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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.

A Creative NJ: One Community at a Time

Originally posted on the Geraldine R. Dodge Blog.

Last week, Creative New Jersey launched Creative Monmouth: Call to Collaboration – a two-day Open Space convening that marked the inaugural event in our statewide series. We welcomed approximately 100 individuals representing a diverse range of fields and disciplines including city and county planners, educators (K-12 & Higher Ed); engineers; scientists; architects; social service professionals; artists and arts/culture administrators; hoteliers; entrepreneurs; workforce and economic development leaders; tourism directors; community development activists; journalists; restaurateurs; high school students and more! It was a dynamic and challenging two days as this group of cross-sector stakeholders grappled with the overriding question: How Can We Use Creativity and Innovation to Sustain a Thriving Future for Monmouth County?

We gathered on the beautiful campus of Monmouth University who graciously hosted our convening on Monday, May 21st & Tuesday, May 22nd. I’m not sure what the weather was like last Monday in other parts of the state, but I can tell you, that on the Jersey Shore in Long Branch, we had a mini-tropical storm that morning with many roads closed due to flooding! Our Host Team members arrived on campus at 6am to prepare for our 8am start, and I’d be lying if I told you we weren’t concerned about our participants’ ability (and desire) to weather the storm and arrive safely at our Call to Collaboration. Needless to say, we were all delighted and thankful to have a full house for the opening session!

If you’ve been following our recent blog posts, you know that these community-based Calls to Collaboration utilize the Open Space Technology format, an internationally proven meeting method originated by Harrison Owen. Working under our overriding theme, the participants—one-by-one—came to the center of the circle and proposed break-out topics focused on solutions to the social, economic, and cultural challenges facing Monmouth County. The self-directed style of this type of meeting is invigorating, as each person takes responsibility for effecting change in their community.

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Over the course of two days, twenty-three break-out discussions took place with an additional six action-planning meetings. The Book of Proceedings captures the notes from each break-out session and is published on Creative New Jersey’s website. The discussion topics included:

  • Adapting to the End of Growth;
  • Local Production of Food, Energy and Water;
  • Implementing the MoCo Arts Corridor Partnership;
  • Engaging (disenfranchised) 20-30 Year-Old’s in the Economic and Workforce Growth of Monmouth County;
  • Designing and Building a Monmouth County Emergency Pod;
  • Reviving “Main Street” in Small Towns;
  • SPARCC: “SP” Application for Real Community Connection;
  • Self-Sustaining Charitable Organizations—a new business model
  • Development of a MoCo (Monmouth County) Phone App

The conversations were frank, challenging and progressive. There was a palpable energy of commitment and promise which permeated every single discussion. Many of our participants had never met one another, while others knew of each other but have not had the opportunity to collaborate until now. The community-building qualities of our Call to Collaboration are jump-starting new ideas and fueling existing ones into action. The last few months of preparation and planning by our Host Team, coupled with the generosity of our local Sponsors, not only delivered a successful convening, but fostered and solidified new relationships among the team members, sponsors, and their respective organizations. I was honored to work alongside each of them, and their dedication to sustaining a thriving future for their communities was infectious.

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In the few days that have passed since our Call to Collaboration convening, I know of several people who are quickly moving forward with ideas generated during the sessions. Cheryl Cummings of the Brookdale Network announced she wants to host a follow-up convening in August, and in his own words, Jerome Scriptunas, LSW, MSIE, Director of Quality Improvement and Technology for MonmouthCares shares his reflections on the convening:

“One of the best parts of the Creative Monmouth experience was being energized by the intergenerational sharing of new thinking. A high school student offered innovative ideas on using “gamification” to spur community engagement. A retiree outlined a sobering articulation of the end of economic growth and the need to interpret growth laterally and in dimensions other than economic. Creative Monmouth is an idea whose time had come for Monmouth County.

One of the tell-tale signs was the frequent mention in different sessions of the need for a website platform to facilitate collaboration and the recognition of how smart phone applications with unique relevance to Monmouth County can energize how much we care about what Monmouth County offers. Last Friday, we purchased the domain names for and .com.

I was also astounded at the breakthrough progress by the “MoCo” teams to draft detailed requirements for a smart-phone application. And if I needed more evidence of the value and advantages of time banking and service exchanges I sure got it. I’m so happy we quickly reached a tipping point just one week after the convening with having spoken with Active Voice and enlisting Cheryl Cummings of Brookdale Network to submit a request for Monmouth County to be a screening site for PBS’ ‘Fixing the Future’ on July 18!”

The remarks offered during our closing session were a powerful testament to the value of Creative New Jersey’s mission to foster creativity, innovation and sustainability by empowering cross-sector partnerships. For some folks, this proved to be a transformative experience, and many spoke of their renewed sense of hope for their workplaces and their communities. Moreover, since our work is only beginning, this success underscored for all of us that we are on the right track with creating the landscape for community-based, cross-sector Calls to Collaboration to flourish.

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Thank you Creative Monmouth for helping to lead the way forward! We’re off to a great start. Next up is Creative Orange and Creative Morristown!

We invite all our Creative Monmouth convening participants to share your experiences and add to this blog by posting comments below. For those who didn’t attend the Monmouth Call to Collaboration, please create a profile on the Creative New Jersey website and join in the conversation. And check us out on Facebook and LinkedIn, and follow us on Twitter.

Creative New Jersey is dedicated to fostering creativity, innovation, and sustainability by empowering cross-sector partnerships in commerce, education, philanthropy, government, and culture in order to ensure dynamic communities and a thriving economy.


“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)