Lakewood NJ is the fastest growing township in NJ, and the most populous in Ocean County. The population includes diverse constituencies – the majority is Orthodox Jewish, with a sizable Latino/Latina population, as well as other ethnic groups. Lakewood also has a significant senior citizen population, as it has been a popular retirement location. The township borders the municipalities of Brick, Jackson, and Toms River in Ocean County; and Howell in Monmouth County.
The Consensus Building Institute (CBI) and the National Charrette Institute (NCI) were hired on behalf of Lakewood Neighbors to advance the goal of addressing the social and civic challenges facing the region and developing a shared vision for the future. Lakewood Neighbors is a diverse constituency of civic actors including leaders from business, local and regional government, universities (Georgian Court University and Beth Medrash Govoha Yeshiva), and social service agencies. CBI is a non-profit organization that provides facilitation and mediation for numerous public issues, with a mission to help solve the world’s most challenging problems through innovative stakeholder engagement, conflict resolution, and strategic collaboration. NCI is a program within Michigan State University that is dedicated to transforming the way people work together by building capacity for collaboration. Both organizations are internationally recognized, neutral, non-profits and are dedicated to helping groups resolve issues, reach better, more durable agreements and build stronger relationships.
As a first step, the CBI/NCI team engaged in a situation assessment. The purpose of the situation assessment is identify the perspectives of the people involved on the issues, perspectives, and challenges of the situation, and to understand the needs and opportunities for collaboration, in order to recommend collaborative actions – those things that stakeholders can do voluntarily and together – to build a positive future for Lakewood and the region.
CBI/NCI conducted focus groups and confidential interviews with a variety of willing leaders and key stakeholders in Lakewood and neighboring communities to understand their thoughts and concerns. CBI/NCI and the planning team from Lakewood Neighbors sought to include a broad range of participants from Lakewood and the region. We invited over 160 individuals to speak with us, and interviewed a total of 90 people in individual interviews or focus groups, including elected officials and agency leads at the county and township levels; business, religious, education, and community leaders from the region; and residents of Lakewood and its neighboring townships. We developed an initial interviewee list in conversation with a diverse group from Lakewood Neighbors, and reached out to additional people based on suggestions from interviewees. Nonetheless, we were not able to connect with everyone that was suggested to us, and in some spheres there were significant gaps – for example, we invited but didn’t have a chance to speak with many elected or municipal officials from neighboring townships. We also missed several key religious leaders in the region. We think that these and other missing perspectives must be engaged if and when specific collaborative processes are designed and implemented. All interviews took place face-to-face during the week of February 4-7, 2019 or via subsequent telephone interviews. The names of interviewees are listed in Appendix A.
CBI/NCI used an interview protocol as a general guide for conducting the interviews, which is included as Appendix B. The interviewers followed the general structure of the protocol, while allowing each conversation to follow the interests and comments of the interviewees. The assessors made extensive notes on each interview, and summarized the interviews for internal team use.
After reviewing and synthesizing interview findings, CBI/NCI shared initial observations with the core team and, based on their input, refined our thinking and understanding of the key issues, needs and potential next steps. We then sent the report in draft to all interviewees, requesting their comments on mischaracterizations, errors, or omissions on their perspectives or ideas and in the recommendations, and made additional refinements based on their feedback.
About This Report
An assessment is an effort to identify the issues that matter to stakeholders, understand the range of stakeholder views on those issues, identify options and proposals the stakeholders have for addressing the issues, and explore ways that the stakeholders might work collaboratively to advance improvements on these issues. Assessments aim to help people gain insights into the underlying situation from multiple points of view, deepen understanding of one another’s perspectives, and identify opportunities for bringing people together.
The majority of the conversations we had with people in Lakewood and the region were quite hopeful – in addition to identifying challenges, we heard many examples of positive actions, and myriad substantive suggestions and process interventions to expand and transform those challenges. This is an encouraging sign.
At the same time, we are aware that this assessment process is occurring at a time of heightened sensitivity and tension in the region. Comments on social media and beyond, as well as public statements and actions and responses from some political leaders in the region, have raised the level of tension, fear, and mistrust across the spectrum. The presence, perceptions, and fears of Anti-Semitism, stereotyping, and blame narrows the opportunity for capturing a productive synthesis of compiled viewpoints. While it is helpful to identify the challenges that residents experience in the region, reiterating perspectives that appear to blame any one group for problems is counter-productive to improving relationships and cooperation. Statements that feel to some as legitimate concerns may nonetheless draw on stereotypes, or appear that way to others. We must acknowledge and condemn anti-Semitic rhetoric and behavior and acknowledge legitimate concerns, while we avoid laying blame one-sidedly or undermining the opportunities for collaboration and problem solving. Ultimately, the challenges in the region belong to all groups – they are not caused by only one group, and cannot be solved by only one group.
Given this context and our overarching commitment to help parties strengthen connections and understanding, we are opting to take a different approach to reporting out our assessment findings. To set the basis for constructive, face-to-face discussions, this report does not present a comprehensive synthesis of viewpoints from our interviews. Rather, it identifies a set of key themes, including areas of commonality and divergence, and then focuses on recommendations – based directly on suggestions from interviews – that we think can help all stakeholders in the region who seek to work collaboratively to develop a positive and shared vision for the future that improves outcomes for all residents. Ultimately, despite the fears, we see a situation with real opportunity for collaboration.
The report is limited by the information gathered in the interviews/focus groups, and the assessment team’s interpretation of that information. Any errors or omissions are the sole responsibility of CBI and NCI.
Strengths and Values of Lakewood and the Region
There is so much that people appreciate about Lakewood and the region. Interviewees shared many ideas, stories, and examples about what they valued most or saw as the greatest strengths of Lakewood and the region. Among the main themes were:
- Good quality of life and access to desirable amenities locally and regionally
- High levels of community vitality, engagement and satisfaction
- Opportunities for diverse and cross-cultural interactions
- Community safety, with low rates of crime and violence
- Strong economic profile and plentiful job opportunities
- Extraordinary commitments to charity, volunteer-ship, and community service
Challenges Faced by Lakewood and the Region
Lakewood is a place of growth and demographic change. How each person experiences, interprets, and is impacted by that change varies tremendously based on their identities, their personality and psychological profile, their experiences, their values, and their life histories. Accordingly, we heard a diversity of different perspectives about how interviewees saw the challenges in Lakewood and the region. From these, we have identified three overarching themes:
- Relationships and Attitudes: Many interviewees suggested that, in general, relationships and co-existence among diverse communities in Lakewood, and to some extent in surrounding communities, were positive. People shared many stories of cross-cultural friendships, cooperation, and coexistence, including explicit programs and efforts to cultivate communication as well as individual and spontaneous relationships. Simultaneously, most also noted the existence of inter-group tensions. Most interviewees acknowledged the presence of intolerant attitudes and biased behaviors toward the Orthodox – examples of these have been well documented. For a few stakeholders, the experience of bias and Anti-Semitism was a central characteristic of life in the region and the primary problem that Lakewood Neighbors needed to address. Some people felt that problems in Lakewood and the region were being unfairly blamed on the Orthodox, and that the complaints about Lakewood were undergirded by stereotypes and bias, either explicit or latent. Most interviewees felt that coverage of Lakewood and the Orthodox community by the media as a whole, and the Asbury Park Press (APP) in particular, over-emphasized negative stories about Lakewood and members of the Orthodox community, which exacerbated community tensions. Interviewees across the spectrum also noted that there was a lot of misinformation, misunderstanding, and misconceptions that contributed to a lack of trust between and among residents. Concerns about biased treatment and in-group favoritism were expressed in both directions. In this sensitive environment, people described situations of unintentionally triggering offense, or fears that their comments would be received that way. Many interviewees also noted that mechanisms for broad or universal community communication seemed insufficient for building shared understanding.
- Cultural Differences, Coexistence, and Impacts of Change: Many interviewees felt that people had legitimate concerns about the changes in Lakewood and the region that needed to be addressed. While many expressed appreciation for cultural diversity, interviewees also spoke about ways in which the changes and the distinct cultural characteristics of the populations sometimes resulted in conflicts or challenges to civic unity. Many interviewees acknowledged that the population and density changes in Lakewood, and more recently in surrounding towns, might be uncomfortable, frightening, or difficult for some long-time residents, and that is has resulted in some negative impacts on some people’s quality of life. Simultaneously, some described a sometimes hostile reception received by some Orthodox moving into new areas. Overall, there were numerous examples of bridges built, efforts made, and differences celebrated, along with other stories or examples demonstrating ways in which residents struggled to understand, accommodate, or transcend the distinct norms, behaviors, expectations, and needs of the different cultures.
- Managing Land-Use to Respond to Growth: Many interviewees noted that the rapid pace of the population growth in Lakewood may not have left the region, township, and residents sufficient time to adapt in the optimal ways. The problems of traffic were mentioned by almost all interviewees, though some noted that these challenges were not unique to Lakewood. Other land use challenges named included concerns about planning, zoning, infrastructure, aesthetics, housing, and other issues. Some expressed concerns about ways land use policies were being used to exclude Orthodox. Many –including newer residents – expressed a desire for surrounding communities to retain their rural character. While some identified these as on-going concerns in Lakewood, interviewees suggested that the greatest opportunities lay in working together to prepare for growth in neighboring communities, to avoid discriminatory practices while supporting existing density patterns. Lastly, many interviewees named concerns about school funding as a key challenge, and another primary driver of concerns for Lakewood and neighboring communities.
Opportunities for Collaborative Response to Challenges
Despite any and all of the challenges they perceived, interviewees had no difficulty identifying myriad substantive solutions and process interventions that they thought could help to mitigate or resolve them. The following section summarizes those ideas suggested by interviewees.
- Build Knowledge and Understanding: Many interviewees suggested reviving, expanding, and increasing opportunities to build cultural awareness and increase people’s understanding of each other. In addition, interviewees suggested establishing programs, communication strategies, and/or committees to help correct misinformation, build shared knowledge, answer questions, mediate factual disputes, and educate different parts of the community. Many interviewees also felt that it was important to find ways to broadcast the success stories and positive contributions of Lakewood to the region, the state, and the country.
- Build Relationships and Connections: Many interviewees suggested the importance of increasing the interpersonal interactions between residents of different backgrounds. Over and over, interviewees noted that face-to-face and person-to-person interaction was the best way to break down misunderstanding and fear. Beyond encouraging more informal interaction, we heard hundreds of Ideas for specific relationship-building mechanisms that interviewees felt could be developed or expanded, such as: community programs, citizen-to-citizen dialogue groups, business events, neighborhood events, sports and arts exchanges, and topic-specific discussion groups.
- Build Community Agreements: Many interviewees suggested some concept of bringing neighbors together to develop shared agreements around how to live together. While suggestions took many forms and proposed addressing a wide-range of issues, all incorporated some form of two-way dialogue to establish a set of shared norms and expectations about how to foster civic harmony and co-existence. Interviewees described this as a Neighbors Bill of Rights, a Neighbors Compact, a Social Compact, or a set of Civic Rules. Some suggested creating an on-going Community Task Force with community leaders from all demographics that could meet on a regular basis (in public) to recommend solutions to challenges or problems that arose. Many felt that a community charrette process or design workshop focused on this topic could be very valuable and successful. Some suggested that, to add legitimacy, this effort should include key institutions within the region, such as the municipal leadership of Lakewood, Toms River, Jackson, Brick, and Howell; religious and university leaders, and; the editors and writers of the Asbury Park Press (as sponsors, partners, or participants.)
- Expand Community Programs: Several interviewees offered ideas for expanding the extent and reach of social services and charitable enterprises, and supporting economic innovation and expansion for less advantaged residents in the region. Some suggested more direct and targeted outreach to underserved communities to advertise programs and financial support. A few participants specifically suggested more supports for business development, such as subsidized incubators and support for entrepreneurship. Some interviewees also suggested community-wide collaborations to support local businesses, such as storefront messaging (e.g., sticker or signs promoting “One Ocean County” as a symbol of businesses committed to serving and benefiting the diverse local communities.)
- Develop/Advocate for Solutions to Growth Impact Challenges: Many Interviewees suggested that leaders in the region could come together to envision, develop, advocate for, and implement solutions to a range of very specific challenges in Lakewood and the region, such as traffic, school transportation, and public school funding. Many thought that it would be helpful to have regional collaboration around advocacy to the State to widen I-9. Some also suggested other potential traffic and transportation fixes. Many interviewees suggested bringing community and elected officials together to explore potential approaches for education funding. Some suggested beginning with a collaborative study of best practices and approaches from other districts or states with similar challenges, and/or an examination of a series of options and what the implications might be for districts across New Jersey. Another suggestion was to bring together a set of communities across the state with similar school demographics to build a coalition of ideas and support for reforms to the school funding formula.
- Engage in Collaborative Planning: Many interviewees highlighted the opportunity for neighboring communities to engage in pro-active planning to prepare successfully for growth. Many felt that a regional visioning and planning process would be extremely useful and beneficial. Specifically, interviewees noted a need to discuss land use policies such as zoning, density, housing, aesthetics, infrastructure, and code enforcement that would be culturally sensitive and responsive to the religious needs of Orthodox residents while also being protective of existing neighborhood and community character. Interviewees noted that there currently were not mechanisms in place for regional or joint planning – some felt that each community might be more likely to do their own planning, while others felt it would be valuable to help create such a regional forum. Many expressed support for a regional charrette to accomplish this. Another approach could be a set of forums or ongoing association of towns in the region that bring together a few key leaders – mayors, planning directors, etc – to exchange ideas and work together proactively.
- Build Institutional Home for Collaboration: In addition to (or instead of) the short-term collaboration approaches mentioned above, some interviewees suggested developing one or more mechanisms for on-going, institutionalized collaboration between diverse groups in and beyond Lakewood. Some stated that Lakewood Neighbors was a great vehicle for this, or at least a good beginning, with the addition of more representation of diverse voices (i.e., sufficiently representing African American, Latino, and leaders from other faiths, as well as seniors and a broader set of Orthodox viewpoints.) Others felt the effort should be more regionally focused – interviewees named “Ocean County Neighbors” or “One Ocean County” as potential titles. Some named the “Toms River United” as a potential model, or at least an effort to learn from.
Based on the findings above, our analysis, our conversations with leaders from Lakewood Neighbors, and our experience with bringing groups together, we believe there are highly synergistic interests in engaging in collaborative problem-solving in Lakewood and its surrounding communities. All residents of the region have much to gain from improved relationships, reduced tensions and hostilities, and greater cooperation for sharing neighborhoods and civic space. In that light, we offer the following process recommendations.
We see the most promising opportunities for collaborative engagement to be in the following areas:
- Expanding/Refining a Convening Structure for Collaborative Governance
- Expanding Relationship and Trust Building Activities
- Developing a Shared Community Coexistence Action Plan, and
- Conducting Collaborative Visioning and Growth Management Planning
These ideas are synergistic – for example, the collaborative governance body could play a key role in convening the additional processes, the community coexistence planning might identify additional relationship-building activities, etc.
The following section describes these recommendations and explains how residents and leaders in Lakewood and the region might go about moving these forward.
1) Expanding/Refining a Convening Structure for Collaborative Governance
The Lakewood Neighbors coalition was launched in December of 2017 with a gathering of over 50 leaders from Lakewood and across Ocean County, where participants signed onto a declaration of purpose and a pledge to work together going forward. This is a promising foundation from which to build a deliberative body that can provide shared leadership for collaborative efforts.
We recommend refining and expanding on this coalition to function as a clearly structured collaborative governance body. While this group is not primarily focused on policy issues, a collaborative governance model would be beneficial for convening, supporting, and implementing the collaborative activities recommended here as well as serving as an effective mechanism of on-going collaboration and conflict management.
The public policy literature defines collaborative governance broadly as “the processes and structures of public decision making and management that engage people constructively across the boundaries of public agencies, levels of government, and/or the public, private and civic spheres in order to carry out a public purpose that could not otherwise be accomplished.” Accomplishing such a task therefore requires shared motivations, conscientious engagement, and effective structures (and behaviors) that support collective action. Because of the sensitivity of the situation and the potential for misunderstanding or miscommunication, we highly recommend enlisting support from a neutral, highly skilled facilitator and process manager to support this process.
This next phase of development might include some of the following:
- Refining Charter and Developing Operating Protocols: Beyond the declaration of purpose, the group should clarify and clearly document who it is, what it aims to achieve, and how it intends to work together. Establishing a clear and transparent process not only sets the group up for success, but also builds the external credibility and legitimacy of the group. This might include clarifying its purpose and vision, developing a set of key principles, identifying a leadership /decision-making structure, confirming the roles and responsibilities of participants, defining protocols for communication and transparency, and determining norms and behavioral expectations.
- Expanding Representation and Geographic Focus: As the function of the process and core group expands, a conscious and serious effort should be made to identify and recruit additional stakeholders whose interests are affected, and to ensure that there are capable representatives who can speak for and be accountable to the diverse range of viewpoints. In this case, it could be helpful to expand the focus of the group beyond Lakewood to include surrounding communities, and to ensure that the broad diversity of local and regional perspectives and concerns are represented. Some of the additional participants to consider might include: elected officials from neighboring towns, faith leaders from all religions, additional community leaders and advocates, and representatives from the media.
- Build a Common Understanding of Problems, Interests, and Facts: An initial task of the group should be to explore and communicate the underlying concerns and needs (interests) of the regions stakeholders, and to develop a shared common information base among participants. To work together productively, participants will need to work hard to listen to each other’s concerns with open minds and agree to uphold each other’s inherent dignity. That will require mastering the desire to argue, blame, defend or persuade. Instead, members will need to aim for genuine understanding of each other’s experiences, fears and hopes.
- Establish a Work Plan: To be effective, the collaborative group needs to have a regular meeting schedule and a clear set of activities and tasks. We recommend developing a clear work plan, which might include a prioritization of tasks and actions that the group can support for building collaboration, relationships, and cross-cultural agreements. It should also include the tasks for building the group itself, via outreach, community engagement, and fundraising. Once there is a work plan, the group might develop active committees, task forces, or work groups, each with clear charters or terms of reference, who can be responsible for moving the work forward.
- Clarify and Expand Resources: Collaborative processes need to be funded such that there are appropriate resources to accomplish their objectives. While much work can be achieved by members on a volunteer basis, there will likely also be a need for external policy, technical support, facilitation and process support. As mentioned above, we think it would be critical for the group to enlist support from a neutral facilitator / process manager to help guide this process – this facilitator should be secured on behalf of the collaborative group and should be acceptable to and work equally for all parties. In addition, some of the suggestions below will require additional technical and process support, which would also be determined collaboratively and transparently.
2) Expanding Relationship and Trust Building Activities
As described earlier, there are and have been a myriad of activities and events focused both on expanding cross-cultural understandings and building relationships, designed and implemented by a wide array of actors targeted at many different audiences (e.g., public and private school children, parents, women, faith groups, civil servants, university students, etc.) This includes community, inter-generational, and multi-cultural programing that brings people together to break down stereotypes, do projects together, and learn about each other. These programs appear to be highly valued and valuable for achieving the goals of community-wide understanding, positive relationships, and civic unity.
We would recommend that the stakeholders consider the following suggestions:
- Create a diverse working group from the above collaborative governance group to focus specifically on these programs.
- Develop an inventory of successful educational and relationship-building programs that have been used in Lakewood and in surrounding communities, as well as additional approaches being used to build coexistence in other communities around the country. It might be helpful to bring in experts from organizations who specialize in community dialogue and intergroup relations.
- Identify specific educational gaps – segments of the community that are currently not served by these programs, and/or topical or thematic opportunities for collaborative engagements – and develop or apply programs that can help meet them.
- Set up a clearinghouse for members and the community to disseminate information about such programs. Develop an outreach plan to expand community participation.
3) Developing a Shared Community Coexistence Action Plan
To move beyond relationships and into the realm of action and problem solving, we recommend convening a process to develop a “Community Coexistence Action Plan”—a set of guiding principles about and community agreements to support how we live and grow together. The product would likely be a living document that could guide expectations, behaviors, and interactions among residents, and promote understanding and unity among neighbors and community members with diverse backgrounds and lifestyles – agreements that citizens can enter into voluntarily to boost positive neighborly coexistence, as opposed to seeking changes to township rules or regulations.
The development of a Community Coexistence Action Plan would need to be a broad collaborative process including a wide range of perspectives and stakeholders, with clear objectives, guidelines for participation, and expected outcomes, developed collectively by participants themselves or by a diverse convening team, and guided throughout by a diverse Steering Committee (ideally drawn from the collaborative governance body described above.) We also recommend the group enlist the support of a facilitator with experience and strong process skills to help guide and manage this process.
The components of such a process would need to be co-created by the group, but might include:
- development of a shared vision for community coexistence
- surfacing of challenges and barriers to that vision
- clarifications of disputed facts
- research of case studies or models to help inform
- exploration and evaluation of potential options for improving coexistence, and
- development of a set of shared principles, behaviors, and actions that participants agree to strive toward together.
Some of these components might be shared across broader geographic areas (e.g., the region as a whole, or township by township) while other agreements might be created neighborhood by neighborhood.
We think that a condensed community NCI charrette process could be a promising methodology to use for such a process. An NCI charrette is a series of public and technical workshops and meetings that engage all affected parties in the development of preferred plan of action. The process can be uses for physical planning as well as policy projects like the Community Coexistence Plan. The charrette for this project might begin with a multi-day engagement, starting with a community-wide event to explain and refine the task/process, provide background information to create a shared understanding, identify challenges, interests, and questions needing further research to resolve disputed facts, and develop diverse (geographically, socio-economically, culturally, etc.) teams to move the process forward. Additional sessions might be focused around specific coexistence challenges that have been identified, in which participants could work to better understand each others’ needs and perspectives, develop ideas for how to respond to those challenges, and evaluate the pros and cons of those options. To the extent additional research is seen as helpful (to resolve factual disputes or create case studies), the teams would define their work and the needed amount of time (e.g. 4-6 weeks) to achieve it. Once ready, the community could come back together in a second community-wide event where participants could learn from each other and continue through the components of the process (identify and weigh options and decide on appropriate courses of action.) Further refinement of the plans could occur through stakeholder meetings the following day before they are presented in finality at a third, celebratory community event that kicks off implementation.
4) Conducting Collaborative Visioning and Growth Management Planning
Our assessment also suggests the potential for collaborative growth management planning for the region, which would focus on planning around tangible issues such as land use, infrastructure, transportation, zoning, housing, and schools. Because the focus would be more closely tied to regulatory and governmental jurisdictions, this would likely benefit from implementation as a separate process from the community agreement focused approach described above. Nonetheless, many of the project steps and components would be similar, beginning with a convening of key partners – in this case, likely a combination of elected township and county officials, planning directors, non-profits and community leaders – in a project start-up process focused on co-creating the project purpose, project values, guiding principles, objectives and metrics for success, project scope, methodologies, schedule and budget.
A visioning charrette is an effective methodology for growth management planning, and a powerful tool for creating plans that are owned and supported by the community and its leaders. Visioning charrettes bring people from varying viewpoints together to ask the question, “as a community, what do we value the most and how does that translate to the ways that we manage our growth?” Such a charrette could be a multiple-day public workshop organized around three “feedback loop” meetings where community members and staff work with a design team to visualize how change might look for their community. The charrette begins with a public workshop to identify core community values and shared principles regarding growth. Facilitation ground rules and processes – co-developed in advance by a diverse leadership team and enforced by a strong facilitator – assure a safe environment where all voices can be heard. An expert design team then works on behalf of the participants and community as a whole to illustrate alternative growth concepts for topics such as zoning, density, aesthetics, infrastructure, transportation, housing, parks, codes, and other key issues. A set of preferred concepts result from the merging of the best ideas identified in the feedback meetings. The feedback meetings are an opportunity for participants to learn about the intricacies, trade-offs and benefits of different design concepts. The end result is a set of action items and plans that are likely to move forward with the help of key community support.
Visioning charrettes can be applied to the region as a whole or to individual town. One variation is to first hold a regional kick-off workshop to establish a large-scale vision for the region. This regional vision can set the basis for each town to define their own plans using local planning charrettes.
List of Interviewees
The following individuals participated in an interview or focus group for this report. (Three names were omitted based on their request.) Apologies for any spelling or title errors.
Mr. Isaac Akerman
Rabbi Simon Balsam
Mrs. Nechama Basser
Mr. David Becker
Rabbi Moshe Bender
Mr. Simon Blum
Mr. Ken Bressi
Mr. Joe Buckalew
Rabbi Mordy Burnstein
Mr. Mark Chopp
Mayor Ray Coles
Mr. Mike D’Elia
Mr. John Ernst
Rabbi Yehuda Farber
Mr. Mike Fiuera
Dr. Dovid Friedman
Ms. Connie Friedman
Rabbi Yaakov Friedman
Ms. Kate Gamber
Mrs. Sara Faigie Gelbwachs
Mr. Yitzchok Goldsmith
Ms. Ada Gonzalez
Rabbi Moshe Gourarie
Mr. Simcha Greenwald
Officer Alex Guzman
Freeholder Ginny Haines
Mr. Hal Halverson
Rabbi Benny Heinemann
Mrs. Tova Herskowitz
Mr. Bill Hobday
Reverend Shawn Hyland
Mr. Shloime Ingber
Mr Michael Inzelbuch
Ms Chanie Jacobowitz
Mr. Booky Kaluszyner
Freeholder John Kelly
Rabbi Aaron Kotler
Rabbi Shneur Kotler
Mr. Avraham Krawiec
Chief Rob Lawson
Mr. Colin Lewis
Committeeman Meir Lichtenstein
Mr. Manny Lindenbaum
Officer Stefanie Mahone
Mr. Larry Mandel
Mr. Joe Marbach
Mr. Mike McNeil
Chief Greg Meyer
Deputy Mayor Menashe Miller
Mr. Jack Mueller
Rabbi Avrohom Moshe Muller
Rabbi Avraham Naftali
Mr. Rob Nicastro
Mrs. Vi Peters
Dr. Tzvi Pirutinsky
Ms Michelle Porter
Rabbi Mendel Rabinowitz
Mr. Sam Rabinowitz
Mr. Steve Reinman
Mrs. Suri Robinson
Mr. Jorge Rod
Mr. Jack Saradnick
Rabbi Yisroel Schenkolewski
Rabbi Avi Schnall
Mr. Ryan Sharp
Mr. Moshe Shindler
Mr. Rob Sickel
Ms. Valerie Smith
Mr. Drew Staffenberg
Mr. Gregg Staffordsmith
Mrs. Sara Sternbach
Ms. Reisa Sweet
Rabbi Shmuel Tendler
Mr. Craig Thiebault
Mr. Ben Turin, Esq.
Ms. Dawn Van Brunt
Ms. Crystal Van de Zilver
Mr. Fred Van Looy
Mr. Kim Vargas
Rabbi Avi Verschleiser
Mr. Vince Vita
Dr. Frank Vozos
Rabbi Moshe Z. Weisberg
Mr. Steven Weldler
Ms. Laura Winters
Mrs. Rechy Zolty
The Consensus Building Institute (CBI) and the National Charrette Institute (NCI) have been hired by the Lakewood Resource and Referral Center, on behalf of Lakewood Neighbors, to advance the goal of addressing the social and civic challenges facing the region and developing a shared vision for the future. Lakewood Neighbors is a diverse constituency of civic actors including leaders from business, local and regional government, universities (Georgian Court University and Beth Medrash Govoha Yeshiva), and social service agencies. CBI is a non-profit organization that provides facilitation and mediation for numerous public issues, with experience in education and school construction issues. NCI is a program within Michigan State University that is dedicated to transforming the way people work together by building capacity for collaboration.
The CBI/NCI team will work to understand the broad range of perspectives of the residents and stakeholders of Lakewood, identify key issues and needs, and ultimately recommend processes for developing solutions to pressing community needs. To this end, our team is conducting confidential interviews and focus groups with a representative sample of leaders and key stakeholders to understand their thoughts and concerns.
We will be having confidential discussions with key stakeholders, including elected officials and agency leads at the state, county, and local level, community leaders, and residents of Lakewood and the county. We developed an initial interviewee list in conversation with a diverse group from Lakewood Neighbors, and welcome input to help us ensure we include the full range of perspectives in the region. Please note, we are seeking to capture the range of views, not weighing or evaluating the frequency or popularity of views.
On completion of the confidential discussions, CBI will prepare a draft summary of our findings, without attribution, along with a set of recommendations for how the community might work together to meet its needs – process suggestions, not recommendations on substantive decisions. This draft will be circulated to interviewees to ensure we captured their views accurately before it is finalized and shared more broadly. Once the comments have been incorporated, the final recommendations will be given to LRRC and Lakewood Neighbors, along with released to the public, for consideration and implementation.
These conversations are entirely confidential, in that we will not attribute any statements to individuals or individual organizations. That said, please let us know if you want us to take particular care to keep a something you say out of the report entirely.
Following are the questions we will be using to guide the interview process.
You and Lakewood
- Please tell us a little bit about yourself, and your history/relationship with Lakewood. How do you identify your role in the community? What motivates your involvement in civic life?
- How long have you lived in Lakewood, what brought/keeps you here?
- How are you impacted by the growth and cultural diversity in Lakewood?
- What do you value most about Lakewood? What do you see as the community’s greatest strengths?
- What do you see as Lakewood’s greatest challenges? How do these affect you?
Quality of Life in the Community
- What do you see as the most important factors and issues that should be addressed in order to improve quality of life and build a positive future for all the residents of Lakewood? For each of these, help us understand better why it is important to you?
- What substantive ideas do you have for what can be done to address these issues? If you were “in charge for a day,” what changes would you recommend to improve coexistence, good planning, and healthy growth in the region?
- How might the community bridge cultural differences, while respecting the diverse values and ways of life?
Lakewood and the Media
- Do you read local media coverage of Lakewood? What sources do you read?
- How accurate do you think the media coverage is about the strengths of Lakewood? How accurate or inaccurate is coverage of the challenges?
- What ideas do you have for how to accurately tell the stories of Lakewood?
- Lakewood Neighbors is interested in bringing the community together to develop and implement a shared vision for a positive future. This might include a range of activities – community “charrettes” (an accelerated public process to work collectively on designing solutions to public challenges); on-going working groups; activities and events for building understanding and reducing divisions, and more.
- Imagine that a set of county and local representatives were pulled together to work on this.
- Who should be involved?
- What steps or considerations might be needed to build people’s trust that the process is fair, legitimate, and non-partisan?
- How do we ensure that a diverse range of Lakewood’s stakeholders are involved?
- What are the key issues this group should seek to address?
- What information, facts, or studies would this group need to draw from or seek to get to do their work? Are there sources of information you would recommend?
- What groundrules or guidance would be needed for this group to be successful?
- What do you think a group like this might be able to achieve or reach agreement on?
- Given what you know today, what role would you/ your organization want to play in such a process?
- Are there any points of view or perspectives you think we have missed in our list of interviewees?
- Any other considerations that we should keep in mind as we’re thinking about these issues? / Anything that we haven’t touched on that you would like to share?
 K. Emerson, T. Nabatchi, S. Balogh. An Integrative Framework for Collaborative Governance. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, May 2, 2011.