As a first step, putting our ear to the ground

As Restore Oakland prepares to open the doors of our new home in the Fruitvale, we are listening deeply. We are beginning with understanding, through an ongoing series of community listening sessions where residents are partnering with us to shape Restore Oakland. The vision of Restore Oakland is to be more than just a building; it will be a community organizing hub. We are hearing some clear themes, needs, and hopes from residents who have generously shared their time and expertise. What we’ve heard speaks to the intersections between poverty, income inequality, gentrification, racial discrimination, desperation, and community disconnection. The wisdom of elders and youth alike converges in the knowledge that local political and economic systems are not serving our community and that people crave healing, economic opportunity, and reconnection at all levels of our communities, our city, and our region.

In Oakland, we also see solutions everywhere: from restorative justice circles to heal harm and promote community building, to small business incubation and training for living wage jobs, to tenants’ rights policies. When people share challenges, it’s met with creativity and clarity about how we can move forward as a community. This drive–to respond to challenges with real solutions that address root causes and undo harm–is at the heart of Restore Oakland’s work.

Restore Oakland seeks to harness the power of a concept called collective impact to guide a collaborative approach to our work together in the community. To succeed, collective impact initiatives must establish shared goals and deep sustainable partnerships. We took our first steps earlier this year to create a shared culture that’s centered on restorative approaches. Between April and August, we collaborated with Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth (RJOY) to hold a training series to infuse restorative justice as the unifying set of principles and practices for organizations participating in Restore Oakland. For the first time, we joined together and received critical resources to model restorative practices and facilitate conflict resolution. The training also provided practical tools and processes for partners to practice deep listening and become “fluent” in each other’s work, allowing for greater synergies as we prepare to come together under one roof next spring. Perhaps most importantly, practicing restorative approaches will strengthen how we engage and structure relationships with communities we serve, including placing the people affected by the issues at the center, where their stories and voices are heard.

We’ve heard from dozens of Oaklanders, and now we want to hear from you. We’re holding listening sessions monthly between now and the grand opening of Restore Oakland next spring–and beyond. We are also conducting surveys and meetings in the community to hear from and build partnerships with local residents and small businesses. To learn more about what we’re creating in East Oakland, view our new video and share it with your friends. To register for one of our next sessions or share your perspectives via email, contact Tash Nguyen.