Douglas County residents will have a chance to listen to national health and social policy experts as well as participate in discussions during a two-day community summit next month.
The event, called "Building a Better Community," is sponsored by Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center, Kansas University and the Hall Center for the Humanities. It is part of Bert Nash's 50th anniversary celebration.
"It's going to be a rather unique event," said Lyn Smith, a member of the Bert Nash board of directors and one of the organizers.
Slated for Jan. 26-27 at KU's Lied Center, the community summit will be the culmination of more than two years of analyzing responses from community focus groups conducted in Douglas County, Smith said.
Focus groups included representatives from business, education, government and health and human services.
"We decided to go to the public and identify the topics on which we would have the summit," Smith said. "That led to the focus groups."
One of the speakers will be Robert Putnam, author of "Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community." He will discuss the declining participation in American social and political life and what can be done to rebuild them.
Deborah Prothrow-Stith, a public health expert on adolescent violence prevention, will discuss what factors influence youth violence and steps to prevent it.
The third speaker will be Peter Benson, president of the Search Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the well-being of children and adolescents. He will discuss strategies families and neighborhoods can use to encourage successful youth.
"It wasn't hard to identify the people we wanted to bring in," Smith said. "We wanted to get the best people in the country. These people are going to come in and participate in the panels, too."
Although the two-day event is open to the public at no charge, tickets need to be requested in advance. For ticket information call Bert Nash Community Development Director Pat Roach Smith at 843-9192.
The schedule of events:
Friday, Jan. 26
From 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. Keynote address, Robert Putnam, Stanfield professor of international peace, Harvard University. A discussion will follow.
Saturday, Jan. 27
From 8 a.m. to 8:45 a.m. Deborah Prothrow-Stith, director of Public Health Practice, Harvard. Discussion period will follow.
From 9:30 a.m. to 10:15 a.m., Peter Benson, Search Institute.
Panel discussion: "A Summary of the Community Summit and Implications for Douglas County."
Other participants will be Robert Johnson, chairman, Charlton Manley Inc.; John Nalbandian, chairman of Kansas University's Department of Public Administration; Karen Swisher, president of Haskell Indian Nations University; and Deanell Tacha, 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals Judge.