Monday, November 19, 2012

Wanna Jump In?

In May of this year, 300 people convened early in the morning in downtown Silver Spring to declare a past, present, and if we’re mindful—future reality in our beloved county. Forgot already? I’ll remind you--- “Diversity is our Competitive Strength." The video we debuted at the event should jog your memory.

97% of the folks surveyed after the event agreed that this theme has power and special relevance for our context today (I should note that 3 % strongly disagreed—I’m still looking for those folks!).

The team of social entrepreneurs that I have the pleasure of working with at IMPACT took this and the demand we were hearing from our wider network as a mandate. Since then, we have been working hard to make this theme come alive in every sector of our community to include our schools, government, businesses, and neighborhoods. As we do our work, we have found that we have been most effective when we are working in small groups where people have made the intentional decision to build community, be in relationship with each other, and to build the social, economic, and civic capital necessary to create strong local economies and vibrant communities.

Here are a few small groups, CIRCLES, if you will, who are doing just this kind of work in our community:

The El Rosal Sewing Circle building new relationships, creating products, and generating income.

Gandhi Brigade and IMPACT convening folks and digging deep around the issue of
immigration in our community.

The Family Asset Building Circle holding each other accountable in  pursuit
of goals related to family economic success-- pictured here with our County Executive
Ike Leggett at this year's Ethiopian Festival in downtown Silver Spring.

. . .and our feature circle for Impact Silver Spring's Fall Fundraising Campaign-- The Youth Jobs Circle

High school aged basketball players from IMPACT'S Long Branch Athletic Association, leaders from the Silver Spring Advisory Board, and the presidents of local civic associations convened to discuss what young people were looking for in their community.  When asked, the youth responded by saying that they needed money to support their families and to do their part to help get to college.  The net product of the meeting was a new circle called the Youth Jobs CIRCLE.  The CIRCLE brings together the youth with homeowners and small business owners to create 'in-community' job opportunities for the young people.  The young people have earned over $4000 since the project's inception and have established new intercultural and inter-generational relationships in the Long Branch Community.

15 years as a community builder has led me to believe that our future as a county, even as a country is in some small way wrapped up in the miraculous things that are happening in IMPACT’s Family Asset Building CIRCLES and others like them. In many ways, these CIRCLES have become the new learning labs where we are prototyping new ways to tap the power of our diversity, leveraging it to create new levels of mutual support, accountability, access, and opportunity for everyone in our community—particularly with those who are struggling the most.

A new more prosperous and inclusive future is emerging in our midst-- and it's happening in the CIRCLES! Wanna jump in? To learn more, visit or follow us on Facebook at Impact Silver Spring or on Twitter at @impactss  #wannajumpin?