Many Hands Needed
Neighbourhood organizations have a common set of problems stemming from their diverse and changing roles and their volunteer nature. This problem can be summed up as a constant demand that exceeds the time, attention, and intensity of the small number of individuals capable of volunteering at any given time. As a result, organizations like this are always fragile in terms of sustained effectiveness. People burn out or move, family or work situations change, interest or energy wanes, health issues intervene, and a variety of other situations occur.
McCauley has a history of strong and vocal community leadership that continues today. We do not have a leadership deficit, nor a volunteer deficit – and we do not have a lot of the “community” related deficits that some are trying to accuse us of. Our “problems” as a neighbourhood are primarily structural and have been created by forces largely outside of our direct control. Structural problems require structural solutions: in the absence of actual change in the underlying issues, all improvements will be largely transient. When large-scale active effort fades, as it inevitably will (especially if it is externally driven), a predictable slide back to the problem condition occurs. Your League has made substantial progress in legitimizing these issues and beginning the process that should lead to real improvements.
Now, though, we need to expand our immediate capacity to consolidate and maintain these gains. In many ways we are, once again, threatened with losing control of our own destiny to bureaucratic forces that seem more interested in a cosmetic form of stability rather than in developing into that awesome neighborhood that we all know is here.
McCauley has a history of strong and vocal community leadership that continues today.
So, what do we need to do?
We need to recognize that it is no longer 1952. We do not live in single income households. Our families, friends, and co-workers rarely live in the same neighbourhoods. The children from the Leave It to Beaver generation are now sandwiched between the needs of aging parents and their own children. The time demands on the average household are huge today, leaving little time and energy for large-scale volunteer activity. As a result of these and many other complex societal, technological, and economic factors, the primary linking element of “community” today is no longer immediate physical proximity. Therefore, it is unreasonable to expect large numbers of volunteers to be able to devote the substantial amount of time and long-term commitment that a “traditional” neighbourhood organization really requires.
That’s why we have to look at “unconventional” organizations. Essentially, we (and all other community organizations) need to start building towards cellular organizational and operational structure. This would work as an extension of the conventional League Executive, allowing easy networking into the neighbourhood, immediate contact for pressing issues (such as letter writing campaigns, forcing action on that crack house on the next block, public education and polling, etc.). Basically, it would be an organizational tool that allows the league to do more by leveraging small time investments from a large number of people throughout the neighbourhood.
This is a new idea and one that will grow and evolve gradually. If you might be interested in taking on a little organizational role on your block, email firstname.lastname@example.org.