Neighborhood Opportunity Network

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Looking Back, Moving Forward

Posted by brandnuheavy on March 14, 2011

Last Thursday’s Neighbor Corps session was split between reflecting on the past and planning for the future.  As was written about in an earlier post, many NC members participated in a Saturday leadership development session on personal power.  They wanted to share some of that energy with those unable to attend.  That sharing happened in the form of a “fish bowl” activity.  As with an actual fish bowl, those inside are insulated from those outside and thus the “insiders” have the freedom to pour out their thoughts and feelings without interruption.   And boy did they let it flow!  For Genet, Saturday’s session helped her to understand why people choose to, “nibble instead of grow.”  Victoria took away from the session that, “we can share our power without diminishing it.”  Andre noted that the session reminded him of how often he’s seen people,  “diminish others to make themselves feel better.”

In addition to sharing about the The Kernel of Power and Nibble Theory, “insiders” revealed some of the honest feelings that came up during the workshop about the PhotoVoice project.  Victoria mentioned that some NC members wanted to feel more ownership of the project.  Given the real feelings that came up about  the direction of the project and group autonomy, Thursday’s session provided an ideal moment to take a step back and examine the original framework of the Long Branch Neighbor Corps for continued resonance.

In a nutshell, the framework is:
1. Identifying times when we’ve each experienced effective community,
2. Practicing the identified “ways of being” within our group, and
3. Taking leadership to spread the practices to the larger Long Branch community.

Emiye said that the framework still worked for her and shared a story about employees at her sister’s job.  Those employees created their own edir which is an Ethiopian practice of communally pooling money to be used by community members in need.  Here was an example of an Ethiopian practice successfully transported to an American setting.  This model is at the heart of the Neighbor Corps project.

However, even with continued shared resonance around the Neighbor Corps framework, more discussion revealed other issues that Neighbor Corps members wanted to address.  Victoria and Emiye both felt like the team would greatly benefit from stronger relationships among team members.  As an example, Victoria mentioned that there were absent team members who were perhaps in need of support, but who had had no one reach out to them.  Even though Sebastian (IMPACT staffer) shared that he had been in touch with the absent members, her point wasn’t lost.

After polling the Neighbor Corps members present, it was decided that the immediate next step for the team should be to focus on relationship-building.  A small group of Corps members will meet before next session to discuss ways to strengthen relationships within the team.  Stay tuned to find out what this dedicated, innovative and powerful group comes up with!

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