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In Nov. 2021 after ten years of our evolving mission and impact, we changed our name to Gathering Ground. You may still find reference to our old name Creative New Jersey in posts created prior to Nov. 2021.

2018 Gathering Ground Summit Presenters


#1 – Rutgers-Camden’s Collective Impact Conversations Lead to New Campus-wide Civic Action Plan

Learn how a higher education institution can be a catalyst for deepened community engagement and can take a leadership role in connecting residents and other diverse stakeholders to address issues affecting their city. The Office of Civic Engagement at Rutgers University-Camden utilized the collected notes from Creative Camden’s Call to Collaboration to convene the Camden community around major issue areas. Building on the idea generation process started at Creative Camden, their “Collective Impact Conversations” focus on developing a common vision and actionable steps that community members can take together to invest in the revitalization of Camden. Learn how Rutgers University–Camden is using the feedback and ideas shared in these conversations to shape their own strategic vision for civic engagement in 2018-19, as well as the development of a campus-wide civic action plan.

Michael D’Italia, Program Coordinator, Engaged Civic Learning – Office of Civic Engagement, Rutgers University-Camden

#2 – Working with Strengths – Youth Enrichment Pilot in Rahway Leverages Local Talent and Resources

A pilot program of enrichment workshops for Elementary school students launched from a new partnership between Rahway’s High School, School District, Parent-Teacher Association and local YMCA. By working collaboratively and combining the talents, strengths and missions of each organization, a new 6-week enrichment program for elementary school students is being provided for the YMCA afterschool daycare with 14 workshops including arts, sports, language and other activities, taught by faculty who oversee various Rahway High School Clubs. Learn how this win-win collaboration is creating greater connection in the community, providing exposure and access to a variety of extracurricular activities to elementary students, and even helping to send a several students to France on scholarship.

Patricia Volino, Vice Principal – Rahway High School

#3 – Going Green: How NJ Schools are Improving Curriculum, Bottom Lines, and Collaboration with Sustainability

Learn how Sustainable Jersey for Schools is helping New Jersey public schools that want to go green, conserve resources and take steps to create a brighter future through their school certification program. In just over three years, Sustainable Jersey for Schools has expanded to over 700 schools in half of NJ’s school districts, and joining the program is easier than you think. Schools that adopt the program are seeing energy savings, reduction in waste, better coordination between Green Teams, the school district and municipalities; increased partnerships with external stakeholders and organizations; and eligibility for mini-grants, of which $1.4 million has been given in 350 grants since the program launched in October 2014.

Heather McCall, Director, Sustainable Jersey for Schools – Sustainable Jersey

#4 – Good Vibes: Creating Safe Space for Youth, Creative Expression, and Civic Action in Camden

Creating safe spaces for Camden teens was a theme of many conversations at Creative Camden. Learn how Christopher Hampton, The Camden Store, and other community partners banded together to address that need by starting Good Vibes – a youth-led monthly open mic night showcasing multiple generations of young adults and older adults. Good Vibes taps into the arts as a way to develop leadership, civic action, and creative expression. Youth host and organize the events, which include performances of music, rap, visual art, fashion, and poetry in a space designed to build confidence, skills, and bridges to other community organizations, but that’s not all: the youth leaders have successfully lobbied Camden’s administration to reopen a community center in late spring of 2018 that will allow them to grow the Good Vibes program.

Christopher Hampton, CEO – Champ I Am


#1 – Community Dollars for Community Impact – Announcing the Creative Atlantic City Fund

Over a two-year period a group of AC residents, business owners and nonprofit leaders worked with Creative New Jersey and the Community Foundation for South Jersey (CFSJ) to establish a community fund – a community-advised fund, housed at CFSJ, that will make grants for community projects that serve the people of Atlantic City. Learn how the Fund’s Working Group implemented an inclusive, methodical, transparent approach to designing both the parameters of the Fund and the open process for advertising, interviewing, and selecting the founding Board of Advisors.

Michael Cagno, Executive Director – The Noyes Museum of Art at Stockton University
Sheila D. Hull-Freeman, President – Bungalow Park Civic Association

#2 – Communication & Connection – Hammonton’s Online Community Calendar Builds Bridges – an online hub for community information and events – was a project that gained traction at the Creative Hammonton Call to Collaboration and launched shortly thereafter. As a result of creating this centralized hub, greater collaboration and communication between event organizers (typically nonprofits, government, and festivals) has led to improved coordination, and in a few key places, enabled organizations and groups to “package” separate events into larger-impact experiences. This digital platform is not only raising awareness of opportunities and services available to residents, but is also fostering proactive planning and strengthening relationships between community organizations, local government and businesses to benefit residents and visitors. A private Facebook group for local organizations was also launched to help with collaborations and event calendar planning.

Jim Donio, Chief Strategist/Executive Director – Eagle Theatre/Destination Hammonton

#3 – Youth Lead in Community Health & Wellbeing Projects Through NJHI’s Collaborative “Next Gen” Program

Preparing the next generation of community leaders is no easy feat, and authentically engaging youth so that they can contribute to the health and wellbeing of their communities is at the core of New Jersey Health Initiatives’ (NJHI) Next Generation Community Leaders grant program. Learn how NJHI’s program: fosters team building between youth and adult coaches to spur trust and feeling “known”; crafts the supports needed to help community partners work collaboratively with youth; and designs projects, content, and “experience arcs” that inspires growth in youth teams. NJHI, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, is dedicated to supporting innovations and driving conversations to build healthier New Jersey communities.

Bob Atkins, Executive Director – New Jersey Health Initiatives
Sue Altman, Expert Advisor, NGCL Program – Rutgers-Camden Institute for Effective Education

#4 – Far-reaching Effects of Collaboration – NJVOAD’s Streamlined Disaster Response Design Deployed in NJ, FL & TX

NJ Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NJVOAD) – a collective of non-profit service and faith-based organizations working in partnership with government and private sector partners throughout NJ – recognized that the lessons from NJ’s experience with Hurricane Sandy were essential to future disaster response and relief efforts. Kelly Higgs shares the results of the continued collaborative work that came out of NJVOAD’s Call to Collaboration via new working groups and how they worked together to design disaster response process improvements that are benefiting communities thousands of miles from New Jersey, in Texas and Florida.

Kelly Higgs, Executive Director – NJ Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster


“During the process, a wonderful synergy has developed. The weekly Host Team meetings have united our Host Team, and forged new relationships between us all, as well as the businesses and community organizations that we represent. I applaud Gathering Ground for helping communities look at themselves through a process that embraces inclusivity, accountability and openness.”

– Rachael Faillace – Chair, Rahway Call to Collaboration Host Team | Former Executive Director, Rahway Arts District (Rahway)