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Activating Community

Agency in Williamsburg


Facilitating proactive grassroots organization in order for the community to hold power in the larger city context


By Sophia Campione 


When returning to Williamsburg after lockdown, I craved a deeper sense of connection to my community, but I didn’t know where to start and I saw complacency all around me. This was my in- how might we play a more active role in shaping our environment and the initiatives that’ll impact us the most? First, I found people organize reactively to threats, fostered by undemocratic community boards and an overall lack of information and accessibility; but, people want to organize, and like me, they just don’t know how or where to start. So, if information and accessibility to organize increase, then Williamsburg will see greater agency amongst its people. 


Community is a large, complex entity with many lenses to view it from; so, I began with an urban planning and participatory lens, allowing it to evolve, change, and narrow throughout research. Due to COVID, it was difficult to launch representative and holistic ethnographic studies. But, I found success through a digital ethnography that led to individual conversations. Lastly, with all of the information I acquired and the many areas of opportunity, I was challenged with how to frame a conclusion; but, through guidance I was able to end in an already established place, that would have great impacts through intervention. 


I want to democratize community board meetings. They hold a lot of power with the city and if they were more inclusive, co-creative, and accessible, proposed initiatives would be more representative and lead to increased involvement throughout the community. Yet, my experience at the Williamsburg-Greenpoint community board meeting proved that these meetings are anything but democratized, which provided a pivotal insight behind the reactive organization tendencies and lack of engagement I found within communities. Rather than, designing something new, let’s intervene and foster involvement through an already existing entity. 

Key Words 

Ethnography, Social Impact, Community, Participatory Governance, Co-Creation

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