Peace Fellow Spotlight: Robin Cline

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Chicago Peace Fellow

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How has Gather informed the work that you do? Have you made any meaningful connections between Gather and your work?

These past few weeks, I’ve been reading “Winners Take All,” by Anand Giridharadas. This book, a sort of “emperor's new clothes” take on how social innovation projects are packaged in the modern context of wealth, philanthropy, and big technology, is not an enjoyable read. The book presents person after person involved in social innovation projects that at first glance are projects touted for the greater good, but upon closer inspection are problematized by deep power imbalances.

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While making my way through this good but troubling read, I was spending time with neighborhood leaders from parts of Chicago struggling with violence in their communities. The book didn’t talk about people like us. In “Winners Take All,” there was no mention of the urgent and sometimes invisible work of boots-on-the-ground work folks do, bringing people together, connecting with those in need, being a bright spot resource for communities, noticing and connecting community assets.

I am thankful for the Peace Fellows opportunity to brighten the light on the invisible work we do in our communities, but most importantly, for making us visible to each other. I’ve gotten a lot of tidbits of wisdom in these last few months simply by being in the presence of the other fellows, but also from literal things they have said. -- Robin Cline

A recent new friend from the Peace Fellows, Diane Latiker, shared that she tells teens she works with, “We don’t do what we don’t want to do.” I understood what she meant right away. That as a culture, we are we excited to shop for the shoes we want, we know how to crave the food we want, we know how to want certain things. But we are less skilled in knowing how to want important things, like peace in our communities, and civic action. As part of the Chicago Peace Fellows, I appreciate the time to think about how to activate and steward civic desire. And on the other hand, another Peace Fellow, Jacquelyn Moore, when speaking of desire, said, “Passion is not a business plan.”

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Identifying and activating the passion, then putting tools behind it, came up over and over again in our conversations. The biggest advice from all the Fellows that was more implicit than stated was, “Don’t stop. Keep doing. That’s what we do.”

As we embark on making decisions about our Chicago Peace Fellows summer projects, I gather the advice, the experience, and the new shared language we have about technical and sticky problems, and am eager to “Not stop. Keep doing, because that’s we do.” I look forward to discovering how we make the space and set the conditions for peacemaking in our neighborhoods. GATHER has given us the gift of time to attune ourselves to others in this city who are doing the vital work of acknowledging and lifting up both the pain and the peace that exist alongside each other in our city. GATHER has given us a chance to work together, nudge each other with new shared language, help each other, and make what we do stronger.

What are some important updates in your current work?

I am lucky to work for two organizations doing community cohesion work in Chicago. I work for NeighborSpace, a land trust in Chicago that supports community-managed leaders in many neighborhoods throughout Chicago. Summer is a particularly vibrant time for NeighborSpace, as you can imagine. Neighborhood leaders are gearing up to host community builds, garden celebrations, skill shares, and planting days all over the city. We are particularly excited about this summer as our community partners kick off both nature play/build projects and programming in Little Village, neighborhood farms in Bronzeville, and urban ag projects in Englewood. I also lead the organization Opera-Matic, a participatory arts group based in Humboldt Park. We are presenting a three-part summer series in three Chicago Park District parks entitled “Lost and Found.”

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This project highlights for families and neighbors the ways in which we honor both the loss we experience as a community and the empowerment we mobilize as a group when we remember our shared places together. At “Lost and Found” events this summer, we will sing, remember, find things, and enjoy each other.

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