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Children's Board of Hillsborough County Sends Change-Makers Participants to Community Development Workshop

The Community Partnership Center at the University of Tennessee conducted a workshop November 30 &endash; December 3 in Knoxville Tennessee for practitioners, researchers, and community organizers wanting to build public participation in community development, community youth development, as well as community health and environmental projects.

The Children's Board of Hillsborough County provided funding so that CFS's Ricardo Contreras and six Plant City residents who currently participate in the evaluation team of the Change-Makers project were able to participate. Change-Makers is a Plant City training program which seeks to improve social support networks among families involved in the children's mental health delivery system.

"Without the funds from the Children's Board, we would have missed an opportunity to bring clarity to the Change-Makers Initiative our community is addressing," said Flossie Brooks, Plant City resident and director of Neighborhoods United Inc. "This workshop provided us with the tools we needed in the planning and implementation of our goals."

The four-day workshop focused on models, methods, tools and best practices for promoting participation in community development. Practitioners with particular experience in the areas of community development shared their methods for conducting participatory community research and planning, and facilitated small group sessions around their own experiences. Presenters included representatives from The National Civic League, The Center for Community Change, The National Network for Youth, and The Urban Habitat Program.

Participants were exposed to techniques and instruments to better utilize community participation. For example, when making community needs assessments, residents can use photography as a tool to document aspects of their community that are useful or in need of improvement. Photography is seen as a complimentary approach to show what residents see as strengths and weaknesses.

"The entire idea of community residents participating and making decisions about their own community's destination is very powerful," said attendee Debra B. Prime. "By empowering the residents with the knowledge to identify their needs and train them to obtain the necessary resources to take care of their needs will only create better and more productive communities."

"The support of the Children's Board was essential to expose members of Change-Makers to what other groups in this country, and other countries, are doing in participatory research," added Ricardo Contreras. "Being exposed to others is essential for Change-Makers to see that what they do here is really part of a movement which is very much accepted and legitimized by other communities and researchers across the country." For additional information, contact Ricardo Contreras at 813-974-4598.

The Department of Child and Family Studies (CFS) is a department of the Louis de la Parte Florida Mental Health Institute, University of South Florida. The faculty and staff of CFS are committed to enhancing the development, mental health and well-being of children and families through leadership in integrating research, theory & practice.

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