Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy reminds of the importance of dedicating our lives to making a difference that has a lasting impact for all. As we prepare to honor and celebrate his birthday, it’s more than remembering and reflecting but creating an opportunity to partner with our local communities that are still daily addressing issues of injustice. In the Letter from a Birmingham Jail in 1963, Dr King wrote, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” Written more than 50 years ago, this quote is still relevant today and reminds us that there is still work to do.
For many companies, Martin Luther King Jr’s National Holiday is a day off but could serve as a catalyst for engagement with community and faith-based organizations and trusted leaders. How can your organization collaborate with others to serve in a way that is meaningful, impactful, builds legacy and involves the local community? The mistake that many companies make is assuming they understand the needs of the local area without really focusing on the assets that currently exist. Instead of reinventing the wheel, how can you partner to support existing efforts especially of those organizations that are within marginalized communities?
Instead of assuming what exists, it’s important to map the assets that exist within a community in order to ensure we are not duplicating efforts. Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) is based on the work of John McKnight and Jody Kretzmann of Northwestern University. Asset Based Community Development reiterates that every community has 5 areas:
• Physical Space
• Local Economy
EVERY COMMUNITY has talent in individuals, as well as organizations, businesses, land, and other opportunities that are often overlooked. This approach focuses on the strengths of a community instead of allowing lack and need to dominate the conversation. When we are aware of what is available, we can begin to collaborate, create strategies, and think differently about the way we approach our communities.
THE KEY TO ABCD IS RELATIONSHIPS. Relationships serve as the glue in community. As company, how can you use the social capital—the networks, associations, relationships—of your team members, vendors, suppliers to help with identifying organizations to support? ABCD and social capital are interconnected. We can identify those assets through our relationships. When we don’t have representation in our companies, we will overlook opportunities. We also do not benefit from the lived experience of our employees who can speak into who is missing from the table in our businesses and from the community.
So why is all of this important? In order to know what’s needed in our communities, it’s important to map what’s already there. IT’S IMPORTANT TO LISTEN AND RECOGNIZE THE ASSETS THAT ALREADY EXIST. In order to make the difference that we seek, we have to be willing to have the necessary conversations that will allow us a better understanding and to become better partners. We can change our communities through our relationships—one at a time!
Instead of a day off, let’s have a day on to serve. Here are some considerations:
- McKinsey stated in a recent report, “…. impact of the pandemic on K–12 student learning was significant, leaving students on average five months behind in mathematics and four months behind in reading by the end of the school year.” Considering that learning loss for youth has been significant in especially in under resourced communities, are there opportunities to donate books that children can see themselves reflected? How can you partner with organizations like Race to Kindness https://www.racetokindness.com/ to bring books to these communities? Is there an opportunity for a book drive or even a day of participating with local schools and community centers to provide a read-in?
- The National Council on Aging stated, “The effects of COVID isolation may be particularly acute among older adults in long-term care (LTC) facilities, as outlined in an AARP report that suggests feelings of loneliness, abandonment, despair and fear among residents – and their toll on physical and neurological health”. How can your company adopt a senior center or elderly recreation program and find out ways that you can support the needs of seniors especially in communities of color that were hit really hard by COVID?
- As companies prioritize the mental health of their employees, is there an opportunity to provide mental health resources in communities that may not have access? Is there a possibility to collaborate with current providers to offer these services?
- Are there opportunities to utilize the gifts and talents of your employees to serve beyond the MLK Holiday offering their expertise to help build the capacity of nonprofits and faith-based organizations in your local area? How can your real estate team help organizations with thinking about land acquisition or your strategic planning team offer pro-bono services to help organizations build toward long term sustainability?
As much as companies have goals to meet for CSR and a need for great PR, creating a legacy WITH (not FOR) the community is critical. Listening is important in collaborating. The theme of this year’s holiday is Shifting Priorities to Create the Beloved Community. I hope that your company will make it a priority to co-create in collaboration with your local community the change that is needed.
If you would like more information on how your company can serve it’s community in celebration of MLK Day, or if you want to book Dr. Froswa Booker-Drew for a speaking event, please contact us at LetsGo@DiversityCrew.com. Check out Dr. Froswa’s full company profile and the other topics and courses she has expertise in such as Women in the Workplace, and Juneteenth and Black History.