(Part of an ongoing Newsletter series authored by WetheP colleagues.)
I fell into community leadership quite by accident. I wish I could say it was a calling from when I was very young, but it wasn't. It came from an increasing awareness that we can work together to make the neighborhoods, towns, cities, government and the planet a better place to live.
Easier than it looks.
Surprisingly enough, community leadership is something people can do with relative ease, and many are doing it without knowing it. In one way or another, community leaders participate in some or all of the following actions.
Seeing. So often when we live in more "affluent" communities we do not see others that are struggling. As is human nature, we tend see what is directly around us, things that are the same. This is not a criticism, but a reality.
Sigrid Iversen with WetheP's Andrea Grazzini on how she connects her passions with her community work.
Stopping the We/They Syndrome.
Attitude. Community is about togetherness, common concerns, common problem solving and the desire to create a safe, healthy and prosperous (not only in a monetary way) place to raise a family and engage with other human beings. This cannot be done when we view people that are different from us as "the other." The "we/they syndrome."
Asking. Ask for the things that you believe your community needs. You will be pleasantly surprised at community members who are more than happy to contribute, but aren't sure how, until you come along.
Sharing. They tell you to do this when you are young and it is just as important as you get older. When Community Bookshelf got started it was the result of one email to about 50 people. Three weeks later we had 1100 books to share with our neighbors in Lakeville. Examine your resources. What do you have to share?
Connecting. Social media is a wonderful communication and community-building tool. It is, however important to recognize that social media doesn't always make us social. Human connection is very important. For some in a community, access to the Internet and social media is not a given.
Participating. People want to be involved. They have different things to contribute. It could be time, resources, and money to name a few. Leadership can be broad or very specific. Find what you are passionate about.
Time. Don't feel that you have to spend an infinite amount of time being a community leader. We all have different concerns at different times. That is ok. Some people are naturally drawn to more of leadership role, but it doesn't mean that you are not a leader if your time and interests are more limited.
Being the missing piece
For me, community leadership is like a puzzle. There is a place for everyone. Without a piece the picture it's just not quite complete. When all of it is put together, it makes a pretty great picture.
- Sigrid Iversen
Sigrid Iverson is a high school teacher in Eagan, Minnesota and volunteer founder of the Community Bookshelf in Lakeville Minnesota. She’s also a leader with Thrive By Five an early childhood education initiative and a volunteer Core Group leader on WetheP's first Solutions Group Case Study. And, Sigrid is a wife and mother of four children.