Many people work part-time, often from home. The dicey financial challenges that come with keeping up with mortgage payments call for creative thinking on how to use homes as productive and sustainable assets. Richard's book, Restoring Power to Parents and Places, addresses this challenge.A few years ago, with support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Rich studied how families in various parts of the U.S. use their homes and land for business and farming. One of the papers from that project has been published on the Casey Foundation's website. .
Productive Family Housing & Habitat
To the right: Richard with Prof. Alice Butterfield, Jane Addams College of Social Work, UIC, doctoral students from Addis Ababa University, and community work group members from the Entoto community in Addis Ababa.
To the left. This family in Addis Ababa makes injera, a traditional Ethiopian bread, and sells 500 units per day to local hotels. The family rearranged its small, 2-room home in order to make the most efficient use of its space.
Richard S. Kordesh, Ph.D.
Richard writes about, practices, and encourages family-generated community building. See his essay on this topic in the Oak Park Wednesday Journal. It's called The Community's Co-Producers.
The limits of consumerism: As families struggle to make their home payments and sustain themselves economically, they often face crushing levels of consumer debt that in many ways they were encouraged to take on. Community development approaches and policies that restore their productive capacities are needed more than ever. These would help to limit the over-emphasis
on their roles as consumers.
Recovering from Powerlessness through Productive Family Life
The economic dilemmas faced by many families are in important respects a result of a loss of power due to the fact that they don't produce or create much for themselves. Moreover, the over valuing of housing led many families to cash out and spend home equity that turned out to not really be there. The result is that their mortgages are larger than the current value of their homes. For millions, this unsustainable combination of powerlessness and the loss of home value has led to foreclosure and crisis.
An over-emphasis on being a consumer fosters dependency, vulnerability, and the loss of control of a family's life decisions. The family must function as a producer and creator as well. Consumption needs to be embedded within the the goal of restoring productive family life.
I am blessed to live in a place where community really matters. In Oak Park, lots of people work in many, varied ways to make this village a diverse, highly participatory, and yet densely integrated place where friendships overlap with institutional affiliations and civic activities. I see people I met while I was coaching youth baseball for over ten years in the late 90s and early 2000s. I reminisce with parents about those years and catch up with news of their now young-adult sons and daughters (I coached the sons, and many of the little sisters attended the games). I'll see them at the Farmers' Market or at local stores. Now, I am on the board of the rapidly expanding Sugar Beet Cooperative. At the core of this network are families in northeast Oak Park, many of them of the same age now that I was while coaching. It's fun and warming to get to share important concerns about food and sustainability with them, while getting to know their little ones! Then there is the church choir in which Maureen and I sing. Some of the choir members are also supportive of the Sugar Beet; those represent more overlapping interests. Our Village and civic organizations regularly sponsor festivals, fairs, and other events that reinforce ties with old friends and open opportunities for new contacts. Local print and electronic media provide many accessible forums for expressing views and updating events. As planners like to say, "place matters," and in Oak Park, a lot of good work goes into fostering, encouraging, and celebrating our crisscrossing civic and social relationships.
Richard is proud to have served until Fall, 2011 as Board President of the North Lawndale Employment Network(NLEN), a first-rate nonprofit helping residents of this Chicago neighborhood, including many ex-offenders, overcome barriers to employment. NLEN is the parent corporation of Sweet Beginnings, LLC, which produces urban honey and sells honey and personal care products under its trademark label, Beelove.
Red potatoes grown in our backyard garden
"In laying the foundation for a global movement ... this book succeeds beautifully, and Kordesh provides concrete advice for all the players needed to make it happen – parents, community organizers, and policy makers."
Parents as Co-Teachers
The spectrum of possibilities for educational reform must be expanded to embrace the roles of mothers and fathers as teachers. Two of the main vectors in education reform, one which celebrates homeschooling and the other which advocates comprehensive, all-day schools, tend to talk past one another. Richard has worked with both sides on this issue. He and his wife home schooled their sons during middle school in collaboration with their public school. He has also funded, has helped to plan, and has written about making formal schools into collaborative centers for productive family and community engagement.
From the ForeWord Review's Five-Star rating of Richard's book:
"This book represents a serious study of the causes of and possible solutions to the loss of parental power in modern American society ... Those involved in supporting the growth of family-based productive activities, especially parents, educators, and community and political leaders, will benefit from reading this book."