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Idea Summit to celebrate cohort of regional change-makers

Champions for Change is a Unique University-Community Program that Partners Students with Community Leaders Seeking to Make Change in their Communities

New York Times Columnist Thomas Friedman once quipped “The standard answer is that we need better leaders.  The real answer is that we need better citizens.”

As our communities face the sweeping challenges of climate change, economic inequality, and a broken criminal justice system, it is citizens rather than policymakers who are pushing for bold and innovative solutions.

Workshop sessions brought community champions, UB students, faculty, and mentors together to develop concrete plans of action.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in conversations that have filled UB’s South Campus Champions for Change classroom over the past four months. Champions for Change is a program offered by the School of Architecture and Planning to help local citizens turn their community-building ideas into action to drive sustainable and resilient solutions across WNY.

This Saturday, May 11, 2019, the Champions for Change program will host its fifth annual culminating “Idea Summit” as a way to celebrate the bright ideas and inspired leadership of eight citizen champions working across the Buffalo-Niagara region. Join us for the 2019 Idea Summit on May 11th from 10 am – 12 pm in Hayes Hall 403 on the University at Buffalo’s South Campus (parking available in Townsend Lot).

RSVP today:

Focusing on the theme of regenerative development, this year’s class of eight Champions for Change have developed action plans for initiatives as diverse as a tiny house movement on Buffalo’s East Side, a greenhouse to grow food year-round in Niagara Falls, and a community action sustainability group in the village of Springville. The course is part of the Citizens Planning School developed by the One Region Forward sustainable development plan for Erie and Niagara Counties.

According to Dean Robert Shibley, the Champions for Change program embraces the School of Architecture and Planning’s ethos of Buffalo as a learning laboratory. “Our goal is to connect the resources and knowledge of our program with the community, which provides on-the-ground learning opportunities for our students and builds meaningful relationships with community members.”

The impact of this has been experienced by students that are participating in the course. “Champions for Change has definitely been the most rewarding class I’ve taken at UB. It has been really great to embed the work I am doing in the Buffalo-Niagara community and contribute to a project that has a real impact” shared Drew Canfield, Master of Urban Planning student in UB’s School of Architecture and Planning.

Saturday’s Idea Summit will feature presentations from project leaders and this year’s Champions for Change. A keynote address will be given by Flip White, a member of the Wolf Clan of the Seneca Nation, addressing the region’s legacy of regenerative development as it relates to Iroquois Great Law of Peace.

“Regenerative development,” the theme for the Champions for Change program, recognizes the efforts of the Haudenosaunee, the Native American confederacy that has championed the symbiotic relationship with the land for hundreds of years.

“We live in a region that has a rich legacy of regenerative development that’s based on building the capacity of communities to renew, thrive and evolve,” explains Professor Elizabeth Walsh, who led the Champions for Change program in 2017 and 2018 as a visiting assistant professor of urban planning at UB.

WHEN: Thursday, May 11 @ 10:00 AM

WHERE: University at Buffalo, School of Architecture & Planning, Hayes Hall, Room 403 (Parking available in Townsend Parking Lot)

Meet our faculty and community mentors: Hadar Borden, director of UB’s Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars program; Eve Holberg, planner and project manager at Joy Kuebler Landscape Architect; Will Becker, project manager for Sinatra Development; Beverly Newkirk, founder/executive director of It Takes A Village Action Organization; Stephanie Bucalo, community development coordinator of the University District Community Development Association.

Meet our student leaders: Brian Kwong, Nina Zesky, Drew Canfield, Avery Sirwatka, Ari Billy, Alex Dombrowski, Kylie Milliman, Tyler Madell, and Joseph Buttino. Additional support was provided by five community mentors, many of whom have shared their time, talent, and gifts with the program for multiple years.

Meet our Champions for Change:

Written by Darren Cotton

Darren Cotton

Darren has over a decade of experience in the fields of community development, urban planning, and information design. Working as Director of Community Development & Planning at the University District Community Development Association (UDCDA), Darren was responsible for writing and administering over $2 million in grant funding focused on commercial corridor revitalization, small business development, alternative transportation planning, historic preservation, public art, and community capacity building in Buffalo's University District. As a graduate student at the University at Buffalo, Darren founded The Tool Library, a community-based tool lending library, with an aim of providing affordable tool access and building the Sharing Economy in WNY. With a Bachelor's Degree in International Studies and Linguistics and a Master's Degree in Urban Planning from the University at Buffalo, Darren works to bridge the gap between research and policy through planning, design, and grassroots activism. and is a firm believer that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.

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