The blog this week was written by Jennifer Goodwill, a Community Broker at The Arcadia Institute. In late February, our organization invited a few other agencies in Kalamazoo to meet and have a conversation about the work we are all doing around employment in our community. The intention is that by learning more deeply about each other, we create the opportunity to have better understanding and synergy in the work we are doing. The hope is that we would then be able to take advantage of our individual strengths to work together in community for the benefit of the people we serve.
Here are some of the strengths I see of Community Brokering.
One big strength is Future Planning Meetings and MAPs (Making Action Plans). We work with individuals to invite members of their community to come together in one place, at one time to hear directly from the individual about their goals and interests. We create a safe place to bring concerns and worries out into the open. Having everyone together participating in the conversation allows the individual to address challenges and then to highlight strengths and gifts they have to contribute. Next, the community circle works together with the individual to name the places in the community where he or she may start looking for jobs. We are able to network with the people in the room and lay out the specific steps needed for starting the job search.
Another strength I see is, through Community Brokering, we work with the individual and their community circle to support them in moving through the smaller steps that need to be accomplished in order for someone to be successful in their job. Often, people feel overwhelmed or intimidated by the process of getting started. They need someone who will help them prioritize the steps they need to take and connect them to the resources in the community who are able to help them. Do they need a resume? Do they need knowledge about and confidence in using public transportation? If they need assistance with developing a routine to get them out the door on time and looking presentable, who can they reach out to for help? Are they interested in volunteering to gain job skills, references and more confidence?
A third strength of Community Brokering is that we facilitate follow along meetings. As we are supporting someone in reaching their goals, we will invite members of their community to participate in the process. We invite these individuals to come together on an ongoing basis to continually identify new action steps that need to be accomplished and to address difficulties as they arise. By facilitating this communication with the people in their community circles, we are able to keep the focus on helping the individual keep moving toward their goals.
An additional strength I see is that we take a holistic approach to the person living a life of their choosing in the community. We support them in the areas of independent living, meaningful activities and employment. I see this as a benefit, because if an individual is struggling in one area of their life, it will impact their ability to move ahead in other areas. For instance, if someone is struggling with their living situation, it may sidetrack their ability to be employed.
What are some of the unique strengths in your organization? How can we better use our individual strengths for the benefit of the community? I believe the more we learn about each other, how we are alike and how we are different, helps us to create synergy in our community to support individuals to succeed.