Al Wilson- Beyond Walls Lynn

Q. What does Community mean to you?

Community is a group of people who work together for the common good, sharing values, individual expertise and commitments that enable them to work towards shared goals rather than individual ambitions.

Q. Have you had an experience in your life that helped shape that opinion/viewpoint?

Beyond Walls Lynn! We have an active committee membership of over 40 local activists, each with their own preferences for murals, lighting designs, etc., even names for our organization. However, we discussed the various options and voted on them and agreed to abide by those group — “community” — decisions. We felt stronger and more effective joining together on these common, agreed-upon goals.

Q. In your opinion, what are some of the core elements in a successful and thriving community?

Diverse viewpoints! These may reflect diverse peoples with different backgrounds, who open up fresh ideas and talking points. It’s important for a community to have an accessible platform from which to share their views and opinions. This leads to greater understanding of the community membership and therefore a more realistic sense of what is needed for the greater good and what the community would find most stimulating, exciting, challenging and rewarding.

Q. If you could improve upon one element or viewpoint in your own community, what would it be and how would you do it?

I’d love to have Beyond Walls be an example to parties who might have justifiable gripes and complaints from past issues, see a path that, through positive collective activity, they can bring about many, if not all, of the changes they’d like to see. In the process they may learn alternative ideas and viewpoints that may supplant their own. This is how communities grow and prosper.

Q. What could other cities learn from the community in your area?

Lynn has many statistical characteristics that I believe are currently being presented by this presidential administration as negatives: multi ethnic, high proportion of foreign-born residents, higher than average poverty, etc. Often times, community development initiatives are framed with the following question, “what is missing in the community — what improvements need to be made in this community to make it more livable and desirable?” Beyond Walls does the exact opposite — we’ve asked, “what are the existing assets that makes Lynn great, and what can we do to amplify those assets? Lynn has a wonderfully diverse, young, energetic and ambitious population that is primed for success. We’re here to add value to all the really great things that are already happening in downtown. This approach allows the folks that call Lynn home to be part of improving the built environment in a way that’s thoughtful, inclusive and representative of the cultural diversity of Lynn.

Asset based community development has been the framework that we’ve used to shape this initiative and we feel that other communities would benefit greatly by employing projects that are framed in a similar manner.