Written by Alicia Lueras Maldonado
On June 12th, we hosted our 2nd Peña for the Common Good at the beautiful campus of South Valley Academy, a public charter school in the South Valley of Albuquerque. As we sat in that institution of learning – listening to parents, alumni and staff share their personal experiences – I was again reminded of how important relationships are and how collective vision toward the common good can reap such beautiful rewards.
Julie Radoslovich, the Principal and Director of South Valley Academy, shared how the first Peña for the Common Good helped her to take a look at the vision and mission of SVA and ask the question, “Is everything we are doing at the school aligned with our vision and mission, and are our decisions based on our values?” This question prompted her to think deeply about lunch detention, because it is a punitive way of dealing with students who get in trouble. Thinking of the “common good” and SVA’s vision and mission, she wondered “Is there a restorative justice frame or solution that SVA can use instead?” It was a perfect example of the kind of reflection we were hoping to inspire with these “peñas” in the first place.
Drawing on the work we did at the first peña, we wanted to use this second gathering to continue to develop a lens and narrative on how the “common good” can be used in New Mexico by direct service providers, advocates and organizers, and provide some hands-on tools that folks could take back to their organizations. In particular, we wanted to look at how a shared narrative can be a powerful driving force in our work.
We presented a common good framework based on the writings that were shared at the May gathering and created a Common Good Message Box that allowed us to look at the Vision, Values, Problem and Solution as it relates to the common good. We used the message box tool to address the current issue of the Albuquerque Police Department’s unnecessary use of force that has led to so many deaths of members of our community.
Many of the groups at the peña are working directly on the APD issue and used this time to share ideas and brainstorm on how to frame the problem, find solutions and talk to the community about the concerns in a way the emphasizes the common good. This particular exercise can be used with any issue, so we created a discussion guide and worksheet for folks to use in their home organizations (you can download it here).
One participant shared that the exercise was of immediate use:
“Pablo and Jaime are writing an article on male students of color and community engagement for a higher education newsletter and used the message training as the tool to begin putting it together. They’re using the tool less than a week after the peña! ¡Gracias!”
— Christopher Ramirez, UNM Men of Color Initiative
As we look ahead to our next peña in August, we will continue to sharpen our lens on what the common good means in New Mexico and how we can use a common narrative to move our work forward.