Neighboring Tip of the Week – Acknowledge an issue your neighborhood struggles with, and then ask, “What gifts do I have that can address this issue?”.
This week, we’ve been thinking about a couple different tendencies that we think a lot of people, including ourselves at The Neighboring Movement, experience when encountering various neighborhood issues. First, it seems that there is a tempting human tendency to complain about neighborhood issues but not take action to help address them. Second, when addressing these neighborhood issues, it seems that there is a cultural tendency to look outside our neighborhoods to governing bodies and institutions. This tip seeks to address both of these tendencies – to give us space to start brainstorming how we, ourselves, can embody the change we seek. Along with this, this tip also really gets to the core of who we are as community developers, and not just community developers, but asset-based community developers. At The Neighboring Movement, we often talk about the gifts or assets within neighborhoods, but that is not to say that neighborhoods don’t struggle with issues; they do! It’s just that we start with the assets in order to help address the various issues.
We have broken this experiment down into what we think are six simple steps, and we hope these steps are helpful for you!
- Acknowledge that you are gifted. – For us, this is where it all starts. At The Neighboring Movement, we have always held fast to the beliefs that “every person is gifted and that when people use their gifts, they experience wholeness and the community gets stronger”.
- Make a list of some of your gifts. – We believe that you possess a ton of gifts, and we know that it would take a long time for you to write all of them down! For this experiment, just take a couple minutes to jot down the first ones that come to mind.
- Before even thinking about the specific issues, acknowledge that your neighborhood does not “have issues” but instead “struggles with issues”. – This step may seem like semantics, but we think that our language has a profound impact upon who we are as people and neighborhoods. Saying that your neighborhood “has issues” seems to imply that there is something inherently wrong with your neighborhood, and we don’t believe that to be true at all! Just like we at The Neighboring Movement believe ALL people are inherently good and inherently gifted, we also believe that ALL communities are inherently good and inherently gifted! If we are going to start seeing the world through a lens of abundance, we believe that this is where we have to start.
- Acknowledge that your neighborhood does indeed struggle with various issues. – While we do live in communities that are truly good, we must also acknowledge that our communities struggle with various issues, whatever they may be.
- Think of one issue that you and/or others see your neighborhood struggling with. – This issue may be more small-scale, like there’s trash in a few areas, there’s a couple empty lots, or there’s this one yard that doesn’t get mowed. Or, this issue may be more large-scale, like there’s the presence of racism, discrimination, gentrification, or crime. Whatever this issue may be, write it down, and do your best to name it honestly.
- Ask yourself, “What gifts do I have that can address this issue?”. – As you look at the gifts you named and then the issue you named, are there any that seem naturally related? Do any of your gifts seem related to the issue? Do any directly address the issue? If so, how might that look? How might you use your gifts to address the issue? We would encourage you to reflect upon these questions and to own your own agency and potency! You can make change happen, and you will!
This tip is a bit long-winded, so if you’ve read all of this, thank you for doing so! We wanted to draw the experimenting process out a bit more, and we hope that doing so is helpful. Above all, we hope this is an empowering practice for you!
As one final note, this tip brings to mind one of the most famous quotes from Mahatma Gandhi, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” In the midst of this rapidly changing period of human history, let’s own our power. Let’s be the change. Let’s be the Movement.