Being the Change: How to Make Our Communities Better

Being the Change: How to Make Our Communities Better

This 2010 conversation with a long-term client about changing his community seems especially helpful today so we’ve reprinted it here:

Mark, what makes “changing your community” so important to you?  Should it be important to all of us and if so, why?

We live in an imperfect world.  I believe that if every person goes out of their way to put other individual’s needs ahead of their own, the world becomes a better place.  The ”community” can be defined in many different ways – neighborhood, city, planet, school, civic group, religious group, etc.  What is important to me is recognizing that I am a part of many communities and that I feel it is my responsibility to make constructive change within as many of these groups as I can.

It seems to me clear from an ethical and common sense perspective that it is an inalienable responsibility of all humans to be a responsible and giving community member.  We have the ability to shape or own destiny as a species.  We are capable of self evaluation, of rising above selfish and individualistic concerns.  I believe that working for the general betterment of our species and our planet is simply the right thing to do.

What would be included in “changing your community” for those of us who don’t think about it as much as you do?

Changing community is about solving problems.  Changing community is about celebrating life and allowing others to celebrate their lives.  Changing community is about allowing all people to reach their full potential. I believe in supporting organizations that provide fair and equal access to education, the arts, healthcare, a healthy planet and whatever contributes to any individual’s happiness (as long as that happiness is not acting to the detriment of others).  This could mean serving on a committee or a board of an organization.  This means acting responsibly as an individual each and every day.  It means supporting the “good work” of others with financial contributions, strategic brainstorming, and connecting like-minded individuals.  There are so many people with good will in their heart, with energy and perseverance I have found that one can achieve great things just by matching the talents and passion of the right person to the right cause.

For me changing community is being able to take stock of one’s actions periodically – if one does that, and can say that they made life better for other people and for the planet in a way that is broadly accepted as beneficial, one has been successful.

What are some of the things you are doing to take action in your community?

  1. Serving on several 501c3 boards.  Chairing a committee of one of these – working hard to help each achieve their mission.
  2. Fundraising
  3. Donating to a variety of organizations
  4. Connecting people with similar passions in community work so that they can find synergies and achieve their goals.  Networking in a way that boosts organizations I am not directly involved with.
  5. Providing consultation to people in a variety of not for profits regarding strategic vision, fundraising, etc .
  6. Setting an example for peers as to how good it is to be involved in the community by being open about numbers 1-5 above.

Are there secrets you have learned in the process that you want to share with everyone else?

For me the key is to decide what it is you care about most and then let that be your guiding light. In our family we base this off of our core values as expressed in a family mission statement.

Have passion, be persistent.  Work collaboratively.  Find the altruist in yourself and bring it out in others around you.  Those are the only “secrets” for me.

What is your commitment to this endeavor and are you seeing a return in better quality of life, safer surroundings, greater awareness and advocacy of needs?

I will be involved in this activity forever.  I see benefits from my work in a clear and direct way, largely because I choose to work with groups that are active within my region.  Doing global work is equally important but can make it harder to see tangible benefits.  It is easy for me to see the effects of my actions – being able to see the cause and effect of my work energizes me and propels me onward to do more.

What else would you say to the person reading this who still isn’t quite sure how they can make a difference in their community?

I would tell them to find a problem that they care about.  Everybody has one.  I would tell them to find a way to work with people who are experienced at effecting community change.  I would tell them to spend 50 hours working on this issue of their choice.  I would then have them look back and take stock.  If their effort is sincere and earnest, they will see success.

Readers, what changes would you like to bring about in your community?

John Christianson
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