1982 – Neighborhood Women Living and Learning Centers

‘After thirty years in separate communities, we are ready to institutionalize the gains and insights of our local places. We’ve shared leadership support training and methodologies, annual institutes on community development and peer-to-peer exchanges. We have applied these learning to our community work. Our works are making an impact, our works have attracted partners. Our works, our style and our operating principles are being shared with larger numbers of local people. We are opening our doors to visitors, insisting that to learn from us requires submersing oneself in the community.
We are holding together with our spirit and bodies. We need to go to brick and mortar- to have a place within community to hold the legacy. It cannot end with us. We cannot bury this treasure. There are others like us who will bond because of the yearning for a connectivity that honors our shared values, restores us personally and contradicts the lack of resources.’

Lisel Burns, 2001

Living Learning Centers (LLC) are women-developed and managed physical spaces in which to conduct women-centered, intergenerational, and multi-cultural community activities. The spaces challenge the traditional division between working, learning and living by combining functional spaces for working, such as community resource centers and meeting rooms with teaching and learning areas like libraries and archives, and living spaces with an intergenerational residential component providing temporary lodging for visitors and permanent housing for long-term women activists and movement leaders. The LLCs allow personal privacy as well as shared activities and peer support, bringing permanent residents, visitors and community members under the same roof.

The LLCs reaffirms the belief of NW that the neighborhood can be a living and learning campus. The space allows the enhancement of current programs; provides improved learning facilities to community groups; and expands linkages between local women and the international community. By hosting women from international exchanges, the LLCs expand mutual learning across cultural boundaries and gives meaning to the concept of ‘living and learning’ in a global environment. NW also promotes through their LLCs the belief that senior citizens should not leave their communities and family ties for nursing homes or assisted living centers. Instead, by housing the movement’s leaders, their expertise, local knowledge and leadership remain in their communities interacting with their peers in a supportive environment, where learning and living and the quality of life are sustained in ways that institutions cannot match.

The LLCs provide institutional support for neighborhood women from around the world who have been leading efforts to improve their local community. They facilitate the continued leadership development of grassroots women by:

  • Integrating the activities and strengths that NW have been building over the years.
  • Supporting the community building efforts of women in the neighborhood in which the LLC is located.
  • Documenting the successes of grassroots movements so those involved can learn from the past, see the strengths of their own and others work and have a clearer sense of the foundations that are already in place to build on.
  • Strengthening the capacity of grassroots women to be participants in the design solutions to poverty and urban decline.
  • Identifying and linking women leaders throughout the USA and the world who endeavor to uplift their communities.
  • Collaborating closely with the other LLCs set in very different social, cultural and economic contexts.
  • Supporting established leaders in their ongoing work and encouraging them to become mentors to the next generation of women dedicated to nurturing the development of people and communities.
  • Providing emerging leaders opportunities to participate in networking and skill building activities through forums, meeting and conferences.
  • Building working partnerships among grassroots leaders and resource-rich individuals and organizations committed to change at the regional, national and international levels.
  • Building links among organizations nationally and internationally.

NW Living Learning Centers

249 Manhattan Ave Living and Learning Center

For information please visit the 249 Manhattan Ave Living and Learning Center page.

Clearfork Community Institute in Eagan, Tennessee

‘The Clearfork Community Institute is a learning center and a gathering place for residents of the Clearfork Valley and open to others who come to learn from us and we from them.  We have an old brick schoolhouse that is being remodeled with a 2 acre campus and a 160 acre outdoor classroom.

The Clearfork Valley is located in rural Appalachian Tennessee in a community of 6,000 residents.  Local residents work in coal-mining, logging, and small farms.  Two-thirds of the community receives public assistance for economic survival.

While not sole directors of the Institute, we, the Women’s department, are a major component and seem to be holding up most of the work of all the departments, programs and activities at this time. We:

  • Provide facilities for peer learning, leadership support, recreation, and microenterprise development.
  • Carry out popular education and communication, publishing a newsletter with distribution to 1,000 households.
  • Share stories, get to know our roots, and honor our elders.
  • Preserve outdoor facilities for education, recreation and possibly microenterprise opportunities.

The board of directors includes local people and representatives from groups that have a five year partnership with the Woodland Community Land Trust, a grassroots non-profit organization founded in 1977 by the residents of Roses Creek, Tennessee.  The community founded the Land Trust in order to give the people of the Clearfork Valley secure and affordable access to land and housing. Affordable access is in high demand for community members, as large coal mining and timber companies continue a century old practice of owning and controlling most of the land.

The Clearfork Community Institute maintains partnerships with Berea College and Just Connections, two educational institutions that bring students to learn and work in the Clearfork Valley.  The Institute also invites a remote area medical team to use their building for veterinarians, dentists and eye doctors.

Women Spirit of St. Louis

‘We needed an example, a model, a guide, a mentor.  We met NCNW, and they gave us support and a model to learn from.    NCNW gave us a larger identity, rather than just a small group.  We were proud to say were a part of the larger group, NCNW.    There is power in being a part of something! ‘

LaDoris Payne

Woman Spirit, Inc. is a non-profit faith based community development organization led by women who have successfully survived the challenges of poverty, unemployment, and social isolation and who now work to help others like themselves achieve economic self-sufficiency.  They offer leadership and entrepreneurial training, peer mentoring, self-help support groups and others assistance to women like themselves – low-income, primarily African-American – and their families.  Their facilitators and mentors are trained in Woman Spirit’s Circle of Hope, a group process for support, education, and action that can be applied to welfare-to-work training, family mentoring, and parent support.

Members of Woman Spirit:

  • Participate in support groups
  • Take computer training
  • Share their computer skills with others
  • Have experience helping homeless individuals and veterans
  • Created a meditation garden for the community

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