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.
I am a long time community builder and I am afraid to walk up and talk to a stranger on the streets. It is only human to feel afraid. What if the person ignores me or even worse, gets angry at me? What if the person needs something I cannot provide? What does this person think about people of my color and age and gender? What will they think when they find out that I do not live in this community?
Lots of organizations and institutions struggle with how to do effective "community engagement." And almost everywhere we go, the most common attitude we encounter is FRUSTRATION. Often times, we work to help our partners get in touch with the "WHY" of community engagement. We know that its generally a good idea to get folks involved in your stuff, but what are you really after? And is the 'community engagement' approach you are using really designed to get you those things?
Trusted Space Partners has been working In Cleveland Ohio with Neighborhood Connections, a component of the Cleveland Foundation to design and implement an innovative strategy to connect local neighborhoods and the anchor institutions in the Greater University Circle area.
The following is a re-post of a recent piece by Frankie Blackburn featured on the Boston Rising Web Site this past week:
At Boston Rising, we think of all Americans as part of a single class. We call it the “Rising Class.” The Rising Class is made up of those who, through their individual aspirations and their awareness of interdependency with each other, are the basis on which we build opportunity and growth.
As a member of the Boston Rising team, I believe that a huge inhibitor to “one Rising Class” or transformative community change is the underlying assumption that power is finite and that in any one community, some people will win and some will lose.
Thanks to Janis Foster Richardson of Grassroots Grantmakers who invited Trusted Space Partners to address almost 100 local and community funders from around the country in a 90 Minute Webinar February 21st entitled " Community Network Building: What It Is, What It Takes, and Why It Matters for Place-Based Funders". In follow up, we drafted some responses to the key questions put forth about Community Network Building by these community and local funders. See below. Also check out the Power Point Presentation used during the Webinar Presentation-Community-Network-Building-Feb-20-2012.
25 senior Community Network Builders’ from around the country converged in Miami this past fall to generate what they called “actionable knowledge” about what they do, how they do it and why they think this work is distinctive and impactful and needed now in struggling American communities.