I’ve been to a lot of community meetings. A lot. There’s nothing quite like the crackling energy and excitement that comes from a group of people getting together to solve a problem, meet a need, and chart a way forward.
At the same time, such gatherings often get stuck in the second year of their existence: How to focus, communicate, decide among priorities, and work around the group’s blind spots.
Roseville is the suburb immediately north of Falcon Heights. Kathy Ramundt and Sherry Sanders started Do Good Roseville as a way to collect and distribute hats, mittens, coats, and other things kids in the community and schools needed.
Because it brokered connections between needs and givers, that became its “main thing,” so when Philando Castile was shot two summers ago and the community around Roseville was reeling, Do Good Roseville responded by sponsoring a series of community conversations like those hosted by Falcon Heights Church.
Roseville is large enough, and geographically located at the center of the urban area that is the Twin Cities Metro. Its demographic evolution in the past decade and a half mirrors that in St. Paul and Minneapolis—large and growing Karen (a Sino-Tibetan ethnic group from Myanmar), Somali, and Hmong populations, along with growing racial and economic diversity in the suburbs.
If Falcon Heights is a borderland, Roseville is an epicenter, of sorts.
This was a faith-community gathering, but not all people represented a specific faith community. It was predominantly Christian, though not exclusively (a couple of Buddhists and at least one Muslim, a longtime resident of Falcon Heights). The group was also predominantly white, though not completely.
In short, it was like many groups of people with good hearts and intentions getting together to take action on behalf of the common good.
But it was wonderful to watch the group’s diversity of viewpoints and experiences balance out perspectives for things such as white privilege. As one person put it, the group was striving to break out of a “white-dominant silo.”
So we talked about communications methods to reach people speaking languages other than English, people on social media and not, people who have email and don’t, and how to use existing platforms such as Next Door to link neighborhoods and diverse experiences in order to aim our efforts well and have the biggest impact.
The single biggest impact the group will have, though, is in changing minds and hearts—and leveraging the spheres of influence that comprise this collective.
Since Do Good Roseville is more than this faith-community group, one of the final tasks of the evening was, after a year’s existence, to come up with a name for the group. With naming comes focus, messaging, and attraction of other participants, which makes the group even more diverse.
Yet, the complete absence of blinders on the collective gives me hope for the group’s future work.