that have been worked on over many, many years duration.”
The bottom line is that the Lakeside community received mixed and confusing signals regarding the initial meetings and their purpose.
Shorey said he may have made some mistakes in this reenergization process, but he only took over the collaborative in February 2019, having been approached by the former coordinator to “bring the group back.” He said he did not have time to adequately acquaint himself with key community movers and shakers.
“Lakeside is a wonderful community,” Shorey said. “It has a lot of community engagement, a lot of folks who are civically-minded and are on the pulse of what’s going on.”
So, where does this collaborative fit into the community?
“We’re reaching out to community services and organizations to join the Lakeside Community Collaborative,” Shorey said at the latest LCC meeting this past August. “We want to create an opportunity for social service groups to come together and share resources in the community of Lakeside. We do good work in the community.”
The regular August meeting was a return to business as usual. The 20 people in attendance represented nearly as many different organizations, including San Diego County social service departments, as well as faith groups and other local interests. The participants shared their views and services. Though there are no current projects for LCC on paper, Shorey plans to reach out to the East County Homeless Taskforce, as homelessness is commonly cited as a major public concern. Shorey wants to offer the Collaborative as a resource and to see how it might fit in to the problem-solving process.
“We are not going to say, ‘OK, the collaborative is going to address the homeless situation.’ We want to serve as a connector,” said Shorey. “We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel.”
Shorey feels that while the Collaborative is now back up on its feet and ready to move forward, they are still trying to find their best place within the community to help and support Lakeside. With that goal in mind, Shorey invites interested parties to get involved with the Lakeside Community Collaborative in any way they see fit, from joining their Facebook Page to getting on the email list. The group meets monthly, on the fourth Monday of the month, at 3:00 p.m. in the offices of the Lakeside Unified School District on Woodside Avenue. The next meeting is scheduled for Sept. 23, 2019. Shorey himself can be reached at (619) 476-9100, extension 190.