I offer what we learned in our journey.
For us that meant collaborating with others; joining our ideas with their strategies. This was also where we discovered the validity of our ideas and vision. Please know that an idea might work in your head, but not work in the real world, with real people, in real situations. So this became our way of finding out if we had something that was legitimate and effective in real time.
Your vision should boost their mission. We didn't actualize success through random marketing campaigns. presentations, seminars and workshops that promoted our vision, alone. We had to test our dream in the real world. 'Buy-in' to your vision will be built on tested and proven evidence within your community.
2. Engage key community leaders. Get to know the leaders in the community, and get to know as many of them personally as possible. You must step outside of the four walls of your world (organization, church, ministry, or familiar circles). We began attending monthly community meetings, as well as government-sponsored luncheons and non-profit fundraisers, and made great connections.
3. Listen to your community’s concerns. This is a statement that we posted on our business website: "Build a successful business, not only by selling a dynamic product and providing great customer service, but by connecting with your local community to help solve problems." Listen to learn what is most important to them. For instance, if youth suicide or homelessness are your community's biggest concerns, but you don't feel called to these areas, then find a way to connect what you do with the solutions. You may not work directly with youth or homeless people, but you might work with those who do.
4. Lift what's already working – Instead of making your initial focus all about the solutions you have to offer, find out about the positives in your community and celebrate those successes. Become a voice of encouragement for those who are already doing good work.
5. Learn your community. Do you know your community’s demographics? Do you know its historical significance? Do you know its recent history? Do you know the under-served populations within your community. Study what has already been attempted to bring about change. Learn about what was successful and why. Learn about what failed and why.
6. Less is more. Instead of trying to set up large events, conferences and campaigns, scale back and focus on 1:1 encounters, smaller groups and high-impact invitational gatherings. It's far better to meet with 4 highly influential people in your community in a private meeting, than to host a 500-people event in a hotel that produces no momentum for you. The best way to reach the masses is not by mass media or massive events. The best way will always be by connecting with one key person at a time. Let your good reputation create a word-of-mouth buzz.
7. Serve somewhere in your community. Build Goodwill through volunteerism. For example, we volunteer in the local high school’s annual poetry writing contest. At that time, we’re not representing our company. We’re just citizens, helping out. We don’t talk about our business or solicit for clients. Through this, we have built goodwill within the education community.
We also volunteered our services in an employment agency for 9 months and in a women's shelter for about 10 months. If your community has to pay for your time and (untested) services, you run the risk of being viewed as just another predator. By the time they learn about your business, ideas, solutions or outreach, they should already feel and know that you care about them.
8. Prioritize. One of the mistakes we made was to spread ourselves thin by saying yes to too many people, organizations, initiatives and activities. Eventually we had to prioritize our time and efforts, and focus on the development of our team and their growth. We had to drop the weight of good ideas and run with a clear, clean and lean vision.
You probably read all of this and thought: This is going to take a very long time; and you're right. It will take a long time. The speed by which the dream will come into fruition is based on the speed by which relationships develop. You can't make it grow faster than the relationships that you build in your community. It simply won't work any other way. Remember that as ambassadors of God's Kingdom, we bring HIS ideas to the table in our communities. However, we must embrace the Godly wisdom and steps that will get us to that table.
You are Success in Process,
Fruitful Life Educator and Community Servant
Modified, and adapted from a 2017 article by Rod Edmonson