Oberlin Project Begins New Chapter in Summer 2017

Posted by Sean Hayes on February 21, 2017 in Community


The original vision for the Oberlin Project was generated in discussions with College and City officials in the spring of 2009, in the wake of the worst economic crisis since the 1930s. Throughout that year of uncertainty, Oberlin Project organizers discussed how the City and the College might collaborate on a temporary organization with a lifespan of four to six years to build a resilient and sustainable economy that would serve the people of Oberlin, respond to the looming challenges of rapid climate change, and advance the cause of justice for which the Oberlin community is known. Their efforts have been widely successful to date and have reached intended milestones on schedule.

While the Oberlin Project’s work will continue far into the future, it will follow its planned timeline and close its central office in summer 2017. The Project’s work will continue through enhanced efforts of partner organizations (City of Oberlin, Oberlin College) that have made its goals central to their mission and operations; through organizations working to grow the local food and farm economy (Oberlin Food Hub), to improve local housing especially for low & moderate income families (Zion CDC’s Affordable Green Housing Initiative, POWER), and to create an environmentally-educated public (Oberlin Environmental Dashboard); and through organizations that it has helped launch (Oberlin College Carbon Management Fund, Lorain County Solar Co-op, SHIFT).

The Oberlin Project’s central office opened in 2010. Its mission was to initiate changes in the community’s conversations, ideas, and sense of possibility -- and then get out of the way. The aim of the Oberlin Project was to advance: (1) sustainable local prosperity; (2) climate neutrality; (3) education; (4) the local food economy; and (5) collaboration with similar efforts in the region and across the nation. The Project intended to link the good work of many people into a larger effort in which each part reinforced the others and built a stronger Oberlin community.

In its first eight years, the Oberlin Project has achieved a long list of accomplishments. It has been instrumental in developing the City Climate Action Plan and played a major role in Oberlin’s selection as both a C-40 City and a White House “Climate Action Champion” city. The Project was a collaborator on major projects including the development of the 11-acre solar array and the building of the Peter B. Lewis Gateway Center. It helped to introduce sustainability into the local public schools curriculum.

Project staff have played a critical role in city, college, and community energy planning, and helped to grow the Farmer’s Market and the local food economy. They helped to organize the first major conference in the Gateway Center. Throughout the past eight years, they have articulated a practical vision of a sustainable, prosperous, and resilient Oberlin, and demonstrated that substantial change is achievable when a dedicated community embraces such a vision.

The Oberlin Project’s staff appreciates the many people who have helped make this work possible, including the supporting foundations and private donors. “We would like to thank the dedicated members of our advisory board and our committees, who believe that what happens in this historic city can serve as a model for the wider world,” said Sean Hayes, executive director of the Oberlin Project. “We helped to launch the necessary transition to sustainability by articulating a vision and implementing the first practical steps toward that future. In the second phase of our work ahead, we will count on the ongoing commitment of Oberlin’s college, public schools, city administration and Council, religious organizations, business community, civic organizations, and citizens to further the effort to make Oberlin a practical example of sustainable prosperity, foresight, and civic engagement.”

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