In addition to healing divisions reflecting age, class and race, participants in our February forum further identified a need to build bridges of communication and collaboration between City and County governments, City government and citizens, and citizens and City staff. The Battle students raised the question of how to strengthen connections between schools and community. Several people observed that without proactive dialogue between citizens, planners, and elected leaders, Columbia runs the risk of developing a geographic divide between North and South Columbia, like the geographic divides that exist in the St. Louis area. Holding regular community dialogues within school buildings could begin to address some of these issues.
Other communities, including Carbondale IL, have used sustained community dialogue to help solve difficult issues. Columbia headed in that direction with the Imagine Columbia’s Future visioning process, although that dialogue was not sustained following that process in the ways envisioned by the public. What could a “community commons” for dialogue look like in Columbia? What might we accomplish by working together?