Connecting Communities, Overcoming Barriers (St. Louis, MO)

March 10-11, 2020

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Walking has the power to do many things- improve health, provide access, increase social engagement. What each of these has in common is the ability to build connections, with oneself, with friends, family, and neighbors, with one’s community. The National Walking Summit- St. Louis will explore how walking and walkability connects communities to overcome barriers, bridge divides, and address inequities that exist because of the legacies of injustices.

As we explore Connecting Communities, Overcoming Barriers, we must use our experiences to inform how we look forward to creating communities that are safe, accessible, equitable, and inviting to all who want to live, play and work there. The program will be organized in a series of tracks focused on what it takes to achieve connected communities. They include:

Designing Connected Communities

How do we build connections? The physical landscape, access, and support found in the built environment inform our ability to engage with each other and with a space. These sessions will:

  • Showcase examples of policies and infrastructure that support connections and engagement
  • Identify ways that changes to the built environment and community design can help to address existing barriers to access and engagement
  • Provide information on ways communities can use built environment to encourage connections

Addressing Barriers to Build Connections

What do we want the legacies of our communities to be? For too long, communities failed to put people first and created barriers, physical or otherwise with individuals, communities, and place. The time to address these is now. These sessions will:

  • Showcase how walkability and active transportation is being used to address existing barriers in the St. Louis area, across Missouri, and rural communities within the state
  • Identify strategies and resources that work to address existing barriers and build connections
  • Provide a forum for discussion on existing barriers, how they came to be, and what can be done to move forward

Connected Communities for All

Are we building connections within communities that are accessible and inclusive to all, including historically underrepresented individuals and groups and groups that have experienced historical discrimination? Truly connected communities are communities where all members can be active, healthy and engaged. These sessions will:

  • Showcase examples of how increased accessibility and inclusion builds connections and addresses barriers to place
  • Identify ways existing community design and policies can be a barrier and provide resources to address these barriers
  • Provide partners, resources, and information on how to begin to build better physical and social connections and engage more voices among all community members

Safe Connected Communities

What does it mean to have a safe community? Addressing safety concerns, whether they be physical or perceived, is a critical step in addressing barriers to engaging with a space comfortably. These sessions will:

  • Showcase examples of interventions used to address safety concerns at the individual, community, and system level
  • Identify how we can create a culture of safety that permeates in all work that we do
  • Provide information on how safety means different things to different individuals, communities, and institutions and how to have a discussion around each

Connecting People to Communities

How do we engage people in the process of building community connections? At the heart of every community are its members and these members need to be at the foundation of any work being done. These sessions will:

  • Showcase ways to engage all community members in a valuable and productive manner
  • Identify opportunities for engagement in existing work in the St. Louis area, across Missouri, and rural communities within the state
  • Provide examples of how effective community engagement has created positive change

Creating Opportunities for Connections

Where do people build connections? Opportunities to engage and strengthen community relationships need to be built into every public space, event, and experience. These sessions will:

  • Showcase working examples of places and experiences that build connections for all community members
  • Identify ways that shared experiences and social connections improve the health of individuals and communities
  • Provide resources and programs that help to improve opportunities for connections in spaces, events, and experiences

Investing in Connections

Can you put a price tag on connections? Maybe not, but you can explore the economic benefits that come with connected communities. These sessions will:

  • Showcase examples of how new investments and developments can build connected communities
  • Identify potential barriers created by new investments and developments and how to address them before they begin
  • Provide resources, data, and evaluation on how to measure the economic benefits of investment into community connections