by Susan Jakes
Work in communities often begins with one person’s or a small group’s inspiration – it could be from concern over some unmet need in the community, inspiration from what others are doing, or an idea of what could be. When these ideas come to individuals or small groups, the leaders must set about getting others on board; to expand capacity, the skill pool, time resources, financial assets to make something happen. This is a critical stage in transforming communities – getting others involved!
Many times we are timid about inviting others to join in on our ideas. Our experience tells us, it’s easier to do things ourselves. This may be true at first, but bringing in partners is necessary for long term success and sustainability. To build our ideas, we must grow through the transitional difficulties of new capacity and input, this often involves building capacity to articulate our story, boldly invite, and authentically include others in the work.
There are reasons we don’t boldly invite others to join us. 1) When we include others we may have to let go of some of our ownership to give others room to lead. 2) The more diverse voices are included, the more we will need to be open to new ideas and ways of doing things. 3) We may not want to impose on others by asking for things. 4) We may know what we want, but have not developed skills and plans for communicating it to others. 5) We are moving so fast, we fail to stop and look past the next firehose.
If the idea is important, then it is worth boldly inviting others and then making space for them to join in the work. This means we have to first communicate what we are trying to do. We need to be able to articulate the story of how we got to this point, what we would love to see happen, and what role others could have in that work. Understanding our stories takes work, first we have to stop, remember, listen to others and record it on paper or otherwise.
If others are going to join us, we need to create space for their leadership and ownership. This is where we move beyond asking others to “buy-in” to our plans and ideas, but to become joint owners – partners – in the work. This step takes humility and flexibility as each partner will bring their own motivations and ideas. It will take patience to learn together as others work from their ideas and experiences.
Lastly, it takes bold humility to ask others to join. To find the right partners, you have to seek others for their gifts. The 20% of people already doing all the work in communities have already been recognized for their gifts. The needed skill is in recognizing the gifts of others that are not being already invited and included; engaging voices that my not jump in on their own, but are waiting to be recognized.
This is the bold invitation that your community deserves – when new voices are humbly invited to own and create change. This is the invitation that will transform our communities for all people.