NeighborSpace gardeners and plots of land

Generating food, beauty and safety for neighbors in Chicago

By Yusuph Masanja, Co-Facilitator, Global Alumni Network

Goldin Global Fellow from Chicago, Robin Cline, serves as Assistant Director of NeighborSpace, the only nonprofit land trust in Chicago that preserves and sustains gardens on behalf of dedicated community groups. NeighborSpace has helped neighbors and community groups protect over 120 outdoor sites, transforming them into places where people gather to play, to grow food together, and to organize around issues in their neighborhood.

NeighborSpace continues to help community groups identify outdoor sites that can be turned into community garden spaces. They partner with early community organizations, early childhood teachers, seniors, and families in turning potential unused sites into gardens and creative gathering spaces. Especially now in the time of COVID, these outdoor spaces are more and more used as places for free haircuts, food distributions, COVID tests, and community meetings.

NeighborSpace continually works to support more growing and gathering space, and you can help with this New Year’s goal of adding 100 garden beds to NeighborSpace sites across Chicago, by visiting this Crowdfunding page to help NeighborSpace reach this goal before the 2021 growing season.

For Robin, the motivation to dive into this work comes from the goal to encourage urban people to reconnect with nature, themselves, and their community. Robin believes that if you set the right conditions for people to understand a series of processes, like that of a plant ––from seeds to fruits––it helps them understand the importance of how connected we are.

"How can we create opportunities for people to have physical connections to shared public spaces that then prompt them to have in-person connections with their neighbors?"

/Robin has recently graduated from the Visual Collaboration course which was offered by the Bigger Picture Academy. Having been inspired by this collaboration tool, she is considering applying it to support processes by which the garden leaders conduct their community building vision. Robin is mobilizing resources to provide these leaders with access to computers and the Mural application in order to learn and start using Visual Collaboration methods.

Furthermore, Robin finds inspiration from the stories of Goldin Global Fellows. The stories motivate her to keep up the good work despite challenges faced from time to time.

"Hearing other people’s stories of salvation and struggle fuels the work I am doing. We are doing non-profit work that sometimes feels invisible."

Robin adds: "The sharing of stories is so 're-storying' which is so restorative, I feel like that's an important part of the Goldin Global Fellows connection- to support each other in serving others."