As you know, we have been launching City Shapers cohorts across the country! We recently got back from our second gathering with the Holland City Shapers team. We caught up with Lead Trainer David Park to hear about the progress being made in this city. If YOU are ready to gather a cohort of Change-Makers in your city, click here to apply to City Shapers today.
Activity and Insight at the Symposium
“First off, I want to say that it was really nice to go to 70 degree weather in Michigan after coming from Atlanta,” laughs David. When they arrived for the symposium, City Catalyst Jake Norris welcomed them with lunch. Then, everyone headed over to the cohort space.
Once David and the Lupton Center team arrived, they spent 2 days with the cohort. The cohort is made up of 4 teams, each with about 5 members.
“Each team is cross-functional. It consists of nonprofit leaders, church leaders, employees of city government, and even staff from a local university,” explains David.
Each symposium has four parts. First, the Lupton Center offers training, shifting paradigms and equipping teams. With those tools, teams begin to work on projects they have identified in tandem with neighbors. The cohort then spends time together. Teams report on their results, and also reconnect with the broader group.
To foster this broad connectivity, we started off the symposium with fun activities. They made people laugh while also honing communication and challenging paradigms.
They Highlighted the Importance of Proximity
“The culture of the area is to be very nice,” remarks David. “But if they want to have an impact together, they need to be honest about what hasn’t gone well or what needs to change.”
Over the course of the symposium, the cohort discussed that this tendency to hide difficulties was a norm in their neighborhood, too. Residents of Holland experiencing material poverty worked hard to hide their struggles. Recognizing this helped the cohort members realize how important cultivating strong local relationships would be.
David reflects, “They realized that it’s so easy to drive through and make superficial observations. Injustice is more hidden. If you aren’t practicing proximity and driving through, you might miss what’s going on here. That’s why it’s so important to have connections with people who know the people and the neighborhood like the back of their hand. Those are the people who know what’s truly going on. Without their insight, it’s impossible to understand the situation, let alone do anything that neighbors desire.”
A Moment of Insight: Perspective Matters
During the symposium, we played a game. Cohort members sat at different tables, and they were all given instructions on how to play the game. They played a round.
Then, we mixed up the tables and sent people to play another 3 rounds of the game with new people. Everyone quickly got frustrated.
Here’s why: every table had slightly different instructions on how to play the game. These discrepancies often meant that certain people at the table won every time. Others quickly realized they were doomed to lose.
When we debriefed the game, one woman looked amazed and said, “I assumed the rules I used to play applied to everyone else. When I kept winning, I just figured other people were bad at the game.”
It was a huge moment of insight. Cohort members realized they may approach low-income neighborhoods with a similar assumption.
This moment highlighted why listening to neighbors and paying attention to structures is so important. They realized they would have to learn what rules are dictating residents’ game. The rules that organizations, governments, companies, and churches use may not apply. The cohort discussed what “rules” in Holland have made it almost impossible for some residents to “win,” or flourish.
It was a powerful moment for symposium members. Insights like these will pave a way for better alignment. Ultimately, it means better implementation of a plan that actually works FOR residents. Together, they can rewrite the rules of the game for neighbors.
What’s Next for this City Shapers Cohort
This entire symposium was designed to send the cohort into their next steps. They are currently refining their assessment and moving closer to alignment with their neighborhood. They took a deep dive into how neighbors are experiencing the community, who is at work in the neighborhood, and other facts, assets, and challenges.
Now that they’ve done good listening, they’ll begin the alignment phase. This is the part where the Holland cohort will crystallize the hopes and visions from neighbors. Then, they will figure out how to align with them around common goals for the future. As part of this process, each City Shapers team will share presentations based on the insights from neighbors and assessments. Like each phase, alignment comes from being highly interactive.
We cannot wait to see what these teams accomplish as they work to align with the residents of Holland!
Will Your City Host the Next City Shapers Cohort?
The transformation is just beginning here in Holland. We want to see it happen in your neighborhood, too. By the end of this process, Holland will walk away with clarity about the community, a common vision for the future, and a focused plan of action.
If you want to have a hand in seeing your city truly flourish, click here to learn more about joining City Shapers.