Residents of Merrill, Wisconsin are continuing to talk with, and listen to, and increasingly work with each other. As described in our prior April blog post about the “Building Merrill Together” discussion program, these growing citizen-based activities in Merrill emerged out of two pilot citizen discussions held last October at the T.B. Scott Library in Merrill. Those initial discussions last year were hosted by the Library, facilitated by the Interactivity Foundation, and co-supported as well by the Wisconsin Institute for Public Policy & Service (WIPPS), a unit of the University of Wisconsin Extension and UW Colleges.
The “Building Merrill Together” community discussion program is 14-part series that started this last February and will continue through March of 2018. The most recent event in the series, the “Millenials of Merrill” was held September 19th at the Library. It was a “Focus Group/Gallery Walk” discussion addressing two questions:
- What do young people need to live happy and productive lives in Merrill?
- What do young people need to enhance their “voice” within the Merrill community?
The next topic in the discussion series will focus on mental health issues in two separate sessions. The first session on October 3rd will be a panel discussion on “Mental Health Among Us: At Work, in School, in Our Community.” The second session, a week later on October 10th, will be structured as a “community forum” on “Mental Illness in America: How Do We Address a Growing Problem?” and will focus on three pathways that can assist in answering “How can we reduce the impact of mental illness in Lincoln County?”
Merrill citizens are also moving toward acting on some of the issues identified and ideas developed in their discussions. Another citizen-based initiative growing out of the initial community discussions last year is a citizen action group, Active and Aware Citizens (AAC) that meets quarterly and has the mission of “educating, inspiring, and empowering citizens to create a stronger Merrill area community.” This group has now formed five “action teams” to work on specific proposals in various sectors—everything from increasing wifi access, to improving access to jobs, to improving the parks, to mentoring youth, to a community “Share Fare”, among other proposals.
For more information on any of these developments, please contact IF Fellow Pete Shively or check the websites or Facebook pages for the T.B. Scott Library, WIPPS, or the ACC.