Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Accountability in Community

Most of us want to live in community. We want nice neighbors, responsive civic services, effective schools, clean streets, playgrounds and parks, and good jobs. However, many of us have forgotten that along with the benefits of community there are also the accountabilities of community.

In our failures to see future opportunities, we are willing to accept and even encourage the quick fixes where there is less responsibility and accountability. We accept what we are told by people who our media tells us are our leaders or are experts. Rather than work to identify and encourage trusted individuals as leaders, we blindly accept. Rather than addressing the problems we look for the flash in the pan, the short term gain.

Somewhere along the way we are told and we accept that the answers are outside the box. What we conveniently forget is that when we go outside the box we are usually abandoning all that is in the box. We move to the suburbs so that we no longer have to deal with the urban “problems”. We create charter schools so that we can conveniently hide from the problems of the less fortunate in community support. We set up wards in our communities so that we can protect ourselves in our own small areas with people who we perceive as “us”. We don’t hold our leaders accountable let alone our own children.

We have lost our trust in our own communities and have no one but ourselves to blame even though we do our best to blame everyone else.

So, how do we reclaim the lost ground in community? We accept accountability for our own actions. We build trust with our leaders. We hold others accountable for their behavior. We work on long term solutions which may be simple but often are not easy. We stop letting ourselves be led into decisions which line the pockets of others in the short term but cost us in the long term especially at the expense the the greater number. Instead of building convention centers, we invest in the small businesses so that storefronts and offices are filled and appropriate jobs with benefits exist for those who are willing. Why would someone want to come to a city with poor services and missing retail to attend a convention?

We need to support not only our own children, but all the children in the community to assure that all receive a good education as well as have hope in the benefits of getting a diploma. We need to be accountable for disobedience. We need to share the stories that we all have of our joys, our successes, our hopes, our fears, what does not work, and what does work.

We need to stop “thinking outside the box” but instead think strategically in the box, making the box bigger and more inclusive, inviting all to participate in the exciting opportunity that is our community.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Moving from Diversity into Community

Recently there was discussion on the blog site Brewed Fresh Daily about diversity. It got me thinking about the phrase “a diverse community.” For me that is an oxymoron in that diversity addresses differences whereas community talks about a oneness.

Perhaps many who use the word diverse actually have something else in mind but aren’t saying it. If so, I believe it is better to say racially diverse, or ethnically diverse, or economically diverse, or whatever diverse. We also misuse community, assigning a much higher connotation on a group of people who live in geographic proximity to each other.

Whatever we are saying or whatever we mean, we all need to be moving into community where we learn share hopes, dreams, fears, expectations, and joys. We become community through open conversation, honest conversation, whether we agree or agree to disagree, we agree to continue moving forward in conversation.