Ann Heidkamp is head chairperson of the social action council at Unitarian Universalist Church West in Brookfield, WI. UUCW is a member of Common Ground and has been since the very beginning. Heidkamp has been closely involved with Common Ground and gives just a glimpse of the work the organization does for Southeastern Wisconsin.
Madison: What is Common Ground?
Ann Heidkamp: The idea of Common Ground is that, under typical circumstances, individuals have a hard time changing anything or they don’t feel that they can change anything but when people come together they understand that they can make change. When organizations each with their own individual members, come together, then you really see the people power. Common Ground is an organization of churches, schools, businesses and other community groups who ban together to create positive change in the community. Common Ground focuses on developing leadership among people so that they can identify the issues or concerns that they have, regarding their community- and then work together to solve them.
M: How does Common Ground create change in the community?
AH: Common Ground works on two different things; if any individual organization that’s a member of Common Ground has a specific concern or something that’s specific to their neighborhood or congregation, then Common Ground will help the members of that organization figure out how to do that. Common Ground also works together will people from across the organizations, particularly people who live within the same relative area and identify broader community issues.
M: That makes total sense. How does Common Ground decide which initiatives to take on?
AH: To use people power you have to understand where you have leverage. Before they decide on a strategy for confronting any issue they do a lot of research and they engage the people. Part of empowering people is to engage them in the process of researching and it doesn’t necessarily mean researching on the computer it means going to talk to people. You are trying to do is called a power analysis. Who has the power to change the situation that we want to change and how do we reach those people to understand what we want. The research step is very important in figuring out the actual strategy about how we can make a difference.
M: Can you talk about one of the campaigns you have taken part of?
AH: One that I was most closely involved with was when the Bucks' new arena was being proposed and they were looking for all this money from the state. People from Common Ground said that's not right, why should these big business men get all this money from the state, our tax money, to fund this new arena, which is ultimately not necessarily going to serve the community. Especially when we have neighborhood playgrounds and school athletic facilities that we need money from them. The campaign was called the Fair Play Campaign. The campaign protested the government subsidy for the Bucks arena unless they also provided money to rehabilitate school athletic facilities that are in terrible shape and that we need money to improve. Ultimately the message was heard, but the city and the state did give the money that the Bucks owners wanted but it did raise a lot of attention about the state of the athletic facilities. The end result wasn’t exactly what Common Ground wanted but changes for playground rehab are being made. There were some positive results that were unanticipated- like stronger requirements for the Bucks to hire and train local people for some of the arena construction jobs.
In addition to the campaign Heidkamp mentioned above, Common Ground has and continues to work to better Southeastern Wisconsin in various initiatives, including Do Not Stand Idly By, but not limited to, which was talked about in a previous article. On April 29th Common Ground celebrated it’s ten year anniversary and launched its newest initiative regarding problems with the role temporary employment agencies play in job placement.
To Find Out More Visit: www.commongroundwi.org