Launched in September 2023, One Omaha’s From the Ground Up speaker series resonated with Omaha residents eager to understand and influence their city’s housing development landscape. The series, spanning three sessions, delivered on its promise of community-building, education, and resident-driven growth.
Recognizing housing development as a top concern for Omahans, One Omaha curated discussions featuring topic experts and local changemakers. Each session blended historical context, current initiatives, and practical strategies for resident engagement.
This session delved into Omaha’s housing history, exploring its evolution and the factors shaping present-day neighborhoods. We learned how Omaha grew as a city, redlining practices that still affect us today, and how transportation is linked to development. Black Studies professor Terri Crawford, former City Planning Department director Steve Jensen, and community development activist Preston Love, Jr. provided valuable insights into past successes and challenges.
This session focused on present-day projects and opportunities. Speakers shared their perspectives on various tensions in current housing development in Omaha, including how housing affects the city’s tax base and influences generational wealth. Community activist Schmeeka Simpson, realtor Angel Starks, and Derek Miller, Long Range & Mobility Planning manager with the City of Omaha, discussed methods for increasing density and homeownership opportunities.
The final session equipped residents with practical tools and resources. Experts, including community organizer Clarice Dombeck, Planning Department Housing Manager Greg Paskach, and Charlie Wesch of NeighborWorks Lincoln, explored methods for resident engagement, including community land trusts, the Thriving Communities Technical Assistance Grant, and the city’s Housing Affordability Action Plan. Attendees left empowered to translate their concerns into action, building upon the knowledge gained throughout the series.
A significant measure of success for One Omaha is attracting strong attendance at our events and bringing in audiences and speakers that accurately represent our city’s rich diversity of lived experiences. Our From the Ground Up speaker series consistently had One Omaha’s best attendance rates since pre-pandemic, with about 25 attendees per session.
It also attracted the youngest and most diverse audiences, with 30% aged 34 or younger, 52% identifying as people of color, and 17% identifying as LGBTQIA+. Five of our nine speakers in the series were people of color, and five were women, representing our most demographically diverse experts and offering many varied perspectives on affordable housing and housing engagement throughout Omaha.
We use pre- and post-evaluations to measure learning increases and ensure our programming achieves the intended educational outcomes. Across the three series sessions, attendees reported a 29% increase in knowledge about housing development and ways to get involved and make change at the neighborhood level. More than half of respondents felt more prepared to take action on housing issues in their neighborhoods.
We extended From the Ground Up’s reach by offering digital recordings of the sessions for ongoing learning and engagement.
The success of From the Ground Up underscores One Omaha’s commitment to community empowerment, starting at the neighborhood level. We are building upon this momentum by developing programming that tackles residents’ most pressing issues, including environmental justice. Resident voices must remain at the forefront as Omaha continues to evolve. One Omaha’s initiatives, such as From the Ground Up, equip them with the knowledge, tools, and connections they need to actively shape their city’s future.
If you want to sponsor From the Ground Up in 2024, please contact our Executive Director, Kimara Snipes.
Thank you to our 2023 From the Ground Up sponsors, whose support was instrumental in allowing us to put on impactful programming that empowers residents to develop thriving neighborhoods throughout our city.
- Metropolitan Community College
- Omaha Public Power District
- Metropolitan Area Planning Agency
- The South Omaha Neighborhood Alliance
- Metropolitan Utilities District
- Caring for People Services
- Senator Tony Vargas