What Emerge Miami has been doing for the last 9 years inspires us at Our City Thoughts to the core. Creating community through a bike ride that has brought people from all backgrounds together, to advocacy work that directly impacts the citizens of Miami. We join them in celebrating their 100th ride and exposing how much bigger the vision for this people driven organization is.
Why did you create in Miami?
Many members are native Miamians invested in the community, we love it here and want to stay!
Emerge Miami: Emerge Miami was formed from the belief that South Florida is engaged in progressive growth, unlike many other municipalities with established advocacy projects, such as New York or Portland. Many members are native Miamians invested in the community – we love it here and want to stay! Given a significant brain drain, as young skilled Miami residents seek opportunities elsewhere, Emerge Miami aspires to build a community that encourages retention, dedication, and resilience. We believe Miami is a template of potential advocacy, and a city willing to engage in creative growth.
What does your org do? How was it founded?
Emerge Miami: Emerge was founded in 2005, when a group of local advocates and University of Miami students collaborated to help local organizations expand their initiatives, such as movements for unionization among local custodial staffs. From that point, the organization and its endeavors expanded, offering film screenings, workshops, and eventually bike rides and active civic participation and engagement.
Ultimately, Emerge is a network for individuals, organizations, and businesses, working to form coalitions on common interests and to provide diverse and creative ways to achieve our common goals. We recognize that Miami’s advocacy community is growing constantly, and that many groups have similar agendas but little collaboration- Emerge works to form those bonds.
Has Emerge Miami had any challenges in reaching its vision?
Emerge Miami: A major challenge Emerge has faced is to distinguish itself as a diverse advocacy group. Our most regular event, a Second Saturday Bike Ride, has taken place monthly since 2007. Our 100th ride is October 11 of this year! While these rides have been consistent efforts and successful ways to engage our community on an array of issues, they remain our most popular and recognized effort.
As a result, most members of the community believe that we are solely a bicycle advocacy group. We are working hard to expand our efforts beyond the bike rides, although we enjoy them and intend to continue them indefinitely, All the same, having to reestablish our mission and purpose with each interaction we engage in during networking and outreach can be frustrating. Emerge encompasses an expansive collection of efforts- not all of our work is about bicycling, although we are likely to ride our bikes to other events!
How does the organization work?
Emerge Miami: We have no organizational hierarchy beyond regular participation. While a group of founders collaborated initially on Emerge, the group has expanded to all corners of the community and welcomes new members with each weekly meeting. The agenda-setting and facilitation of meetings falls on regular participants who show up each week, but none of them take on an official role as founder. We refer to ourselves as “organizers”.
What’s the Emerge Miami community like?
“Friends before activists”
Emerge Miami: Our philosophy and unofficial motto is “Friends before activists”. We are a social group, some of us with relationships dating back decades. In many cases, given our busy professional lives, our weekly meetings are our most frequent opportunity to see one another and socialize.
We translate that attitude to all of our participants, even if they are first time attendees or newcomers. Guests at our meetings always speak first about their projects and interests. We feel it is imperative to avoid insular relationships and instead to make all participants a member of our team and a vital role in collaborations. This means we work hard, but always keep the tone light and welcoming.
How is Miami impacting the organization?
Emerge Miami: Miami inspires our growth. Each county commission or cultural breakthrough is grounds for participation and new projects. We have invested ourselves in all manner of community endeavors, from having members on community boards such as the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee of Miami-Dade County, leadership forums from neighborhood enhancement groups, certification for bicycle conduct training or community emergency response teams, and coalitions to inform and organize regarding the environment, climate change, and sea level rise.
“Miami is an ideal city for Emerge, as it is young, consistently changing, and willing to engage in challenging projects. We’ve got our work cut out for us!”
What do you love the most about how miami is being redefined?
Emerge Miami: Miami is a template for growth. Older cities with established advocacy cultures welcome new members, but have long-standing traditions and missions. In Miami, there’s a developing consciousness that engages in remarkable ways. Any projects, given initiative, vision, and outreach, can develop profoundly and provide observable, palpable results. That seems to be a quality distinctive in cities like Miami- that the advocacy can literally shape the city around us.