Over the last few weeks, we’ve been looking at ways to measure the impact in our community through the work of enterprise and economic development. Central to our core philosophy at CovEnterprises is the idea that we ought to begin the work by identifying the impact we seek to make in the neighborhood and working from there. This helps us to resist prioritizing concepts and ideas in ways that end up harming long term potential impact—the very thing we started out to do in the first place.
The first two categories for community transformation we examined were opportunity and development. Taken together, these markers help us hold together the tension of seeking both individual and community transformation. These two are also categories of transformation that tend to be more suited to qualitative tracking. We can evaluate our impact based on effects that are tangible and observable.
But not everything of value that happens in a community can be tracked by numbers. In fact, on their own, numbers can create an illusion of success that might betray some hidden flaws. We started by talking about the areas we can track with data because we wanted to emphasize that because numbers are unavoidable as we evaluate our impact, it is crucial that we count the right things and count them the right way.
This week, we want to shift just a bit to consider the first of two categories that we use to evaluate impact that have a more qualitative nature. One reason these categories are more intangible is because they aren’t something any one person, group, or project could necessarily accomplish on their own. They highlight the entire community growing healthy which generally means that a community transformation project, like a social enterprise, will be one of a number of factors that influence these markers. That means that the work of enterprise and economic development will be, in its nature, collaborative and will pull us into celebrating, supporting and championing the good work happening in other sectors of the community.
One of these categories is community flourishing. The work of social enterprise should contribute to overall community flourishing and we might be able to specifically name ways we want to see that happen. A flourishing community is one of the ultimate goals of community transformation. A flourishing community is one with a vibrant church presence that can sustain a healthy spiritual environment for individuals and the community at large. A flourishing community can strengthen family structures. It helps resist trends of economic disinvestment. A community that is flourishing has necessary amenities needed for healthy neighborhood life; gathering spaces, green space, safety, access to essential needs, nurturing schools, etc.
No social enterprise can accomplish this work on its own. But every social enterprise that is authentically engaged in community ought to be able to name ways in which the neighborhood is working together to see these kinds of ends achieved. This challenges each of us engaged in this kind of work to prioritize the work of connecting, listening, submitting to our neighbors, partnering and collaborating with others. We can’t fall into the pattern of seeking our agenda against the agenda of the neighborhood. Because we are aiming for a flourishing neighborhood, one where God’s shalom is increasingly experienced by individuals, families and the community itself; its on us to hold our own agenda loosely and develop an awareness of God at work beyond our own front door.
So, what would it look like for your community to flourish?