Community Connectedness- How are we doing?

One of the easy pitfalls in social enterprise, and any kind of economic or community development initiative you might plan, is the temptation to engage the project ‘in’ a community, but all the while disconnected from it. Deep roots in a neighborhood are hard to come by but the fruit of such work is critical to the vitality of a venture. This isn’t something you can program so much as it comes through the long slow work of being a neighbor; listening well, caring for those around you, and for the issues those around you care about, etc. We’ve developed a few questions (well, quite a few questions actually!) to help you assess your group’s level of connectedness to a community. These are laws or statutes, but probing, and prodding, questions to enable you to reflect together on how well you live as part of the community you are engaging. Take some time and work through these as a group, we’d be happy to reflect on them with you as you have questions and are discerning next steps!

  1. People
    1. Who are your friends in the neighborhood and how long have you known them?
    2. What variety of people groups make up your neighborhood?
    3. Which do you have significant points of interaction with?
    4. What do people do for work?
    5. Describe a typical household.
    6. What makes you describe that household as typical?
    7. What causes people in your neighborhood to celebrate? How do you know?
    8. What are people afraid of/anxious about? How do you know?
    9. Where do people congregate? What are the shared interests that bring people together?
  2. History
    1. Share briefly the story of your neighborhood
    2. How did you learn this story?
    3. What are the features of your neighborhood that have stood the test of time?
    4. What are 3-5 of the most significant changes in your neighborhood over the last 30 years?
    5. When you consider the major struggles facing your community; what historical factors contributed to this? How do you know?
    6. What is the relationship between your neighborhood and the rest of your city?
    7. How has that changed over time?
  3. Institutions
    1. Make a list of the institutions in your neighborhood. Categorize them however you like.
    2. Who do you know in those spaces?
    3. What are their goals for the community?
    4. What are the opportunities for collaboration?
    5. What might make your project unique?
  4. Systems/Services
    1. Every community depends on high functioning systems and services; make a list of the systems and services that people have access to in your community…
    2. Which are working well? Why?
    3. Which are not working well? Why?
    4. What is missing that might contribute meaningfully to the flourishing of your community?
  5. Built environment
    1. Do you have an accurate mental map of your neighborhood?
    2. Asset map your community…assume the challenges are easier to see…what surprised you about the physical resources/assets in your community?
    3. Potential, its everywhere if we have eyes to see it. What things can your neighborhood build on, cultivate, etc?
    4. What aspects of your neighborhood contribute to a sense of security/safety for your neighbors? How do you know?
    5. What works against that sense of security/safety? How do you know?
  6. Personal Rhythms/Practices
    1. Make a list of ways you engage in your neighborhood day to day.
    2. Where do you spend your time?
    3. Where do you spend money?
    4. Is your leisure time spent in or outside the neighborhood? Why?
    5. Are your relationships (the people you spend your margin with) in or outside the neighborhood? Why?
  7. Reflection
    1. What questions do you have after working through this assessment?
    2. How would you gauge the extent of your existing engagement?
    3. Where do you want/need to invest more intentional time?
    4. How is this assessment informing your project? What is it affirming? What is it challenging?

About Adam Gustine

Adam Gustine leads CovEnterprises for Love Mercy Do Justice and the Evangelical Covenant Church. He is also the founder of Jubilee Ventures; an economic incubator in South Bend, IN. He and his wife, Ann, live in South Bend with their three kids.

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