Impact is more important than intent. We live by that, and we emphasize it to every change-maker we work with. At the same time, it’s important to dream! Results are beautiful and important, but they are most inspiring when connected to a grander, captivating vision – like Flourishing. Our program activities, even our organization, fits into a broader effort to bring… something. In your work, it helps to name that something.
At the Lupton Center, the name for this vision is “flourishing.” We equip Change-makers to make their neighborhoods flourish. It’s a word you’ll see plastered on our office walls and hear in our online courses. It even creeps into our personal social media! It’s an important part of our lexicon.
This article will introduce you to the concept of flourishing, and illustrate why it matters in Holistic Neighborhood Development.
As you go through this page, we encourage you to think of what word captures the ultimate vision that you’re working towards. And if you can’t think of one by the end, feel free to use Flourishing, too.
What we mean when we say Flourishing
If you google the word “flourishing” you’ll find a definition like this: growing well, developing rapidly and successfully into a healthier form.
For humans, flourishing includes the space for self-actualization and experience fulfillment within a larger community. Each person enjoys dignity, freedom, and holistic well-being within their broader context.
Every person, regardless of their background, deserves the opportunity to flourish.
What does Flourishing look like?
The first definition we gave above maps onto the neighborhood level exceptionally well — with a caveat! We believe human flourishing is impossible if other aspects of the community aren’t flourishing. That means systems like social services and local ecology need to flourish, too.
A neighborhood should be an environment where everyone and everything can flourish. Young people have the chance to grow with security, love, and connection. The local economy is healthy, vibrant, and embedded into the community. In a flourishing neighborhood, even animals and plants should have what they need to grow and live peacefully alongside human neighbors. Flourishing means everyone has the resources they need to self-actualize, connect. Systems make sense for the people they serve. Community among neighbors exists and shapes a sense of identity. Essentially, it’s a state of widespread prosperity, justice, and peace among all entities in the neighborhood.
It’s a lofty goal! And it certainly should be. At the Lupton Center, we believe that the opposite of material poverty isn’t wealth, but flourishing. If you are a faith-based organization, you may call this concept Shalom.
Why Flourishing matters in Holistic Neighborhood Development
As a change-maker, you have a lot to think about. In this long, hard, slow work, it’s easy to lose sight of where it’s all headed. It’s even harder when major setbacks or conflicts come your way (and they always come). Eventually, every single change-make has a moment when they sit back and ask themselves, “Why am I even doing this?”
The other thing that can happen is a narrowing of vision. Let’s be clear: we believe in strategic, focused work. It is good for organizations to be really good at the strategic thing they are doing and have partners to do other things. It’s certainly better than trying to do a ton of things for the sake of more activity!
The trouble comes when we focus on one piece and lose the larger tapestry. Flourishing is a holistic concept. Someone who has a healthy family life but experiences racism every day isn’t flourishing. A booming economy without access to affordable housing isn’t flourishing. In faith-based organizations, flourishing reminds us that our work needs to address systemic realities, material realities, AND immaterial ones. In addition to food, autonomy matters.
Traditional charity models have often seen poverty but forgotten to look for flourishing. Keeping this concept front and center in your work helps to motivate, inspire, and keep your work dignifying!
Ways to help neighbors and neighborhoods Flourish
The best way to neighborhood flourishing is through Holistic Neighborhood Development! Other thoughtful forms of community development are great, too. Here’s some elements or focus points to think about when you want to integrate the concept of flourishing into your work:
Excellence and Quality
Commit to delivering excellent programming, service, or experiences to your neighbors and your neighborhood. Offer high quality in a way that works for people of different backgrounds and honors their unique dignity. Focus on impact, not on activity, when determining whether your work is promoting flourishing. And of course, flourishing means upholding people’s autonomy.
Strategy and Systems
Look at the structural forces shaping life in your neighborhood. Look to neighbors to identify which of those systems need the most attention. Then, work with neighbors to create strategies that push towards what locals want to see instead. And yes, be strategic! We love to talk about going fast in impact by going slow at first. Take the time to understand what tactics and areas make the most sense.
Partner with Locals
Work with community members and local institutions that are already at work. Approach every collaboration with kindness. Honor the unique expertise others can bring, especially by making sure you consult with experts before doing anything outside your expertise. Doing so dignifies your partners and prevents sticky situations!
Build Real Relationships
Connect with people at an individualized level. Sometimes, you may need to learn about a new culture or unlearn some patterns to do this well! When building relationships, be sure to approach as an equal. Remember that every person has autonomy – the right to make decisions for their own lives. In a relationship, be sure to listen for their hopes and dreams, the plans they have for their lives. In these conversations, you will naturally hear about their pain points and priorities.
Know Your Limits
Every person has vulnerabilities. Every person has biases. And every person has limits to their capacity. Take the time regularly to recognize your own vulnerabilities for conflicts of interest or blind spots. Continue to learn and undo personal biases with respect to diversity, equity, and justice. Be teachable, for there’s always more to learn!
Flourishing is when everything is the way it’s supposed to be. It’s when all things live in harmony and equity. At the Lupton Center, we believe that every Change-Maker has a role to play in making their neighborhood flourish. As you work, you will likely even notice yourself flourishing more, too!