One of the concepts that doesn't get taught enough when executing community impact projects is the concept of community assets. What assets does the community already has have? What are the talents and giftings of people in that community that could be activated? What expertise do they have and what can they do for themselves? Asking this question and taking to heart the answers separates the managers from the leaders - you either are just providing hirelings or you are engaging in the art of catalytic leadership.
The Ember Cast hosted a team from Towson Cru this weekend along with some of Emily's high school friends for a little project at The Well at Curtis Bay this past Saturday. We've loved the story and ethos of The Well and our last project last March was so fun, we knew this one would be good too. The Well hosted an artisan boutique giving people in the community an opportunity to sell their merchandise. This was, in founder and executive director Mandy's own words, an experiment and you know how we love experiments. Lots of great stuff was for sale at the boutique and it was a great opportunity for people in the community to connect.
This kind of thing was a great example of community assets. Unfortunately, it's all too easy for those of us in the suburbs to default to the thinking that people in less affluent communities don't have initiative, leadership, or tangible skills. This mindset continues to propagate when those of us that set up this kinds of projects don't teach the concept of asset based community development.
So next time you take students on a service project, ask the people that live there about their community assets, and listen. Even better, teach your kids to ask and listen too.