Posted by frankieblackburn on October 5, 2010
When we first embarked on the Neighbors Campaign (now referred to as the Neighborhood Opportunity Network Initiative), we often referred to the effort as one in which we were building the plane while flying it. Along the way, we discovered that some of us had slightly different (or very different) ideas of our destination and some of us were not even on the same plane.
So, in an effort to move closer to a shared vision of change, the key leaders of this initiative spent 16 intense hours together during the month of September, building relationships, sharing specific visions, crafting common goals and outcomes, making requests and negotiating with each other around how to share our power and our love, going forward. (see blog post on our use of a Power and Love framework! I highly recommend it.)
- We are making progress! Yes we are!
We are pleased to report that we not only agreed on a common vision and destination, we also agreed on specific milestones we want to reach along the way and on how we will talk about this journey with others. (See the outcomes framework, posted on the blog). This is no small feat, given that the group of 18 people included social services providers from government and three large nonprofits, a faith community liaison, diverse community organizers and a local funder. (see list of participants posted under the resource section of the blog).
We are all committed to and can actively communicate about four outcomes:
- Residents and Service Professionals are Co-Investors in Neighborhood Opportunity Networks
- Real and Sustainable Access to Services
- Thriving Neighborhood Centers
- Thriving Neighborhood Networks of Mutual Support
Envisioning proposed outcomes in real life; how will it work?
As one of the designers/organizers of these 16 hours, here are some of my reflections. By the way, three others have been asked to share their reflections, each from a different participant perspective.
Some things we did right:
- Insisting on an 8 hour session on a Saturday and insisting on meeting weekly for three weeks – time, space and momentum.
- Asking a sub-team of diverse perspectives to prepare a draft framework.
- Providing a healthy mix of relationship building and taking action.
- Creating welcoming environment for each session, with lots of subliminal messaging on the walls (big grin!).
Some things I would change:
- Participants went door knocking together prior to the beginning of the sessions.
- Neighbor corps graduates and community connectors participated, in some shape or form.
- Holding each meeting in each of the three Neighborhood Center sites.
- Creating better documentation of comments, stories and reflections – as the process unfolded.
My biggest new awareness:
- You can’t expect things from people and institutions if you do not make a clear request.
- People are more capable of opening up than we give them credit for.
- In group process, let everyone speak, going around the room one by one.
My most joyful moments:
- When a key leader and partner on the direct services side said, I have been moved from thinking it is more about neighborhood networks and less about services.
- When one the people more resistant to the group process said, I really like the posters on the while; they kept me grounded when I couldn’t focus on the discussion.
Posted in Asset Allies, Community Connectors, Community Network Building, Coordinators, Door Knocking, Economic Empowerment, Empowerment Circles, Gaithersburg, Long Branch, Neighbors Exchange, Nonprofit Partners | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Alix Nunan on September 21, 2010
Last Tuesday, I asked some participants how they ended up at Tuesdays Together what they like to do there. Only problem–no one wanted to stop talking about how great Tuesdays Together is once they’d started! Here are some of the responses I got:
Roxana: I came to Catholic Charities to find information about a job and I met Megan, and she asked if I wanted to work with IMPACT Silver Spring–not for daycare but for “nightcare.” I met new people every Tuesday. I met lots of people who are gone now, like Bob and Samantha, and I hope they come back! Each week with the kids we’ll watch a movie or go to the playground or play games.
Manuel: I knew about Tuesdays Together because of Megan. When I started working for Community First, part of LEDC, I was invited to work at a food collection day. Megan was the first person I met, and she invited me to Tuesdays Together. I’ve gotten quite a few clients from people I’ve met; I have some people who can give them the basics of financial education, basic things like importance of having an account, importance of having insurance, importance of having savings… We also have a program where we help people start their credit. Actually, three or four people from here have been able to get a loan from LEDC. There have been a few occasions when people from here have dreamed to have a small business, so I transferred them over to LEDC which actually teaches a class and explain to them what is the best way to begin their business. We have people who want to send money back to their loved ones in other countries and they do that through our organization! Through Megan, we learned more about our organizations, so when I have clients that might want to be involved with IMPACT, I send them to Tuesdays Together or to Megan, and she sends clients to me. It’s like a big family of favors. People who have come to Tuesdays Together and keep coming to me, they feel comfortable to come over to me when they need a job, when their family needs help. I like it because it’s not just about bringing business to my organization, but helping people.
Cordelia: They put one of those door-hangers on my door that said “Sorry that we missed you,” and I said, “Hmmm,” and gave it a try. That was back in May. I liked it, so I kept coming back. We go around the circle and say your name, where you’re from, and one good thing that happened to you that week. Then we break out into our circles. I’m with Anh in the workforce group. One week she did a nice thing on a long piece of paper about culture, your family, your neighborhood and what you can do to better your impact. Unfortunately today’s going to be our last day. Some people are going to go to part of a Wheaton Workforce program for health care, and some people are going to go to a Tech circle. We don’t stay in here always, sometimes we go on picnics, take the kids to the playground, go to IMPACT in Silver Spring. I’m growing with this organization, learning, learning, learning.
Elvia: I found out from a friend that mentioned that IMPACT was here and meets on Tuesdays, but I didn’t have the time. Then one Tuesday, I had a friend who’d hurt his hand I and brought him to Catholic Charities, and then I saw a bunch of people on this side of the building from Tuesdays Together. They invited my friend and me to come. It’s been about a month and a half since I came that first day. When I came then, I told everyone in the mutual support circle my situation, that I was looking for a job, and I got my first customer already, cleaning houses. I always go to mutual support. I like it, but I’m looking forward to moving to another group to meet more people. For the time being I’m going to stay in mutual support, but in the future I’ll go to the English class. My favorite thing about coming here is that I can get away from the things I do on a daily basis, not only to meet people, but to be able to share my story with a group that understands and listens.
How did you learn about the Neighborhood Opportunity Network? Share your story with us, too!
Posted in Door Knocking, Empowerment Circles, Stories, Tuesdays Together, Wheaton | Leave a Comment »
Posted by anhptran on September 7, 2010
We started with islands. Cordelia, Ade, and Woyine.
Who can connect you to someone else? As a network guide at IMPACT, Abebech can connect Cordelia and Woyine, building new networks. Abebech becomes a bridge on the network map.
Who can connect you to someone else outside our circle? Barbara mentions her neighbor Ian. Ian, formerly an island on our map, is connected to Barbara and now connected to others in the circle.
While the focus of last week’s session was on building bridges to new networks, we have seen the value of building bridges within our circle over the last few weeks. In the mutual support circle, Cordelia mentioned the need for rental insurance in her apartment. Lyn offers her suggestions, and offers a connection to help her with low rates.
Last Tuesday, Woyine even brought her sister, Beli. Beli brought along her two friends, Amy and Meseret to visit our circle. We witnessed the power of building new networks in the room, making new connections to our existing map. Mary Okech mentions, “I feel comfortable because it is easy to share our needs.”
Join us tonight at Tuesdays Together, 12247 Georgia Ave., as we continue to add to our networks and develop a personal pitch to share our gifts and talents.
Posted in Economic Empowerment, Empowerment Circles, Tuesdays Together, Wheaton | Leave a Comment »
Posted by anhptran on August 18, 2010
At our last session at the tech circle, we brainstormed ways to stay connected with each other. From Tuesdays Together in Wheaton to computer class training at Quebec Terrace community center in Long Branch, each person offered opportunities and resources to build skills and keep in touch.
In 5 gatherings in July, we opened “e-mail accounts, learned Spanish and English, and interacted with people from different cultures.”
We feel more “excited, and more comfortable to connect and communicate” online. The group is asking for more time together. Catch us back together offline in about a month with our network guides taking the lead to facilitate this tech circle.
Will you join us? What ideas do you have? Let us know.
Posted in Empowerment Circles | Leave a Comment »
Posted by chriswilhelm on August 13, 2010
During the Monday, August 2 session of the Essex House English Learning Circle on Maple Avenue in Takoma Park, we practiced English by talking about our own personal gifts and talents. Ana Guevara, who has lived at Essex House since emmigrating from El Salvador three years ago, said her talents were cooking and taking care of children. We then made a map of our community in order to examine all of the different places where we need to use English during our daily lives. We decided to use the map to focus each class session on a certain location and the English phrases and conversations that might take place there.
Next session, while discussing English phrases related to health and medical care, Ana told us that she was a doctor’s assistant in El Salvador for fifteen years before moving to the US! Talk about gifts and talents! We used Ana’s experience working in the medical field to practice simple conversations that might take place between a doctor and a patient.
Posted in Empowerment Circles, ESOL, Long Branch | Leave a Comment »
Posted by anhptran on August 11, 2010
“I’ve been working for 21 years at Navy Exchange and I love it.” -Cordelia
“I love babysitting, and raised over 20 children, 2 are now in college.” -Mavis
Last night, 16 women joined a conversation about workforce. After introducing ourselves to our neighbors at Tuesdays Together, the group gathered in the backroom to talk about our diverse work experiences.
Barbara tells us the story of her love for fashion design. Back home in Jamaica, Barbara created a school to teach others about fashion design. One of Barbara’s students even started her own business. Barbara is interested in ways to empower others, and someone in the circle suggested “you should teach the group.” In a moment of mutual support, Barbara asked for support with Spanish lessons too.
The highlight of the evening happened towards the end. As Afi talked about her need for a job, Lynn immediately raised her hand. Earlier that day, Lynn has received a job opportunity, but it wasn’t a good fit for her. Instead, the job would be a great fit for Afi.
We’re beginning to see the power of the network in place. How do you build your personal network? Join us next week at Tuesdays Together, from 6pm-8:30pm at Catholic Charities, 12247 Georgia Ave., as we continue to explore our personal networks and build skills for jobs.
Posted in Economic Empowerment, Empowerment Circles, Tuesdays Together, Wheaton | Leave a Comment »
Posted by katieschmahl on August 10, 2010
Over the past weeks, I have witnessed an abundance of amazing connections in Gaithersburg and wanted to share a few with you all:
First, we’ve had a wonderful leader emerge from the community named Mustafa who started coming on Thursday nights because Kim and Bill told him about it in their yoga class! Since then, he has started a Spanish and English conversation class that is an informal and comfortable setting where people feel safe enough to practice their language skills and it’s growing each week! Last night there were 6 of us from all different countries: El Salvador, Ecuador, Korea, Colombia, US, and Bangladesh!
A new addition, Marta, who works for Family Services, was a former teacher in Colombia and volunteered to help Blanca write in Spanish and English outside of the class! Blanca, the childcare provider for our Thursday night meetings who thought she didn’t know any English at the beginning of the class, realized when we wrote down all the words she knew, that she actually did know a lot! She’s going to invite her friends next time!
Secondly, two women, Phyllis and Noelia, that we met while doorknocking, met each other at the last Neighbors Exchange. They found out that they live across the street from each other, and with Noelia being a recent immigrant from Peru who could not speak or understand any English, Phyllis invited her to her house to learn English by using an online computer program through the Gaithersburg library. Through this connection, Noelia is learning English and how to use a computer for the first time, and Phyllis feels good that she is able to help out a neighbor!
Way to go neighbors!!
Posted in Empowerment Circles, Gaithersburg | Leave a Comment »
Posted by soriasoria on July 22, 2010
Great fresh fruit and vegetables for our neighbors!
Wednesday July 21, 2010 was our fourth visit to The Crossroads Farmers Market. What stared as 15 one on ones has grown to more than 50 personal contacts with our neighbors from Long Branch. Alicia our Network Guide from Long Branch was there connecting with new neighbors and talking about Impacts work in the community, Small business circles, ESOL and Tech Circles. Alicia has demonstrated her passion and desire to support and empower our neighbors day by day.
One line of neighbors one connection.
We made a great connection with Jose Lopez a neighbor from Long Branch selling ice cream and sodas of his van parked behind the market, he asked support on how to open his own business and be able to sell all over the neighborhood his delicious ice creams. Connection made through our Small Business Cohort and Jose will be meeting with us next week in Quebec Terrace.
Drums, Diversity, Desire
Its great to see how community is coming together and supporting each other in the most unique ways. Everyone is aware of the tough times but when you connect one on one with our neighbors the response is the same one ” We have to come together and support each other” its great to hear this from neighbors in the community and see how one group of people can create a space where everyone comes together as one big family.
See you next week, bring your recycled bags and buy does delicious peaches.
Posted in Community Connectors, Community Network Building, Coordinators, Economic Empowerment, Empowerment Circles, ESOL, Long Branch, Stories | Leave a Comment »
Posted by katieschmahl on July 7, 2010
New and old friends!
After a flurry of door knocking around Amity Drive (about 300 doors!) and a Neighbors Exchange last week (about 15 people came!), we got together in our NEW space in Gaithersburg on Thursday night.
We welcomed the new faces that we met at the Neighbors Exchange and got a tour of the facility (Building 630 of Family Services) from Tom Harr, the executive director of Family Services. Then, through our mutual support circle, we discovered that a lot of people needed jobs, wanted to practice or learn English and Spanish, needed health insurance, and wanted to start a cooking class!
So in our last 10 minutes, we paired up those who wanted to have a language conversation in one group, and those who wanted to talk about health care options with Kathie Evans, our resident expert on the Kaiser Permanente Bridge Plan. From that night, the language conversation group decided they wanted to start meeting on other nights and so they met again on Tuesday night!
Come join us every Thursday night at 630 East Diamond Ave. in Gaithersburg from 6-8pm!!
Posted in Empowerment Circles, Gaithersburg | Leave a Comment »
Posted by anhptran on July 7, 2010
Last Thursday, we gathered neighbors at our new home for our tech empowerment circle-Upgrade Together. Neighbors from Long Branch and Wheaton met to connect and learn about computers, from using Craigslist to exploring e-mail.
For Judith, she learned to write an e-mail for the first time. For Abebech, she expressed more confidence using computers and wanted more time to read and check her e-mail. Their teacher? Abebech’s 17-year old stepdaughter, Mahlet, volunteering with the Neighbors Campaign this summer.
We’re meeting tomorrow from 6pm-8pm and for the remaining Thursdays in July at 825 Wayne Ave. Join us!
Posted in Empowerment Circles, Long Branch, Wheaton | Leave a Comment »