Larry James, a Baptist minister and PhD in history by training, on what he has learned in over a decade of working with the poor in inner city Dallas.
People possess the power, the capacity and the desire to solve their own problems, if they are given the resources they need and the opportunity they crave. People don't need help nearly as much as they need a chance. I bump into this reality every day.
"Find serious partners or you won't be long for this world." Nothing could be truer in the city, especially if your mission is community development.Paradigm:Positive:
Taking people seriously--whether as powerful, asset-laden members of a community of interest or as partners aligned to affect needed change--is the essential first step in any blueprint for community development. Community development is all about people and how we regard them. Once we come to regard "the poor" as valued participants in the process, our overall perspective changes in a radical way. When we regard our own assets and resources as gifts placed at our disposal only to be shared and combined with the gifts and the wealth of others, our ability to act in a brand new and amazingly creative fashion kicks in, to the surprise of everyone involved.Relocation:Reneighboring:
To be most effective in bringing about change in a community or a neighborhood, it helps if you live there.Compassion (Box 1)
And, we respond primarily with compassion. I mean, if you are passed out on my steps, your only responsibility is to keep breathing!Opportunity Creation (Box 2)
We make it clear to everyone involved in this stage of our work that we believe in the God-given talent, purpose and potential of every person. The challenge we all face is to use what we have and to see it increase.Advocacy (Box 3)
If in the opportunity creation phase of our work, we attempt to prepare people to play "the game of Dallas" by the current rules, in this part of our efforts we find ourselves questioning the rules of the game.What we must come to grips with is the fact that some community problems, shaped by poverty, are of such a depth and scale that effective responses demand public involvement marshaled for deployment at an equally grand scale.Sustainable Community Development:
People are even more important than funding. To sustain organizational life, work and a culture of creativity; you have to locate bright young, mission-focused men and women who will carry on after those of us who are longer of tooth move on!