If communities are going to form, function, and thrive, their members must recognize community issues and find motivation to address these issues.
Once communities identify their issues – which is a big deal – they can see how community members share some values and not others. Even when community members agree on an issue, they might not agree on why is widely thought to be important. People view public education as problematic, but may agree on why it is. For some schools are dangerous. For others, they are underfunded. Still others see them as endless money pits. Some want to consider parents’ preferences; others, students’ needs. This process of sharing values by expressing preferences is for many a very uncomfortable process. It can require more introspection and vulnerability than they like. As a result, opinions are sharpened and factoids become facts. Sides are taken.
The conflicts that arise around identifying issues and their solutions complicate the process of developing sufficient motivation to act. Consider the questions that often arise.
Have we identified the cause of the problem?
Is this just a symptom of something larger?
What’s behind your interest in this issue?
What is the context in which this issue developed?
Why wasn’t I brought to the table earlier?
How can we have any movement without everyone at the table?
What is the correct shape of the table?
None of these questions is bad or wrong. But when finding motivation to act, they might not be timely. Problem analysis, consideration of the environmental circumstance, assessing values, addressing old hurts, and facilitating planning processes are all useful, even important. However, these factors are not motivators. In fact, if some of these are motivators to take action they may stall progress because they could constitute a conflict of interest. For example, someone whose primary focus is problem analysis is not likely to move as directly as someone who seeks problem resolution for the specific issue at hand. Similarly, people who participate with primary motivation to redress old hurts are likely to find new evidence that those wounds are still raw, challenging any further movement. While conflicts of interest are generally thought about in terms of duplicitous financial motivators, social and personal conflicts of interest are also important.
I found many excellent motivators for taking action in a community. Few, however, have been as effective as these:
Foster good will.