Our Philosophy of Community
Our YDC program comes in two parts. The first part is the Program Philosophy, which outlines its intentions and reasoning for doing it. This part is divided into two segments, which are, Philosophy of Community and Philosophy of Youth Development. The second part is Program Structure, which are the nuts and bolts of how people and resources are organized to fulfill the program’s intent.
In this first section you will learn about how FamilyWorks philosophically interprets what a healthy community is and how it uses that point of view to shape the construction and use of a YDC as a format to strengthen families.
It Starts with “Participatory Leadership”
Too often organizations which offer social services, like FamilyWorks, inadvertently create forces that work against their efforts to help. It has to do with how people identify themselves in the system the organization creates. If the organization promotes identity by defining people who are the Service Providers from those who are the Service Recipients, an invisible division is formed, which segregates and polarizes the people involved. There are other ways this kind of division can be interpreted and manifest itself into our hearts and minds unconsciously. For example, both sides could see themselves as the “Have’s vs. Have Not’s”, the “One’s Who Know vs. One’s Who Don’t Know”, or the “Superior Independent’s vs. Inferior Dependent’s.” In this system, Service Providers become saviors, Service Recipients become projects. Providers chase down Recipients with phones calls, and program vans, so they can HELP them! Can you see the type of problems which emerge from stressing these two kinds of identities?
The intentions are meant well, but the pattern of seeing ourselves and others in this way produces the wrong kind of results, especially if it is our mission to “Walk in Partnership with Others!” Taking that into consideration, we are inspired by a biblical worldview, where it informs us that all people are made in the image of God, create for a purpose, and given gifts, talents, or assets to fulfill those purposes. Also, scripture tells us that everyone has at least one gift and no one has all the gifts, therefore we need each other. These are important principles we apply to a YDC as we attempt to facilitate a healthy community.
You might be thinking, “Who will lead, if there are no Service Providers?” In a YDC it stresses not to view the Leaders and the Participants as segregated bodies of people. Rather, a leader, in this type of community, is simply a participant who’s operating at a high level of engagement. Everyone is a participant, and are encouraged to glean what they can from the others. At the same time, they lead, by using their God given gifts to enhance the community. Also, Christ himself, God, wrap in human flesh, is our shining example of Participatory Leadership, when he left heaven to become “one of us” and his followers were told to be like minded! It’s this very concept that supports the YDC motto, “Helping youth, by seeking the faith to become the people we’re created to be!” When we successfully embrace this, we not only tell youth how to grow and mature, we model it before them, and each other.
Cultivating an Engaged Community
Having Participatory Leadership as a rooted model is critical to cultivating people to become an engaged population. Why, because it communicates to everyone, that they have value, and a voice, by leveling the playing field. It creates higher levels of ownership. As personal ownership increases, in turn it raises the creativity quotient of the people because their learning juices start pumping on all cylinders. These kind of behaviors are super helpful when you want people to embrace the central focus of those core tenants of the organization.
Creating Asset Based Community
There are other areas, in addition to Participatory Leadership, that need to be present in this community too. Like Participatory Leadership, these have to do with how we see each other. This is called the Interdependence of the Community’s Social and Physical Assets. Do the people in the community know each other well enough to see and verbalize the assets that the other members bring to the community? For clarity, assets are anything a person offers that increases the value or probability that the vision and mission of the community is fulfilled. In this case, assets that contribute to building relationally healthy youth and families. An example could be, a five year old, who is a member of the community, has a unique way of dancing that puts a smile on everyone’s face. Every time he does his little dance, he offers a valuable asset to the others in a way only he seems to be able to do. It is that simple! Every person is loaded with these assets and a healthy community knows how to see it and they are good at verbalizing it to each other. When this is done well, it fans the flames of community engagement.
Creating Value for Community
Another concept that is important to having an engaged community is a term being used called, Social Capital. Research has found evidence that the social networks in our lives create value for its members. Not just warm fuzzies, but tangible values that impact the quality of life. Since one of the main goals of FamilyWorks and its use of YDC is to strengthen family relationships, it’s affirming to know that we’re not just singing “Kum-By-Yah” together.
Here are some interesting findings from the studies done around the value Social Capital produces. (Links to these studies can be found on our website under YDC.):
- If you had to choose between 10 percent more cops on the beat or 10 percent more citizens knowing their neighbors’ first names, the latter is a better crime prevention strategy.
- If you had to choose between 10 percent more teachers or 10 percent more parents being involved in their kids’ education, the latter is a better route to educational achievement.
- Joining and participating in one group cuts your odds of dying over the next year in half. Joining two groups cuts it by three-quarters.
- If you had to choose whether your child was born into a poor state or low social capital state, the low social capital state is worse for the child’s outcomes according to the Annie Casey Foundation’s Kids Count Index.
The research suggests that being an engaged participant in a group, like the YDC, will improve the lives of those involved.