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:
- Allows us a platform to share ideas, knowledge, wisdom that we have gained
- Builds relationships and helps bridge our communities together
- Helps frame new ideas so we can infuse ideas into our own communities
- 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!