The final marker of community transformation that we think about when we evaluate the impact in community is the development of community resiliency. Similar to community flourishing, resiliency is not an easy thing to track numerically. However, it is a critical layer for any healthy community.
Resiliency refers to the capacity to recover from a challenge, crisis or struggle. Communities that experience economic instability or poverty often contain factors that work against resiliency, so as resiliency grows, so does the communities ability to work through struggle together.
In Dolton, IL, where we collaborated with Rev. Lance Davis and New Zion Covenant Church on an affordable housing project, there is a great example of community resiliency growing as a result of the church’s efforts in the neighborhood. Dolton had suffered from a long term trend of disinvestment; people selling their homes and leaving for better economic and personal prospects elsewhere. However, as the church engaged in the work of redeveloping homes for affordable housing, and hiring employees from the community, neighbors took notice. One neighbor who had been attempting to sell her home to move elsewhere said If you all are investing in the community like this, then I want to stay and be a part of it. She took her house off the market. What an encouraging example of people growing in their intentions to invest in the social fabric of community.
Community resiliency could grow as long term residents of the community are honored, supported and allowed to lead well. When we see evidence of relational interdependence in the neighborhood, we are seeing the community become more resilient. In a recent conversation with a neighbor, they told me This is a great neighborhood, the neighbors are great. We just help each other, we will literally shovel each others…. Stuff. All humor aside there, this is resiliency at work. When a sewer line breaks and fills a basement with sewage, this is a neighborhood where people come together to help each other. That is textbook resiliency and the kind of thing that would evidence a growing capacity for neighbors to work together to solve problems and resolve issues. These are neighborhoods where people belong and people take pride in the place and the people in it.
Prayerfully, a social enterprise would contribute to the growing resiliency in your neighborhood. But beyond the enterprise doing work itself, the fact that you are launching an impact business in the neighborhood means that you will be an active agent in the life of the community and so reflecting on and investing in the development of a neighborhood that can fashion solutions together is a critical value. One of the hallmarks of all community development work is the commitment to work together with neighbors rather than do work for others. There are a number of reasons for this, but for our purposes today, this is of utmost importance because it calls us to see the work as something we are all in together. This is our shared home, and our future is a shared future. Not us and them…rather, we.
Where are you growing toward we in your neighborhood?