Bringing Capacity Building to Main Street

by J. Andrew Rodriguez Consulting

In communities across most of America, a small number of people are usually the most actively engaged in the civic culture. You’ve seen them. They are the same ones who vote, volunteer, organize school events, staff community festivals and sit on boards and committees. Maybe you’re one of them. But the vast majority of the community? Not so much.

If you believe this sounds like your community, these things are probably happening, all at once: 1) your engaged base is shrinking; 2) the people who do all this community work are getting burned out; 3) the people you should be reaching are being or feeling left out; and 4) the present state of your civic culture is not sustainable.

Here’s what it all means: You will not have enough people voting for school and municipal bonds. Potential donors will feel unconnected to the great work nonprofits do. People able to roll up their sleeves and volunteer will stay home because they don’t have relationships with organizations that need them—or if they do volunteer, they drift away because nobody engages with them.

For many communities, this is not the future. This is happening now. But it doesn’t have to be that way. If you’re interested in working to create transformative change in your community, let’s talk.

I can guide you to begin that transformation by starting with the basics: assessing who you are as an organization, defining what you want your future to be, building a culture of engagement, and developing the practices and the infrastructure to make it sustainable. This is where we start.

Why It Matters

Building your capacity to engage means developing your ability to successfully create relationships with all the people you represent and/or serve. It means expanding your ability and that of your organization to thrive by meaningfully nurturing and sustaining relationships throughout all sectors of your community.

Capacity building takes work, commitment and leadership. In most communities, neighborhoods struggle to do that work. That’s because capacity building is often seen by Main Street and the mainstream culture as work other people need to do if they want to be involved in community democracy.

But that mindset leads to a dead end.

You don’t need to consult a crystal ball to see the future. Just look at the demographics. You will see the voters, the donors, the volunteers, the candidates, the community leaders waiting to catalyze the community. In many communities, these are people living in marginalized, low-income, underrepresented neighborhoods. They may not share your culture, education level, socioeconomic class, or speak English as their native language. But they, too, are the engine of community democracy.

The capacity building journey of creating trust in the entire community doesn’t come with a roadmap. My job is to guide you along that journey, and help you recreate the vision and develop the resources for sustainable engagement. It really is all about relationships.

If you want people to put some skin in the game, trust the process and own the outcome; if you’re willing to do your work to make this happen; if you want to generate more engaged parents in the school system, more voters, more donors, more volunteers, more people willing to use their gifts to be part of the civic culture, then let’s talk.

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