It’s week three and I am hitting the ground running! I found my two favorite Pittsboro coffee shops and a restaurant that sells an amazing strawberry red velvet cake. So, I think it’s safe to say that I finally feel like I am getting into the swing of things out here in good ol’ Pittsboro, NC.
Before I dive deep into what I’ve been up to over the last few weeks, I figure I should provide some context to the Human Relations initiative that I am working on with Chatham County. So, prior to starting my internship the County Commissioners expressed a desire for wanting a Human Relations entity. The County then created a Human Relations Task Force to establish a framework for the entity, which they are now hoping will be a community-led Human Relations collaborative.
One of my key tasks for the summer is to learn about the County through engaging with community members. The hope is that I will be able to identify some challenges that the Human Relations Collaborative will be able to rally around and tackle. Two weeks ago, I started meeting with Chatham County community members to get a better understanding of the community. So far, I have completed 14 interviews. Each interview is semi-structured with four main areas of exploration:
- the interviewee’s connection to the community
- the challenges the County is facing
- how the interviewee envisions a human relations body addressing those challenges
- additional contacts that may be interested in participating in this work
So far, I have been handwriting notes during interviews and then transcribing them into an excel document so that I can code them to find key themes. I am very excited to see the outcome!
My weeks haven’t been filled only with interviews…I have also attended some community meetings as well. I’ve met with the Public Health Department, Better Angels, faith communities, and I can’t wait to do more! Last week, I went to a community lunch hosted by St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church. Their mission is to provide a healthy, appetizing meal at no cost to all who come to us hungry. The community lunch had a great turn out with even better food! I was able to talk with people involved at the church as well as a local artist and a farmer. This lunch gave me the opportunity to meet people from all over the County.
If there is anything I know about community engagement, it is that you first must listen to and learn from the community. While at the community meetings, I am often just listening and taking notes of comments and concerns and looking for key themes.
Through the interviews and meetings, I have learned quite a bit about the history of the County and some of the challenges it faces. For me, the best part about this process has been making new connections to community members.
Look forward to updating you again next week!