Fighting Poverty with Passion
I work for a city wide collective impact children and youth collaborative. We work with individuals, organizations, and agencies in six focus areas – health & well-being, economic stability, learning, space and place, safety & justice, and youth voice. Working with a diverse set of stakeholders brings new challenges each day and requires strong relationships to move the work forward. One of my favorite lesson learned in reading through and experiencing the collective impact process is the importance of how intangible elements of relationships create change. As the FSG Sustaining Social Change two articles say, The beauty of collective impact is watching a diverse set of stakeholders, who may be previously unknown to one another, break bread at the same table – they share successes, failures, hopes, and dreams…the way people work together and the relationships they build with one another are critical to success.”
Currently in my third AmeriCorps VISTA term, I find tools from previous years of service being helpful to my current work and relevant to creating change at the speed of trust.
My first year of service in Michigan had me training community college students to be civic engagement coaches for middle and high school students. We learned about and taught our students the art of the One-to-One meetings through the Public Achievement program. The AmeriCorps VISTA program defines a One-to-One as a,”purposeful conversation with an individual to learn about their concerns, interest level, and resources. Focus on getting commitment to specific actions.” Beyond the tangible and specific actions are those intangible benefits of creating and building on good relationships.
There were three impactful one-to-one’s this month. I sat down with Tulance Center for Public Service Development officer Kate Shuman, New Orleans Kids Partnership’s Alex Becker, and 55 year civil rights activist and Pat Bryant. As AmeriCorps VISTA’s we have a unique opportunity to use our year to meet with experts in different fields to learn about their personal stories and pathways to a career. People want to share their experience and everyone has to eat lunch every day. VISTA’s goal should be to never eat lunch alone. In sitting down with Kate I now have deeper understanding of what the day in the life of a development officer is and her pathway from AmeriCorps VISTA to a career. After sitting down with Alex, we are now working together to film community meetings to share the insights from parents and youth throughout New Orleans. Pat shared principles of community organizing and stories of not just his life as a civil rights activists but of his parents and grandparents.
AmeriCorps service is equally about learning as it is doing. These past two years and two months have given me great confidence as a nonprofit professional and I owe my development to the people I have met along the way. I hope someday I can be as helpful to others as people have been to me.