Feedback and Door Knocks?
Posted by frankieblackburn on December 2, 2009
Why might I choose to write about the communication tool called “feedback” on a blog about reaching out to neighbors in need during this time of crisis?
Too often in community life, we enter moments of new connection projecting a specific warm feeling we hope to achieve. This projection – while totally understandable and real – can cause problems down the road. We are not mounting a huge campaign to knock on 10,000 doors, simply to connect people in need to an emergency service.
We need to make these door knocks count towards more systemic, permanent change in neighborhoods struggling to redefine themselves in a moment of huge demographic shifts. At the end of the day – perhaps three years from now – we hope to find at least 100 people of very diverse backgrounds actively engaged in helping lead change efforts in each of the three communities. We hope to be able to trace back and discover that – had it not been for a simple door knock back in 2009/2010 – these 100 people would not be connected and contributing.
Ok, you say – I get this, but why are you talking about feedback? Time and time again, we see well intentioned people of diverse backgrounds (and those of homogeneous backgrounds) come together in a spark of warm community glow and jump down a path to “improve the community”. They link up with others, start holding meetings and initiate action. Often, what happens early in the process is they encounter a moment of conflict with one of their new community friends or partners. It is usually over a small process step and doesn’t relate to their shared goal or an item of content. But, rather than confront their partner, they back away and give up; life is too busy and full to experience pain in the context of community. Or, in some cases. a person does challenge their partner, but does so in a way that pushes them away. They are left standing alone, trying to implement some grand community project with no help.
You have likely read about our joint initiative with HHS, MCCF and others to create Neighbor Corps, an effort to help diverse people build relationships of trust and the skills needed to weather the difficult human dynamics when we take on community change initiatives, especially across lines of difference. Below are pictures of the Wheaton Neighbor Corps going through an intentional “speed feedback” practice session with each other at a recent Saturday gathering. Just below the pictures is one of IMPACT’s six operating principles – the one dealing with active listening and feedback, with some practical tips. I hope this helps you, as you encounter natural difficult moments – and keeps you in the community change process. Let us know if we can share with you our stories of trying to practice feedback and other tips/tools to use.
Operating Principle #5
We actively listen, seek feedback, share honestly and acknowledge mistakes at every step of the way.
- Active Listening:
We focus on what others are saying, rather than thinking about our reactions to their ideas.
We ask clarifying questions when we are confused and do not understand.
- Seek Feedback and Share Honestly:
We check in with team members on a regular basis, using the following phrase: I need to check in with you about _____”.
We seek out and willingly receive other’s honest assessments and feedback of our own behaviors.
We offer our honest assessments and provide feedback when asked.
We carefully make requests for changes in behavior or a next step.