15 Aug MY MIAMI STORY: MUCH MORE THAN A CONVERSATION

Editor’s note: My Miami Story conversations are back on October 23rd! Sign up to host your own at MyMiamiStory.org.

How’d you get to Miami? What keeps you here? What do you care about in our community? What can we do to improve it? Simple questions that give a window into your life in Miami-Dade and connection to this place we call home. Every one of our 2.7 million residents has a Miami story. When we come together and share them with each other, a unified narrative emerges about our true experiences and what matters to us. That’s what My Miami Story conversations are all about. They help us go beyond the facts and figures about Greater Miami – like employment rates and funding for public schools – to reveal what everyday life is like for local residents. These small gatherings hosted over lunches, dinners and cafecito breaks help us connect to each other, spark ideas and think about what we all can do to make this community better.

Last fall, during the second-annual day of My Miami Story conversations, more than 3,000 Miamians connected across the county, sharing personal stories about their lives here and uncovering ways to make the county a greater place to live. With support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, participants took a follow-up survey that helps us learn about who joined in, what was talked about and what ultimately came out of the discussion. The results show that the My Miami Story experience is about so much more than a conversation.

My Miami Story brings new people together and inspires action.
My Miami Story conversations bring together colleagues, friends and even strangers. Most participants said they connected with someone new at a My Miami Story conversation and made specific plans with one or more attendees to take action. The majority also noted walking away with a better understanding of how they, personally, can address the issues facing their community.

How much impact do you think people like you can have in making your community a better place to live?

These gatherings connect residents who are eager to get more engaged.
The conversations are strengthening bonds between the people who live here. When asked why they chose to participate in a My Miami Story conversation, attendees said they wanted to discuss and address important issues in their community, learn from others and build relationships with new people. After the event, people said they intended to take action on solutions by raising awareness, educating others and getting more involved.

Engagement Activities in the Past Year, Comparison

Conversations touch on Miami’s most pressing issues – and solutions.
My Miami Story is an opportunity to raise and discuss issues that impact the quality of life in and around Miami-Dade. Education and youth development was a unifying theme, trickling to the top as the social issue participants care about most. It’s also the area where people said they primarily contribute their time, talent and/or treasure. Equity and social inclusion were the most talked during the conversations, which also brought up related issues around transportation and affordability. The connecting thread: finding ways to “break down barriers” and “increase access.”

Which of the following social issues are most important to you?

Miamians are optimistic about the community’s future.
Despite the challenges facing the region, in looking ahead to the next 50 years, residents are optimistic about our collective future.  Some reasons for hope: the “smart” and “talented people of Miami” “who quietly work to better” the community, a growing and diversifying economy, and an increased sense of collaboration and communication.

What makes respondents ‘somewhat’ or ‘very’ optimistic about the future of Greater Miami/Miami-Dade County

And, residents are motivated to make change happen.
Moreover, participants reported feeling attached to their community and confident about their ability to create positive change. As one participant put it: “Every day, I meet more people who care about our community.” Some noted, “seeing people taking more ownership in their communities.” And another said, “seeing folks truly adamant about making this a better place for everyone brings me hope for our city’s future.” We couldn’t agree more.

Actions or next steps respondents are likely to take regarding an issue or solution discussed/h6>

Now, it’s your turn.
There are no “quick fixes” to improving a community, but these conversations are a good place to start. As one participant said, “Having engaging and empowering conversations like this all across Miami-Dade County can only foster hope, good will and most importantly, change!” We agree. But we need YOUR voice in the countywide conversation about who we are, where we’re going and what each of us can do to get us there. So gather your friends and family, colleagues and neighbors, and pull up a seat the table with us. Sign up to host your own conversation at MyMiamiStory.org.

Matthew Beatty is senior director of communications at The Miami Foundation.

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