2010-2011 Mel King Community Fellows

Photo by CoLab.

The 2010-2011 fellows were chosen on the basis of their expertise in community engagement and their demonstrated interest in and capacity to work collaboratively to examine links between theory and local practice. They are drawn from communities across the country and have experience in a range of social justice pursuits. The 2010-2011 cohort includes:

Program Design

The Fellows spent 2010 exploring prospects for developing equitable sustainability initiatives at the local level. Among other things, they investigated longstanding dilemmas at the heart of debates about deepening democracy: how to create sustainable streams of income to financially support the painstaking work of building meaningful participation in marginalized communities?

The program seeks to create a sustainable learning network to support the design and/or implementation of fellows’ projects/ideas. In order to achieve this goal, the program includes a support framework synchronized with a series of Group Meetings in which fellows will convene at MIT.

Through these Group Meetings, CoLab has initiated a broader conversation about the opportunities for long-term comprehensive community planning and creation of wealth-generating, community-based enterprises. At these meetings, Fellows are given time and space with like-minded people in order to:

  1. Examine the connection between markets and democracy and how market-based activities can help create a financial basis for ongoing democratic participation;
  2. Consider new models of community organizing that include enterprise creation;
  3. Explore the shifts in methods and approaches that will be required by these new models; and
  4. Investigate opportunities created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus and other government funding for the development of new organizing models.

In addition to facilitating these meetings, CoLab provides technical assistance to the Fellows, in the form of both training and tools. The Fellows use web-based tools devoloped by CoLab to share knowledge and disseminate information gleaned from each Fellow's work to the entire cohort. CoLab is also working to train the Fellows in the principles of collaborative innovation and providing cognitive tools to assist them in the process of collaborative innovation. Throughout the year, CoLab helps Fellows trouble-shoot problems, connect to resources, and generate research products.

At the end of the year, the Mel King Community Fellows gather for a final session to discuss how their work has shifted as a result of the Fellowship.

Class of 2011

The Class of 2010-2011 has been successful in establishing a learning community of leading community organizers from around the country (with a focus on the South and the Boston Area) interested in the “sweet spot”. Through regular convenings of the Fellows, and providing technical support, CoLab has built a platform for knowledge generation and advancing community organizing models that explore the intersection of the market and democracy. Most of the Fellows have come to the program hoping to pursue projects focused on sustainable, democratic wealth-building. However, the projects generally are small in scale and implemented in isolation. CoLab continues efforts to expose the network members to the potential behind the ideas they are exploring, and partner the network with the educational and financial infrastructure needed to bring these project to scale.

In that vein, in July 2011, CoLab put together a study trip to Mondragon Spain, one of the largest examples of cooperative economic development in the world. The trip was designed to serve two purposes:

  1. To expose the Fellows to the possibilities of the transformative power of worker and community enterprise ownership. The region surrounding Mondragon was once one of the poorest in Spain. As a result of the Mondragon Cooperatives, in a span of several decades, the region became one of the most prosperous as well as economically stable and socially equitable.
  2. To create a profound common experience among the Fellows to form a basis for establishing a geographically distributed network focused on community enterprise and wealth building.

2010-2011 MKCFP Faculty advisors:

Ross Gittell (University of New Hampshire), Karl Seidman, Otto Scharmer (Sloan), Phil Thompson

Student affiliates:

Polina Bakhteiarov, Alyssa Bryson, Robert Goodspeed


Dayna Cunningham