Fuertes Finds Opportunities for Engagement through New DC Administration

New Century College's Al Fuertes (left) with co-facilitator Steve Brigham (right) from Public Engagement Associates
New Century College's Al Fuertes (left) with co-facilitator Steve Brigham (right) from Public Engagement Associates

On September 12, 2015, New Century College professor Al Fuertes co-facilitated a workshop organized by the Mayor's Office on Asian and Pacific Islanders Affairs to solicit input from the district's Asian and Pacific Islander community. This Action Forum is part of newly-elected Mayor Muriel Bowser's plan to initiate communication between the government and different interest groups within the district. Following the day-long event, government representatives are now partnering with Fuertes and first year NCC students to pursue other avenues for outreach, and this time, with DC's homeless population.

Fuertes said, "In her campaign, Mayor Bowser indicated that she wanted to collect direct input on the most pressing issues in multicultural communities. During the fall, the DC government is conducting these activities to develop policy recommendations."

In the day-long Action Forum, Fuertes and his co-facilitator Steve Brigham from Public Engagement Associates, led 165 representatives of the Asian and Pacific Islander community through a series of exercises to develop a comprehensive list of issues which raise the most concern among the community. The issues identified included affordable housing, elementary education, adult education and job training, safety, healthcare and small business development.

Fuertes and Brigham used keypad polling to gather realtime input from participants and instantly report out a summary of respondents' opinions. The discussion also focused on two key questions regarding each identified issue: what can our communities do to impact these issues? What can the DC government do to impact these issues?

Following this successful forum, representatives from the DC government discussed other key priorities with Fuertes, acknowledging his experience building cross-cultural understanding. Bowser's office recently announced Homeward DC, a five-year plan to end homelessness in the district. Fuertes invited government staff to discuss the initiative with first year NCC students currently studying issues of class and meritocracy. Following a presentation and discussion, many students pledged their support to help the DC government end homelessness in the district.

Government representatives are developing preliminary plans to engage different stakeholders to work together to end homelessness in the district. With Fuertes' coordination, one component of this plan includes inviting interested NCC students to conduct research and interviews with the homeless in DC. The district hopes to begin this work in the coming month.