One of the greatest challenges of faith-informed and other nonprofit organizations is our passion to “do good” and preferably to “do great.” It matters to the community we love and to the new people we are getting to know.
However, we can be so motivated to get started that we can short-circuit the patience and wisdom to thoroughly investigate if someone else in the community is, in fact, already doing the work. LOOK first. Community and individual resources are finite, so duplicate programming is rarely responsible stewardship.
Bridge to Communities has some amazing people, experienced and well qualified to launch new programs. However, we want to be known for looking first to others who have already cut a path on the work. We want to look carefully for the individuals and organizations already working on specific opportunity gaps in Muskegon County, and we want to be sure that we are…
Listening so that we know all the defining details.
There are a huge number of people who love Muskegon, have a long-time personal, financial, and emotional investment in this region. They have institutional knowledge that is unique and irreplaceable. BtC work will have exponentially improved service by being informed by those who know the Muskegon communities well and care about its’ future.
Individuals, neighborhood associations, and churches have been especially helpful to add understanding since Bridge to Communities launched our community development organization to address community opportunity gaps.
We want to become even better listeners, so that we are….
Learning what the community sees as an opportunity gap, not just react to admittedly serious issues.
This community has a history of innovative strategies based on the high value of individual, neighborhood, and interest-group engagement. BtC wants to learn both the bad news and the good news about what works long-term in Muskegon.
We want to address individual and community poverty by joining an international—quickly becoming national–effort in entrepreneurship. “Business as Mission” (seriously, BAM is the acronym) is the proverbial teaching people to fish vs. giving them fish. This strategy draws from seasoned entrepreneurs, eager to share their experience, insights, courage, and the character driving their own success.
What are the required pieces of this “fishing tackle”?
What are the opportunity gaps that hinder individuals from completing education programs and moving on to career track self-sufficiency? What life skills add high value to that process and beyond?
Muskegon has nonprofits that focus on one or more very specific needs related to successful employment. For example, ReadMuskegon continues to make an intentional choice to coach clients with low-level literacy, a truly underserved population. Love INC has financial literacy and management classes and parenting classes that add long term solutions beyond their clients’ emergency needs.
BtC is currently focused on learning from the 70×7 Life Recovery program that began in Ottawa County but that has expanded to address prisoner re-entry and diversion needs in Muskegon County. The 2014-15 County Jail construction is a strong physical reminder to all of us of the tremendous need to innovate incarceration prevention strategies. 70×7 has an impressive track record, and the learning curve with them is a good one!
BtC’s activities include learning the programming of these and other like-minded organizations to seek out ways that we can LEND a hand to their existing work. Volunteers? Mentors? Hospitality? Resources?