What’s missing in Kennett Square is not the will to address the urgent needs for attainable housing and equitable access to opportunity. “Angst is high,” says Kennett Collaborative Executive Director Bo Wright, “because people recognize these needs but there’s been a lack of quality outlets for the community to come together to listen to one another and have input on meaningful, feasible projects that address these needs.”

Kennett Collaborative’s next How We Build Matters Speaker Series event is designed to offer exactly that kind of opportunity for community action. “I have conversations all the time with people who ask how they can be more involved in shaping the future of the community,” Wright says. “We’ve designed this How We Build Matters event to help people do just that—take practical steps towards building the equitable, inclusive community we all say that we want.”

This two-part evening event on Thursday, September 22nd, will begin with a panel discussion to set the stage for community engagement with a selection of projects. “We want to present several local initiatives in various stages of development and equip community members to take action that will help bring these projects to fruition,” Wright says.

The event will build on the foundation laid by How We Build Matters Speaker Series events over the past year, which have explored some of the essential elements of physical infrastructure necessary for building great communities. “What is equally as important and helps support great places is strong social infrastructure,” says Wright.

Past How We Build Matters events have looked at the kind of development patterns that build a sense of community rather than isolation, that build wealth instead of bankrupting municipalities, and that preserve and provide access to nature rather than destroying it. “We’ve talked about zoning and issues of equity, about transportation and walkable communities, and about placemaking and the necessity of beautiful and accessible public spaces,” Wright says. “All of these events are available to watch on our YouTube channel.”

Kennett Emerging Leaders Fellowship participants (left to right) Elisa Salinas, Raul Toledo, and Elideth Navarro. (photo Katie Levesque)

An Interactive Evening

On September 22nd a diverse group of young leaders from the Kennett Emerging Leadership Fellowship, a program created through a partnership between PennPraxis and Square Roots Collective, will participate in a panel discussion about their hopes for Kennett Square and the importance of having a seat at the table.

The community conversation will be followed by a short introduction to several noteworthy projects focused on attainable housing, public space, and more that are seeking in different ways to build an inclusive community. Each of these projects will host an information table in an interactive “science fair” format where community members can give input on these projects. “Rather than inviting the community to ribbon cuttings for finished projects,” says PennPraxis researcher Katie Levesque, “we want to invite people in at these early stages, to be part of the conversations and part of the process of creating an equitable, inclusive community.”

Kennett Collaborative Board member and Square Roots Collective Operations Lead Luke Zubrod sees progress in many different areas in the community and is looking forward to sharing some of the work of PennPraxis and the Kennett Emerging Leadership Fellowship. “Following a process aimed at identifying the community’s aspirations for building an inclusive community identity,” he says, “this is an opportunity for those who share that aspiration to see promising green shoots of progress and to take some steps towards realizing that aspiration.”

“We see such divisive dialogue everywhere,” says Executive Director of the Kennett Trails Alliance Christina Norland. “But locally we have an opportunity to build a constructive dialogue, respecting each other’s differences and learning from each other’s experiences. We want to empower people to work together, from a place of love for our community, and to increase community engagement and civic action as we shape our future together.”

Kennett Collaborative’s How We Build Matters Speaker Series event will take place on Thursday, September 22nd, at Kennett Square Presbyterian Church, 211 South Broad Street. The evening begins with a short panel discussion and presentation of projects at 6:30pm, followed by a “science fair” reception for community dialogue and feedback at 7:30pm. RSVP here.