Bethel University

Bethel is a town on the move. We’re experiencing a surge of energy and momentum, and the Bethel Revitalization Initiative is capitalizing on that with a variety of projects that build community connections, strengthen our local economy and address deeper community needs in fun and creative ways. We are currently planning the third semester of our pop-up university, Bethel University (BU), in March of 2016. We’re looking to expand the impact for local businesses, create courses with additional community service benefits, engage students in teaching, and support other towns that are interested in launching their own. One of Bethel’s greatest needs is downtown revitalization - filling empty storefronts, improving the appearance of buildings and streetscapes, and creating community gathering spaces. We’re exploring long-term strategies for downtown improvement, but also quick and easy projects like creating pocket parks, pop-up co-working sessions, and hosting a “clean-up mob.” We’re also exploring a DIY rural design festival with statewide partners, which would bring towns from around the state to learn about “tactical urbanism” and public art projects and create demonstrations in our town. Another major challenge is improving town communications, involvement and democratic decision-making. We’re working with the Town Meeting Committee to combine our monthly community potlucks with community discussions that can help inform people about critical town topics and improve our decision-making processes. We’re looking at ways to improve our online presence and town wide communication channels - such as an up-to-date website and widespread use of our town social media channels, which will create a stronger foundation to recruit volunteers, keep people informed and engaged, and support our local economy. And we’re talking with other groups in town about launching a community visioning process that would bring our community together, help us develop a shared vision to guide all of these efforts, and build a culture of trust and civic engagement. We’re honored to be a finalist for the Cheryl King Fischer Innovation Award. We are an organization with no paid staff or annual budget; if we're selected, the award would go a long way toward supporting these downtown revitalization and civic engagement projects.

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