I came across this wonderful reflection by Ray Thompson which was introduced by our dear friend, John McKnight, I think in Antigonish. I have included the intro and the reflection
As some of you know, we have been working on learning what a person designated to be a "school community connector" can contribute to a new era of school-community relationships. In a month or two we should have a report on this initiative on our website - abcdinstitute.org.
Ray Thompson was the school-community connector who led this exploration in a new school on the Southside of Chicago. As a result of this
experience, he wrote a reflection regarding the nature of a connector. I thought you would be interested in his ideas (note: this is the posting called "Anatomy of a Connector").
It seems to me that people concerned about local communities have emphasized the "need" for leadership development. Ray's work suggests to
us that of equal, if not greater importance, is an emphasis on connectorship - a talent that doesn't require training but can use
illumination, encouragement and support.
The Anatomy of a Connector
Connectors come in all shapes and sizes. They are found in the mahogany covered walls of academia and on our urban streets, where liquor stores sit perpendicular to churches. In a connectors field of interest contradictions abound. A single mother with three children has found a friend in an older woman who lives alone in the apartment below. Taxpaying residents decide to shovel the alley they share because “we can’t wait for the city”. From an apartment building to an inner city alley, many connections are waiting to be made. A connector exists to initiate the link.
Connectors have a natural curiosity about people. Questions are asked and a conversation spontaneously takes off. Gifts are shared and a new friend is made. Gifts and capacities are aligned to improve the quality of life in neighborhoods. Community partners are created and mutual interests are met that directly involve and benefit residents. Sometimes bridge building is needed and a connector is the contractor initiating its construction, relationship by relationship.
A connector values relationship above and beyond what a relationship can produce. Social and financial outcomes are beneficial, but a senior’s love of reading shared with children who are frequently at home alone after school until their mother returns from work can’t be tangibly measured. Though it can be shown that these interactions are investments of time and self that result in hard benefits seen in safe communities, productive and caring school environments, and responsive local government. A connector understands results, but is not results driven. The challenges in communities are complex, but are overcome by getting down to grassroots levels where human interaction takes place and all systems emerge.
Connectors rely on residents for information and learn how residents use information to benefit themselves. Through these observations a connector sees natural synergies in neighborhoods based on the gifts of its residents and the capacities of its institutions. Through relationship the connector helps residents see the potential in the neighborhoods collective assets. Shifts in perception occur and the once half empty glass is now half full or running over, depending on our ability to be inclusion minded. Community changes blossom from empowered residents interacting and sharing their gifts and information. A connector’s primary role is to ignite that action and then let residents and community organizations imagine, create, and build based on their gifts and capacities.
A connector is never satisfied with traditional employment, though one may find them hiding out in social service agencies, community organizations, or doing neighborhood based organizing work. They can be found influencing others to become more interdependent and sharing helpful information. Some connectors may work from an Emersonian-like base of self reliance, motivating residents to rely upon their gifts and local capacities to create economic opportunity. And other connectors seek to weave our invisible and often excluded neighbors back into the fabric of our daily community life. Despite the many variations of connecting and connectors, all connectors understand that community life suffers when neighbors are not in relation. Our communities are the foundation of our civic, social, and economic lives. Community is also the source of creative change and innovation. As globalization and digital technology spreads information (and our attention) far and wide, a connector gathers people to reflect on their local lives. In this reflection community is strengthened, local opportunity emerges, and sustainable change ensues powered by active human relations and capacity.