BY JENNY TOTTEN, COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT COORDINATOR, THE HUB
Often, the successes we see from communities are the results of months, or even years, of hard work. While we are always proud to report our accomplishments, behind the scenes, there are often many twists, turns, and challenges along the way. Each failure represents a major milestone–an opportunity to pivot and tackle our work anew.
Last month, The Hub staff was joined by community leaders with Create Buckhannon and the McDowell County Local Food System Project for a lively chat about their teams’ failures that spring-boarded into other opportunities as part of our ongoing Community Conversation series.
Katie Loudin, representing Create Buckhannon, spoke on the transition of a strong leader taking an unexpected step back. Meredith Miller, a Senior at Mount View High School in McDowell County and Student Coordinator for the Go Growcery Market, discussed the importance of getting the community on board and ignoring negative comments when implementing a new project. James Russell, a foodshed coordinator in the Southern Coalfields, reiterated the importance of taking risks and trying new ideas more than once before you declare them a failure.
Here are five helpful takeaways from our guests for handling some of the less than graceful moments of community building:
- Good work and a steady effort will always result in a positive outcome.
This piece of advice, delivered by Katie, illustrates the importance of maintaining steady efforts towards community change. By applying sustained energy, community teams can avoid burnout and keep the needle gradually moving.
- Celebrate every win.
Announcing and showcasing the processes of a project can allow others to view them as a series of more attainable goals. You never know who you might inspire.
- Just keep going and let the community spread the good news.
Meredith shared that her work of developing a mobile farmers market in McDowell County would involve a massive culture change among residents, and she recognized that this change would not happen overnight. The market’s customer base started out small, but by consistently showing up, the organizers were able to attract repeat and new customers each week.
- Good things will happen when you lift each other up.
All three guests talked about the importance of being cheerleaders for their fellow volunteers. Create Buckhannon is always working to help its community get to a “yes” moment, where the energy is positive and residents feel like they can take ownership without being overly managed.
- Engage young people to help solve your community’s problems.
Be inclusive. Making space for young voices that are not often amplified can result in some great problem-solving action! Meredith highlighted that young people who are engaged in community projects become adults who are excited to continue working in their communities. To learn more about youth engagement, check out the Youth Engagement Best Practices Guide.
Jenny Totten is the Community Development Coordinator at The Hub. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.