I have learned that getting to the heart of community partnerships is actually a relatively easy move. It is staying there that is hard.
Every person who works with communities- either as a social worker or teacher or youth worker or community organizer or as afterschool staff or nonprofit director or any of dozens of other roles- is inherently positive. It is in the very essence of people who do community work to be positive, and that is the heart of community partnerships: Positivity.
Before you hem and haw at that idea, take a minute to think about why you do the work you do. Why do you want to change the world? Why do you work with youth? Or anybody else? It is because you believe the world can be a better place than it is right now. You believe people can live better than they do now. You believe in a positive future, even if you have never named it that.
So now that you have acknowledged that you are positive, let’s get to reality: It is hard to stay positive.
It may seem like we work in unfair circumstances. We are measured against by roughshod accountability goals and half-thought through outcome reporting; we operate from hyper-standardized programs in hyper-diverse communities; we are driven by bombastic community leaders or motivated by hateful, hurtful community depression and abuse. It is a tough reality that many of us face everyday. For young people, the situation is even more dire, as you face a dire future in an apparently ungrateful society that seems hellbent on forgetting your importance to their well-being.
BUT, and that’s a BIG but… There is hope, and its all around us. More importantly, there is a better reality facing us right now: That is YOU.
Your postivity is the heart of community partnerships. It is the heart of empathizing deeply with every client, ally, partner, friend, and partner you have, need, or want in your community. By speaking your positivity out loud you will inspire others to connect with you deeply, and by acting out your positivity consciously you will demonstrate the practical power your community wants and needs right now.
So spend time connecting with that part of you that believes deeply in what you are doing, and name its positive powerful potential. Then get to work building the partnerships you know your community needs today and in the future.