Another cycle comes to an end. The 30th week of 2017 has brought insight and surprise into my life. Digesting the events this weekend will be fun. Imaginations are getting ready for take off!
I’ve logged some hours with the communities that I’m working with and I’m doing my best not to pick a favourite but alas, this was decided long before I even began, featured picture).
I’ve decided to the deem the rest of the communities as peripheral communities. These peripheral communities are built on the community that I have grown to love and appreciate. The vibrant ecosystem that gives Cape Town its world class beauty.
This week, I’ve noticed this beauty fold into different dimensions. Emerging in the people that have made their homes here. Of course, in the harsh terrain that most of the communities have cultivated for themselves, the rarity of human beauty is a little saddening.
Thankfully, the revolution is well underway. Cultures are mixing and mingling. Mindsets are changing as their owners feel the impact of their choices. Political leaders dig their own graves and push individuals into radical states. Communities tying events together in increasingly autonomous ways.
I’m intrigued by the sheer force that this city (Cape Town) has. The individuals that trigger the mechanisms may or may not be oblivious to their contribution but the physical structures make it plain for any African to see. Especially if they’re from a small town, like me.
So this weekend, as I think about learning styles, I’ll also be thinking about the rate of integration in local communities.
I like to strive for perfection, even though its rare to achieve, what with being human and all. I’m learning not to let this hold me back though, recalling a lesson shared by my family before I left home, “Start with what you have”, I’m just going to dive in.
I think that the most admirable profession is teaching. I don’t have to back that up but I will if I have to, after all teachers are the ones who give us the tools to free our minds. I also think that as a society, we could do more to show our appreciation for the men and women who dedicate their lives to shaping the future from an institutional perspective.
Along with the healthcare system, I strongly believe that the education system deserves more attention from the people who can make a difference in our world. I intend to make a difference myself and if all goes as planned, this will be my little contribution to the story of our species.
Ideas aside, the reality of the system is that its best to be qualified when dealing with the education system. A lack of knowledge can do more harm than good, however well-meaning the intentions are. There’s a lot at stake in that environment.
Because of this, I’ve taken a backseat regarding the education system and decided to gain some experience in a more sandbox type of environment. The private sector.
Having never really been a fan of capitalism (mainly because I didn’t agree with the motives behind the methodologies), I had avoided this section of reality like the plague as much as I could. Looking back, this was pointless…our lives are based on a whole system, capitalism included. I might as well embrace my demons.
For-profit community development.
People are people, whichever sector they’re in. Hopes and dreams aside, humanity must exist at some level. As I engage, I’ll keep you updated on my progress.
I have found myself neck deep in a community of strong-willed individuals. Individuals with a strong sense of what they want in life and a pretty good idea of when/how they’ll get what they want. Most importantly, who they’ll hire to make this happen as quickly as possible.
A community of entrepreneurs
The entrepreneurial spirit, a pillar of the human mindset that has had many names, is being adapted for the current times and even though it has mostly been used to further corporate goals, there are instances where people are using it for social development. The inevitable merging of the public and private sector means that there’s a shift of this mindset from business to social development. I’m excited to watch this happen, especially here in South Africa with it’s built-in freedom and abysmal education system.
So on that long winded note, I focus on today’s task. One on one communication with business owners on Long Street. Sure, I’ve done some trial runs, getting a feel of the people who own property and businesses, finding out more about their role in the community, in Cape Town and in South Africa. The residents too, playing a key role in how people perceive Cape Town, have just as much power as the business owners…the question is, do they know this?
Armed with a clipboard and an important notice, empowered by prolific community advocates and their ‘never-give-up’ attitude, I will be walking door to door. The aim of the conversations will be to increase the sense of community. A sense of connection between the businesses and the physical spaces that their customers use.
I’m not the first to do this and I doubt that I’ll be the last but this experience will propel my understanding of the dynamics of human relationships in South Africa. This small section of the economy is a first template as I delve into the business of social responsibility and human nature.
Time management has never been my strongest suit. Short-term planning makes me feel anxious about having perfect outcomes and long-term planning inevitably ends up with my mind in some new kind of Utopia. Taking the time to think about a few details helps me steal time from my procrastinating self. As a resource, time is the most precious, depending on how you use it. Its management is not a talent, so it must be a skill. So, before the spreadsheet is populated, these are some thought-points I’ve gathered to help me shift into time managing mindset.
The community that you’re doing your work in has its own traditions. Whether these traditions are centered around religious events or artistic festivals, each community beats it drum to the pulse of its specific geolocation. Consider the climate and weather conditions when choosing to attend/host events.
Cape Town’s summer is an ideal time to host pool/beach parties for young entrepreneurs who don’t conform to the suit and tie crowd.
Roles and regulations
In a community, like any system, there are functioning units that have specific roles and responsibilities in the community. I thought that I would have to organize everything from the groundup when I started my community service but after a few burnout episodes, I accepted that there were organizations that were designed to handle specific community needs, such as safety and security, sanitation and other services that I used to take for granted. Also, importantly, there are regulatory bodies for the deliverers of these services.
It might be a good idea to sift through the SAPs and Community Policing Forum calendar for public participation meetings that allow you to introduce yourself to community leaders.
These would be the stakeholders.
They are the ones that ultimately sign off on the calendar. Share it!
Depending on your strategic goals, some events are IMPORTANT and having bold lines is a good visual stimulant to prepare for those events.
Fortunately for the forgetful, phones have reminders. I have come to terms with having to add reminders to add events to my calender as well as having my calendar remind me of the event well beforehand. A checklist for the event was prescribed at some point, I’ll get round to trying it out at some point.
Reorganising and resecheduling
Life doesn’t always go according to plan. So plan for that. Even though it can be a little embarrassing when key individuals cancel a meeting (it happens), I try to take it in my stride and remembers to respect other people’s time by requesting it in advance.
It’s clearly a budget, it’s got lots of numbers on it – George W. Bush
Prescribing solutions to community challenges can be tempting. Especially after watching melodious YouTube videos that advertise an organizations ability to organize a community with Colgate smiles as proof of their claims. We all have a Facebook diploma in some field.
The reason I advocate for direct relational experience is that it’s a strong reminder that a community is, essentially, a big human.
Hundreds of individuals who live/work in a specific location. They may never interact but their goals are ultimately linked to each individual fulfilling their chosen role in that community. If we’re going to be pedantic, then let’s go with thousands of individuals.
If, like me, you’re looking for a human-centered approach then keep your eye out for the humans who are most invested in the communities you’re hoping to develop. Everyone has a specific skill and it isn’t up to you to perform all the tasks.
Next, first step
First things first, admit that you’ve seen the need. Your entrepreneurial mentality is a wave that you’ve ridden to get a meeting with the right people. But now you’re on dry land and if you want to make progress then you need to learn to work with other humans.
What are the foundations of your passionate desire to make a change?
Is there a need?
Essentially, a community developer is selling a problem. Selling a solution was the first mistake I made. I realized that I was selling my idea of a solution without fully understanding what the community needs are. I quickly lost a lot of energy when I saw key players shying away from their responsibilities (responsibilities that I had prescribed in my fervor to make tangible change) and forgot to establish a mutual understanding between stakeholders.
Write it down!
Once you’ve grasped that understanding, write it down. Make it real. I’m still working on this myself and reading sections of the book below, I’m learning how to put word to thought.