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Community work is exciting and a bit scary at times. Most community workers have a great passion for healing and problem solving. We see the suffering, indifference, sickness or injustice, and truly believe, that other folks see what we see. We get fired up and race down to closet community with the oldest and biggest problems, rush into their community center and say, “Here I am to save the day!” Is it any wonder that we are met with heavy suspicion and a deafening wall of silence?
No one like to be told what to do and how to do it! The most lasting and successful change in any difficult situations or difficult community comes first through the realization that a change is needed. Once the change is acknowledged, then you can get down to business and offer solutions, but not until community workers has mastered the skills of patience and relationship building.
As a professional coach and an experienced community involvement consultant, it is my job to do two important things; one, build a trusting relationship with my coachees and/or clients; and two, provide a safe haven for my coachees/clients to explore new opportunities for their lives. I cannot have one without the other! Actually, all relationships need these two key elements in order for it to grow. Relationships are organic, they need to be fed and paid attention to. They need time to develop and grow, just like any other living breathing organism. Our true job as community workers is to serve by providing health, wellness, access and information to the community WITHOUT disrupting the organic flow of growth.
As a coach, we have many coaching models or frameworks for interacting with our coachees/clients. These models can be easily translated to community worker who seek to build community relationship. One such coaching model that I find most beneficial to community relationship
building is called the WHO, WHAT & HOW model. This model represents:
1. The WHO: This component of the model represents the inner life of the person or community you serve. The spirit that motivates them, their values, their strengths, their challenges. As you are working through your key informant interviews, focus groups or preparing your assessment questions, make an intentional effort to focus in on the WHO. Most good intended community workers lose creditability at this point. They make the mistake in assume they know the details of the community because they have statistics and formulas that gave them a report.WRONG!
2. The WHAT: The What component is the expressed desire of the community or interviewee? What are they saying that they want? What aretheir goals? Do they have clarity? Are they being realistic? When a community worker knows the WHAT of the interviewee or community, they then can prepare a strategic plan that can satisfy the desires of the community or interviewee, as well as fulfill their
organization/agency/business desires and goals. This will be the point where you can introduce your message, service or product to the
community,and nine times out of ten, the community will receive it as a benefit. But if your service,message, or product does not directly fulfill the expressed desires of the community, don’t give up hope, now is the time to think about possible collaboration or partnerships with other organizations, agencies and/or business that can be used as an added resource to the community that DIRECTLY fills the expressed
3. The HOW: This is the action element of the model. Now that you have taken the time to get to know the people you plan to serve, and your desires/goals are expressed and the communities desires/goals are expressed, the foundation is now laid for a true partnership. The HOW component is where this newly formed relationship can hunker down and create a strategic plan to satisfy each parties stated goals. Every “plan” is as unique and creative just as the partnerships formed. It’s important as outreach workers to listen carefully during this process, and document EVERYTHING!
Long gone are the days of workers going into the community and telling people what it needs to be healthy, happy and prosperous. This patriarchal ego trip creates further division and suspicion. If a community worker does nothing else, let them be a reflection of hope, opportunity
and trust, and believe me, the flood gates will open up!
©Keesha M. Mayes 2005