Inaugural Sweet Water Academy Immersion with MIT CREATE

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The work of Sweet Water Foundation and its practice of Regenerative Neighborhood Development is rich, complex, multi-layered, chaordic, and rooted in community. The practice offers accessible and eco-logical solutions to 21st century urban challenges and endless lessons spanning the academic disciplines of agriculture, architecture, culture, design, ecology, social enterprise, and more. However, SWF’s work and the practice of Regenerative Neighborhood Development cannot be taught from afar, it must be experienced. Thus, the introduction of Sweet Water Academy Immersions. Sweet Water Academy Immersions engage students, faculty, and staff from colleges and universities in intensive, short-term, live-work experiences with the Sweet Water Foundation community and its practices. 

In partnership with MIT CREATE, the inaugural Sweet Water Academy Immersion took place over a 2-week period in June (June 9-22) and culminated with SWF’s Second Annual Juneteenth Celebration at The Commons.  The MIT CREATE team, led by CREATE co-founders and MIT faculty John Kennedy and Kate Mytty, included 3 MIT graduate students in Architecture and Urban Planning and 1 graduate student of Public Health-Epidemiology at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center.

The first two days of their Immersion consisted of an intense “disorientation” to Sweet Water Foundation and The Commons. MIT CREATE participants worked side-by-side with the SWF team, engaging in daily agriculture, carpentry, construction, and culinary activities as well as supporting SWF’s weekly educational field lessons, tours, and volunteer days. They literally got their hands dirty to bring the experience of Regenerative Neighborhood Development to life through shared work, dialogue, and the breaking of bread. As the SWF and MIT teams got to know one another, the possibilities for collaboration, skill sharing, and co-learning emerged. The SWF team worked with each student to identify an immersion project based on their individual interests and skills and SWF’s needs. In the days that followed, MIT CREATE participants spent mornings and early afternoons working alongside the SWF team followed by reading, discussion, and project work into the evenings.  

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Sweet Water Foundation’s dynamic community ensured a memorable experience. Immersion participants engaged with a wide range of SWF community members from local apprentices, peer mentors, and mentors, to SWF Summer Fellows from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design and Ashoka University, to SWF Human-in-Residence and MacArthur Fellow, Rick Lowe.  A highlight of the experience included a farm-to-table dinner on June 19th with special guest, Danny Glover, to celebrate Juneteenth in advance of SWF’s public celebration on Saturday, June 22.  Mr. Glover, a long-time friend of SWF, flew directly to Chicago after providing testimony on reparations before Congress to enjoy Resident Chef Mama Betty’s home cooking and celebrate Juneteenth with the Sweet Water family.

The inaugural Sweet Water Academy Immersion with MIT CREATE successfully set the precedence for future immersions. SWF extends gratitude to immersion leaders and participants and looks forward to the next MIT CREATE-SWF collaboration in the near future.

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Courtney Hug