The Herald Bulletin

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April 26, 2014

Nancy Vaughan: Are we ready to make change happen?

“I feel that the leaders are not talking with the everyday person to get the perspective or opinion on the problems that plague Anderson.”

This is one comment from our online survey responses that ask people to assess the stage of our community life — in other words, to describe the ability of people and organizations to come together to make change happen.

Our survey is an attempt to ask everyday people to assess our community and tell us what is important. It is also an attempt to identify where the will exists for those everyday people to act, because unless everyday people care enough to become involved, formal leaders and organizations really can’t make much change.

I think the power of everyday people is greatly underestimated — especially by themselves. Over the past several years of deliberate outreach — through activities such as the survey and community conversations — I have heard a continued sense of powerlessness.

Harwood Institute for Public Innovation describes five stages of community life: Waiting Place, where people are essentially waiting for someone else to solve their problems and hang onto negative patterns of disconnection and fragmentation; Impasse, where people and organizations are focused on self-interest that prevent them coming together even though they are highly frustrated with the status quo; Catalytic, where small steps are emerging, but still unseen by the majority; Growth, where a sense of direction is becoming clear and leadership is emerging at various levels; and Sustain and Renew, where the community is ready to take on nagging issues in a sustained way while seeking ways to continue to engage new groups and citizens.

Our survey seeks to help us identify the current stage in Madison County. Our initial online responses see the heaviest assessments in the Impasse stage, followed by Waiting Place and then Catalytic. I like to think we are “Catalytic Rising,” because there are groups and individuals coming together to focus on positive change. These groups are reaching out to listen to “everyday people” in a number of ways: through online groups, outreach at various public places and connecting through formal and informal groups.

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