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Lessons on the ground- Community Collaboration

(Series Intro) Last fall, we launched Jubilee Ventures in South Bend, IN. The hope was that our work on the ground would inform the way we direct the future of CovEnterprises, and vice versa. We wanted to create learning loops that allow us to not only champion best practices across the denomination but to apply innovative concepts and approaches on the ground.

All that sounds very exciting, but I’m learning that no matter how refined your concept, the work is always harder because it deals in real life (part of the reason we wanted to launch this anyway, to resist trafficking in ideas!). 

One of the harder parts of launching this enterprise was the challenge of…waiting. Not launching the business right away was probably one of the best things that we could have done, even though it was frustrating to do so. Not that we were sitting on our hands doing nothing. We spent the first 9-10 months focused on two things—strategic planning and community collaboration. Its this second focus point that this blog is examining. 

In the world of Christian community development, we talk all the time about collaborating with community partners and ensuring that we aren’t doing our work in a vacuum. But that is often easier said than done. For a great many reasons no doubt. But it is essential. One of the things that I found most helpful in this process was, because we weren’t ‘doing the work’ we could pivot and adjust based on the relationships and partnerships we were forming in the community. It helped us hone our business model and our impact niche (more on this next week). It also helped us work together with partners toward mutual benefit as opposed to merely attempting to get people on board with our ideas. 

I was often surprised at just how generous people are with their time and ideas when we came to relationship with honest desire for collaboration. Those things are a gift and opened doors for us to think through new ways of working out our mission.

I have partners and collaborators across the community and across the spectrum of what we do; the work itself, business operations, mission/impact, that I can call and learn from. This helps us figure out how what we do fits in the bigger picture of the work being done in our city. This leads us to next weeks’ topic.

So for now; who are you building collaborative partnerships with? Are you approaching those relationships with a sincere desire for mutuality or is there an underlying angle you are—maybe unintentionally— carrying with you? Who can you begin the long work of building partnership and trust with for the better of your community?

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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