Wisdom is Everywhere! And the quest of Qniversity in Lawrence MA is to bring all that good wisdom out so it can be well shared! And since February 2014 - when Qniversity opened its doors in a renovated Mill building on the Merrimack River - over 500 residents have come together to share passions, skills, ideas, advice and yes, wisdom with each other. And this past Labor Day yet a new dimension to the Q Campaign and Qniversity revealed itself: The Q-Mobile, a restored vintage 1960's Shasta Camper that has been transformed into a mobile Kitchen Table and Living Room.
We've been privileged to work deeply in the Edgewood Terrace community in Washington DC this past year with a dedicated team of residents and staff. Similar to many other long time affordable housing communities, we discovered a culture where people rarely make eye contact when passing a stranger, residents live on the same hallway for years and rarely speak or acknowledge each other, and few of the 2,000+ residents are connected to the active civic life in the larger neighborhood surrounding the complex.
Strategies for Leading in a Network Environment
If you had been with us last Saturday evening at the 10th Anniversary of Neighborhood Connections in Cleveland, Ohio, you would have been impressed by the extremely diverse crowd of over 400, the courageous stories of community innovation, the soulful expressions of hope and the clear indications of institutional and neighborhood commitment to change.
The Q Campaign at The Community Builders
Neighbor Night September 2013: The First Q Mixer At Cascade Village, Akron OH
“This Q Mixer was probably maybe- just about definitely - the best event I’ve ever been a part of at Cascade Village.” Joshua Moraghan, Cascade Village Senior Property Manager
Staff and residents of Cascade Village came together to plan, do outreach for and execute the first Q Mixer at the property on Thursday, September 19th 2013. It was called Neighbor Night, and it was attended by 42 residents. Prior efforts to attract residents to a “mixer” proved difficult with only a 3 residents attending the last one.
In our blog post on "Marketplaces" we described our firm conviction that poor communities need new kinds of marketplaces in order to reveal, generate and exchange the hidden value and capacity that already exists in people and place, and to connect those people and places to mainstream economic life.
Our daily work at Trusted Space Partners is to bring this conviction to life in partnership with community institutions and the private sector. Most efforts by foundations and non profits are programmatic or strategic "interventions" focused on a place, an issue or a population. These are - in many cases - wonderful "new seeds of change". The problem is that these seeds can be the wrong ones for the ground they fall on and often - as it says in the Bible - those seeds fall on on rocky soil - in communities where there is such disconnection and distrust that well designed and intentioned interventions die or yield minimal change.
Marketplace - 'The varieties of systems, institutions, procedures, social relations
and infrastructures where parties engage in exchange.'
One of the best kept secrets in the United States is the hidden wealth and value embedded in every community, even the ones considered to be “poor.” We treat struggling neighborhoods, and the people who live there, as one of our societies’ social ills that need to be fixed.
How many kids do you know by name in your neighborhood?
In early August of this year, in the Dorchester area of Boston, 4 young women sitting in a parked car were shot. Three of them died. At a funeral for one of the victims, Sharrice Perkins, Bishop John Borders of Morning Star church said this.."Violent Criminals are not afraid of police, of politicians, of jail. They are afraid of only one thing..the light. We have to expose the darkness. We must call names!"
The "light" that Bishop Borders refers to is about more than reporting criminals to authorities. It is about a community acting like a community.
In at least 90% of the meetings I participate in - be they community gatherings, task forces or staff teams - the dominate feeling in the room is fear. The fear ranges in levels of intensity and types for sure and includes fear of rejection, fear of losing, fear of domination, fear of looking stupid, fear of boredom, fear of losing control, fear of not understanding someone different than me. The list goes on and on.
But one result is common to all rooms filled with fear. They do not produce an abundance of creative ideas or spur on collaborative problem solving or joint action towards a shared goal. For most of my 30 year career in community development, I have been on a search for small, practical ways - ways that do not require a paid consultant or expert - to reduce the fear in rooms in order to support the development of a shared vision and action plan, one that sticks when the going gets rough.
While there is never a silver bullet strategy that works in every context, I do believe I have found a practical, simple way for sparking a shift in a fear-based social dynamic.