On Cookies and Revolutions: Exercising Civic Health with Evan Weissman

“Think of everything you currently own.”

When Evan Weissman posed this prompt to the second-year PLPers during the speaker event, most of the responses ranged from personal belongings, like cell phones or clothes, to books and pens and skis. But, when Mr. Weissman asked about public spaces, natural resources, and the air we breathe, nearly all of the second-years remained silent.

“Our homes are larger than our houses,” he said. This civic mindset, of thinking of ownership beyond personal terms, represents the mission behind Mr. Weissman’s life work, as Founder of Warm Cookies of the Revolution. Through this nonprofit with a national reputation for building community relationships while tackling tough topics, Mr. Weissman works towards shifting our current, “corporate” mindsets towards this greater, civic mindset.

Warm Cookies of the Revolution, as the world’s first “Civic Health Club,” aims to foster this civic mindset through exercising Civic Health, just like one would with their physical health at a gym, or spiritual health through a religious institution. Civic Health, Mr. Weissman explained, is a measurement of how well we participate in our community as citizens – by keeping community members engaged in the decision-making processes, and encouraging discussions on tough topics like the environment, education, health, government, and justice through fun and creative events, Warm Cookies of the Revolution fosters this engagement and promotes Civic Health growth. As put by Mr. Weissman, “I smash together the fun and the civic.”

These events range from the Stompin’ Ground Games, where members of Denver communities come together to celebrate the rich history and discuss current issues in their neighborhoods, all in the spirit of playful competition through poetry, music, dance, art, and food. There are also more tongue-in-cheek events like the Stitch & B****, where participants bring “hand-occupying activities” and take part in important conversations all the while crafting, to events like Letter Writing Nights or Sunday School for Atheists. The important factor in Mr. Weissman’s work is that these events serve as a forum for social change and civic engagement – rather than entering a community and attempting to create change themselves, Warm Cookies of the Revolution works to allow community members to air out their ideas and frustrations, all while doing so with and amongst their fellow community members.

Mr. Weissman is no stranger to being involved in the community. He spent 12 years as a company member of Denver’s Buntport Theater Company as a playwright, director, designer and actor, winning over 100 awards, including the 2010 Mayor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts; he was a former Kellogg Foundation Leadership for Community Change Fellow with Mi Casa Resource Center for Women; he was a Jane Addams-Andrew Carnegie Graduate Fellow for Leadership and Philanthropic Studies at Indiana University; and recently, Mr. Weissman was appointed by the Mayor of Denver to serve as a Denver Commissioner for Cultural Affairs.

From his work with Warm Cookies of the Revolution to his numerous community involvements and awards, Mr. Weissman was also enthusiastic and insightful about providing his advice on the second-year’s current progress with their Community Change Initiative (CCI) projects. His many connections to existing Denver community organizations provided many groups with ideas for outreach and partnership, and his glowing praise, “I respect that you care about things,” renewed the sense of purpose for the second-years, the same way it must for each of the community members at his Warm Cookies events.

Through his life work, his passion for Civic Health, and his profound advice, Evan Weissman was a timely and needed, real-life example of someone working towards creating change in his community, with the community.

Sometimes, we need to be reminded that our homes bigger than our houses.

Blog post written by: Sarina Phu, 2nd Year PLPer

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