By Amy Conrad Warner
IUPUI Vice Chancellor Office of Community Engagement
Urban communities across the nation are shocked and challenged when confronted with horrific violence like that which occurred on the Las Vegas strip, during a Texas church service, at a San Bernardino office party, in a Florida nightclub, at a school in Florida, and during lethal weekend outbreaks in Chicago. Resiliency is demanded in myriad instances when the streets, or cherished institutions, are transformed into battlegrounds.
Victims of hurricanes like Harvey, Irma and Maria learn the definition of smart, resilient cities as they rebuild their lives and rejuvenate the community and local economy. West coast cities strive to return to “normal” after massive and deadly wildfires shape lives, livelihoods and the environment. Our own city, Indianapolis, faced record homicides in 2017, and our state has the second highest Black homicide victimization rate in the nation according to the Violence Policy Center. Indiana also is in a “state of addiction” where 1 in 20 people use nonmedical opioid pain relievers resulting in an economic impact of $4 billion annually. These natural, human and technological hazards threaten the security and well-being of our society and vary dramatically throughout the nation- as does a city’s response to such hazards.
Regardless of where you live or what obstacles present themselves in a community, the common element of smart, resilient cities is the practice of effective collaboration – people coming together at all levels of the community to confront issues, plan for the unexpected, and build social capital to alleviate distress.
Earlier this year, IUPUI, the Baptist Ministerial Alliance, and Concerned Clergy of Indianapolis launched a series of forums dubbed Campus and Community Critical Conversations to assess needs, explore remedies, build trust and create strategies for change. Each session engages professionals in related fields, researchers, clergy, scholars, practitioners, elected officials, and community members as well as those impacted directly and indirectly by the topic.
I felt the sadness and grief from families, clergy and law enforcement touched by violence – and was inspired by the positive energy for change when IUPUI hosted the inaugural session of Campus and Community Critical Conversations which focused on Black homicides. The dialogue provided both context and data to bring law enforcement, the clergy, researchers, impacted families, state legislators, educators and health officials together to unravel the multiple layers of policy, perceptions and actions pertaining to homicides in Indianapolis.
This spring, IUPUI partnered with the City of Indianapolis Office of Sustainability to host a sustainability summit focused on building a stronger, more sustainable Indianapolis. We also responded to the call to action from the City-County Council to facilitate open, public dialogues on the daunting challenge of relationships between law enforcement and the people of Indianapolis, especially the African American community. Local police and citizens set aside differences to search for common remedies. Recurring themes articulated by several groups dealt with charges of profiling, disparate treatment of Black and white citizens in similar confrontations with law enforcement, white privilege and ways to build greater police empathy for Black Indianapolis citizens.
To strengthen IUPUI’s work in building smart, resilient cities, our campus recently became a partner in the Higher Education Anchor Mission Initiative. Through this effort, a collaboration between the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities and the Democracy Collaborative, we will learn from other campuses across the country how to advance our anchor mission role.
The key to each engagement with our neighbors and strategic partners is bringing the assets of our institution together with the community assets – the best minds and most passionate spirits – in the quest for sustainable solutions. We are committed to identifying and spreading best practices through intelligent collaboration on issues of the day. Resilience is our untiring resolve to overcome whatever we face.