Friday, August 29, 2008

CHANGE We can believe in . . . delivering the promise

By l.t. Dravis

Barack Obama has called on Americans to implement change we can believe in; sounds good, but what does it really mean?

Well, you can believe that change we can believe in will not come easy, nor will it happen in a vacuum.

If President Obama is sworn in on January 20, 2009, nothing will change . . . unless and until we, the people, take responsibility for holding government – on all levels – accountable for providing not only the leadership, but the insight, the direction, and the resources necessary to rebuild our communities.

President Obama will need people on the ground throughout the nation; people who are capable of reaching up through government on all levels to mobilize the resources necessary to make change happen so we can revitalize our economy, rebuild our infrastructure, and make government truly responsive to everyone, not just the well-connected, wealthy few.

The people who would make change happen would be Community Coordinators . . . folks whose responsibilities would include mobilizing resources to establish after school programs for children in inner city neighborhoods; soliciting local support, private funding, and government funding for infrastructure improvements in suburban communities; working with major corporations like Microsoft or Intel to provide computers and wireless access for rural school districts; coordinating bank-sponsored seminars on good money management for people from all socioeconomic backgrounds; working to expand enterprise zones for small businesses in rust-belt cities; coordinating solar panel installations for buildings in underdeveloped communities; helping farmers grow more food more efficiently; and on and on.

Community Coordinators would use a professionally prepared step-by-step manual to write, implement, and monitor action/change plans for each Congressional district by:

  • Getting to know the district to determine critical needs and evaluate meaningful opportunities
  • Establishing a series of prioritized goals to define and mobilize the resources necessary to meet those goals
  • Enlisting support of business, education, community organizations, and local, state, and federal government officials to marshal resources
  • Delivering resources necessary to achieve goals to make change happen or take advantage of each meaningful opportunity
  • Following-up to monitor progress toward completion of each goal

Dependent on population and geography, each Congressional district would be assigned three to seven Community Coordinators (democrats, republicans, or independents) appointed to a one year term by the elected Representative.

Coordinators would give up their day jobs as business professionals, police officers, firefighters, teachers, programmers, retail clerks, machinists, et al, to work full time making change happen in their communities. When a Community Coordinator’s term ends, he or she would go back to work and share a once-in-a-lifetime experience with colleagues, families, friends, and neighbors.

Coordinators could also be recruited from organizations like the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE). SCORE volunteers are retired business owners and executives with the education and experience so necessary to apply viable solutions to complex problems. These folks would work to mentor other Coordinators and would hold town hall meetings and offer seminars and workshops to bring individuals, business, education, and government in each Congressional district into the change process.

Coordinators who give up income from their jobs to serve could be supported in part by grants from private groups like the Knight Foundation, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Henry J. Kaiser Foundation, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and other foundations that support National Public Radio and community based projects throughout the nation with millions of dollars in donations every year. Community Coordinators and their activities could also be supported with cash, employee volunteers, in-kind services, and products provided by corporations and corporate foundations with names like Bank of America, Caterpillar, Dow Chemical, Ford, Genentech, IBM, Microsoft, Wells Fargo, Wiley Corporation and hundreds of others*.

Though we don’t pretend to have anticipated every contingency here, this outline can serve as the basis for at least taking the first step toward establishing a national Community Coordinator program.

While we recognize that Community Coordinators would be faced with tough challenges on a variety of levels, we also know that there aren’t any quick solutions and there are no short cuts to change.

On the other hand, Community Coordinators, like Peace Corps Volunteers, would be uniquely rewarded by having been part of an experience that is extraordinarily challenging, exhilarating, and worthwhile.

And, that is change we can believe in . . . isn’t it?

*According to The Chronicle of Philanthropy (August 21, 2008), corporations and corporate foundations donated $3.8 billion to community projects in 2007

Copyright © 2008 by l.t. Dravis. All rights reserved.

If you have questions, comments, or concerns, Email me at (goes right to my desk) and since I personally answer every Email, I look forward to hearing from you soon.

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