Neighborhood Opportunity Network

Supporting one another in a time of crisis

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Form Follows Function – An Honest Conversation

Posted by frankieblackburn on April 19, 2009

George Oyedele (lead organizer from Mercy Seat Chapel Church) and I had a direct, honest conversation in the bright sun this past Saturday, while waiting for our other door knocking friends. George has devoted significant energy and social capital – both recruiting fellow members of Mercy Seat Chapel and in going door knocking, as well as attending various planning meetings and trainings. He expressed some concerns about our collective capacity to follow up on all of the people we are engaging – to really achieve our shared vision of a strong, thriving neighborhoods.

As the Executive Director of IMPACT, a relatively small organization that has assumed the lead community organizer role in the Neighbors Campaign on a pilot basis- with no additional funding as of yet – I am keenly aware that we face serious limitations in realizing George’s dream.  However, my experience in helping build a more diverse network of neighborhood leaders in Silver Spring (See our web site: tells me that this vision does not happen over night and that it needs to evolve person by person, relationship by relationship.

At this stage in the process, I believe it is essential that we focus on function and not on form – meaning, let’s figure out how to find the next faith community (like Mercy Seat Chapel) and get some new recruits door knocking. It is definitely going to be messy, but a clear organizational  and capacity path will emerge when it is needed and when appropriate.

A major caveat if you are so inclined to donate: George is 100% correct in saying that we need more capacity….we need funds to pay stipends to door knockers who will go out repeatedly to build relationships in the targeted community and begin bringing these folks together. We also need funding for a full time organizer to support emerging leaders like George , or Jean Paul from the Parklane Apartments and the many  dedicated door knockers.  However, I have learned that you do not wait for the resources….you start knocking and working and doing the best you can do, with what you have. The resources will come.

Thank you George for raising this question – keep doing so….the conversation must continue.  I hope you will reply and post a comment so others can understand your views.

You and people like Patricia Rogers and Sara Reyes and Jean Park Goli are my unsung heros in Gaithersburg!!

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