Flourishing in place is the end goal of all of our community development work. We want everyone to Flourish in Place. It’s why we exist at the Lupton Center – to equip change-makers to build neighborhoods that thrive.
Any work we do in development or ministry or neighboring has roots in local history. And we must increase our awareness of this context in our daily lives.
Flourishing in Place: Why Context and Story Matter
“My wife and I developed a relationship with a woman in our community. At first, we were naive and enthusiastic about “helping” her. While we were so busy with our good works, we missed some of the key struggles she was facing. As I got close enough to hear more about her life, I realized I needed to hear the broader context. I had to understand what had happened in her neighborhood if I wanted to understand her story.
The more I dove into the story of the neighborhood, the more I understood the influences in her life.
After desegregation, some prominent brown families in her community moved to new neighborhoods. This woman’s family wasn’t able to leave. Her family’s story was deeply impacted by the changes in their community. As their neighborhood declined, her family struggled. All of us are influenced and shaped – in positive and negative ways – by the communities that nurture us.
It takes time to explore history and the fabric of a community. It can be costly. But it opens doors to solve problems together and to work for unified flourishing. Without understanding the neighborhood’s story, we will perpetuate these divides and disconnection.” – Lead Trainer Donell Woodson
This is one of the reasons Holistic Neighborhood Development relies on hyper-local focus. We cannot create flourishing communities if we don’t even understand the communities we’re in. We cannot write a dignified future if we don’t understand our past. Flourishing in Place means starting with the roots. We acknowledge everyone’s gifts, and then moving forward together.
Flourishing in Place: The Experience
We model this hyper-local focus every year at our Open House. On the inside, we’ve called this two-day experience Flourishing in Place. We know that since story matters, it’s important for people to come to Historic South Atlanta and encounter our story here. We do it in a way that honors the roots and the futures of this place.
How Flourishing in Place Promotes Dignity
We know that people can learn a lot from visiting our neighborhood. At the same time, we know hospitality always comes with some sort of cost. During Flourishing in Place, we try to minimize the cost of hosting visitors as much as possible. We want to ensure that our neighbors are honored partners in the experience, not illustrations.
Highlighting Contributions and Nuance
One way we do this is by highlighting the unique attributes and accomplishments of our neighbors. We celebrate homeowners who have paid off their mortgages against all odds. But if we want to honor them, we have to name the structural forces that make it impossible for others to own homes. Identifying these systemic injustices that make those accomplishments even more impressive. In this way, we embrace the lives of real individuals while remembering the broader realities.
Preserving the Natural Daily Rhythms of Place
Before Covid-19, we hosted visitors in person. When we did, we try to limit time where visitors are just “roaming.” Wandering visitors doesn’t benefit our neighbors or give participants a sense of our work. We’ve been really intentional about “hosting so well” that participants get to feel what it’s like to be a part of our team rather than a visitor. We want you to feel like you’re truly in our space.
Some of that means protecting the regular ebb and flow of the neighborhood. The FCS Economic Development Director asks us to protect the morning flow of the coffee shop. So when we’re in person, we have a team of volunteers for the Open House show up to host people. That team minimizes guest confusion, and gives the guests the opportunity to ask questions in a way that doesn’t disturb the environment. The regulars at Community Grounds can keep chatting. Customers can come in and out as normal. And this is how guests are immersed in the real day to day. They can see real moments when we host well.
As practitioners, we need to make sure we have the relational capital to host genuinely alongside our neighbors. We need to be embedded enough to embrace moments that are normal and authentic relationally, even in the midst of visitors. We want people to take the experience and apply it to their context and create something we can’t imagine or might not work here. It’s working to honor both innovation and legacy, which is admittedly difficult.
We believe all of these efforts are worth it to promote Flourishing in places across the country and across the world. If you haven’t gotten a chance to sign up for our two-day, virtual event about Flourishing in Place, Click Here to do so.