~~Portland Cross-Pollination Project!~~

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April 03, 2008

(B) Cultivating resources

When we step back and witness the growing number people who want to participate in something meaningful, we see the opportunity. There are vast numbers of people who would participate in changemaking activities if they had the access and invitation.

And yet there seems to be a strongly felt but often unspoken challenge among organizations of how to successfully involve the people who want to get involved.

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Many people want active meaningful engagement with a group “doing good”, beyond simply writing a check. But, unless a group is producing an event or specific campaign, it is often very difficult to find tasks, roles and proper support to maintain happy participants.

Now, before we move on, it is important to recognize the power of naming and framing things: if people are called “volunteers” than it feels like they are generally on the periphery of a group, and may be asked to be brunt labor or do more remedial tasks. But if we call them “participants”, than it’s more of a co-created experience. And that’s what this integrated socio-economic-ecosystem is all about: weaving our work and lives in many direct as well as intangible ways.

So, the challenge/opportunity of integrating co-participants is an important one to recognize. And, once we do so we can identify many common patterns: the time and effort that it takes to offer support and mentorship to participants; the need for redundancy in systems; leadership dynamics; burn out; affirmation, etc. With all the groups out there discovering the ins and outs of meaningful integration and participation, why not learn each other’s best practices and share the “tricks of the trade”?

I know of one group of people focusing on these questions, and they are beginning to serve as one of the above-mentioned collectives. They are in essence a “human resources” collective, and have been meeting weekly for six months to develop a framework to assist activist-oriented groups with these types of challenges. This group is manifesting the new economy by functioning as an “outsourced” HR support mechanism. Check it out!

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