Networks: Investing In People and Their Passions

Blog Artist: Kayla Schnuelle

I’ve seen and heard many stories of investing in projects, programs and bricks and mortar. Sometimes I’m very surprised to see incredible results when ordinary people have small amounts to invest in their communities. Often I hear of amazing stories with transformational change for an entire community of people. This is important work! However, the one thing that I seldom hear about is investing directly in people. I’m not talking about giving someone $100 to attend a conference. I’m talking about really investing in people within our communities and immediate circles and allowing them to explore their passions freely without judgement.

We don’t invest like this because it’s hard to track and it isn’t always viewed as trendy. It’s hard to get immediate results because changes in world-view, idea generation and perceptions are much harder to gauge. It has been proven over-and-over again by Gallup and other research institutions that when people do things they are passionate about, they are more engaged and produce better outcomes. So why are we missing the step of investing in people and their passions?

I’ve recently been invited to be part of an incredible network and the network concept is about investing in people and allowing them to gain knowledge, skills, or ideas that they are passionate about. The network also allows them to share their ideas and wisdom with others in the network through a peer-learning framework. It is powerful when you are told, “I believe in you. Go pursue something you are passionate about or are aspiring to”. It is also essential to provide ambitious people with a space to share ideas and a support-system to cultivate new ideas.

I’m not suggesting that we quit investing in projects and programs, but I am suggesting that building hope, confidence and network relationships for rural leaders is critical for futuristic programming. Rural communities can isolate people, if only by geography, and in isolation we are also in silos. Without a strong network of creative thinkers we lose innovation and creativity and both are critical factors to making brighter futures for rural communities.

“…building hope, confidence and network relationships for rural leaders is critical for futuristic programming.” -Kayla

If you are in a community that doesn’t value the social capital and unique attributes of those at the table, my advice is to find a network that does and allow the new-found network to help you frame your ideas. By identifying networks outside of our communities it does several things:

  1. Allows us a platform to share ideas, knowledge, wisdom that we have gained
  2. Builds relationships and helps bridge our communities together
  3. Helps frame new ideas so we can infuse ideas into our own communities
  4. Creates a safe space to brainstorm

Advice to community leaders:

If you aspire to create an incredible community with highly engaged citizens it is important to invest in the people (i.e. social capital) that reside in your community. Investing in knowledge gain (i.e. schools) is critical, but you also need to invest in passions, energy, creativity and innovation of community members. You don’t have to build a new building to do this, sometimes it is as easy as allowing someone a space to share ideas or giving them permission to build a network of good thinkers.

Investing in people and their passions can drive community change over a lifetime, not just an 18-month project. Think big and allow others to do the same!


4 thoughts on “Networks: Investing In People and Their Passions

  1. This has always been a passion of mine, investing in others, not through money but time and through their interests. It’s hard to put that into action for many because it takes time and effort. I’m a part of another program at UNL called Nebraska Human Resource Institute (NHRI) and this article relates so well to what we strive to do in the program. That is working with students in the Lincoln community to help them become better leaders. We spend TIME INVESTING in their lives, passions, goals, and talents. Through the mentorship, I have already seen many of the benefits you mentioned such as a strong relationship and lots of new ideas for leadership opportunities.


  2. Like Courtney, I, too, was involved in NHRI and since becoming involved, I’ve seen the major points of the organization play out in many different settings. In many small towns, people are catching on to this, thanks in no small part to a host of different initiatives; the one that comes to mind is Marketing Hometown America. There are so many conversations that take place about this project, or that idea and none of them fall on deaf ears. Every idea has credibility because everyone is recognizing that behind every idea is a reason. Those reasons point communities toward why we need or why we want something here. “See a need, fill a need” is a phrase I’ve heard a few times. These communities do an exemplary job at having these conversations with everyone and making sure no voice goes unheard.


  3. Unlike Courtney and Andrew, I have not participated in NHRI as of yet. I was brought on to receive a new Junior Counselor in the coming fall. However the reason I chose to become involved is almost the exact same reason as stated above. While I was in Middle and High School, I joined the Boy Scouts of America. When I was a junior I became an Eagle scout and looked back on al the people that invested time in me, not jsut our troop, not just in the BSA in general, but in me specifically. When I got to college I felt it was my turn to give back, and I joined NHRI hoping to invest in someone the same my mentors from my Boy Scout troop invested in me. Based on the comments above, I believe that I have joined the right program.


  4. I would like to encourage younger generations (and I am speaking to myself included) to start looking around to see who they can invest in. Oftentimes, we view mentorship or encouragement to pursue passions as something that should come from the generations before us, those who , perhaps, are retired, have “done it all” or are way up the ladder of life compared to us. How about having more than one mentor, maybe one who is a lot farther on in life, and one that is simply one rung up the ladder or one life change away from you? What about being a mentor ourselves and not just seeing ourselves as the mentees? Each of us has something to offer to another person, especially if it is time, words of encouragement, and a safe place to pursue passions. It doesn’t take any money to do that, and often it has a greater effect than money! It is never too early to mentor someone; it is never to early to fan someone’s flame.


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