The first vision board presented by the design:SD team to the community of Webster, South Dakota, on Sept. 27, 2014, stated the following phrase in bold lettering: GATHERING THE DOERS. There were approximately 50 people in the room that day and surprisingly none of them got up and ran out in fear upon seeing the design:SD team’s first request to the community! Usually when someone asks for volunteers the room goes quiet, everyone looks at the floor, people go to the back of the room for more coffee, and the seconds tick by on the clock. But this group of Webster residents did something unusual. They listened, they participated, they were engaged, and they felt empowered to become invested in a process that was created for them to improve their hometown. Five years later this community is still engaged in the process of vision for their community in order to make big and small things happen.
I thoroughly enjoyed my three days in Webster as part of the design:SD team and realized that I have also been empowered by the phrase, “Gathering the Doers”. Those words excite me! I think about the powerful potential that can be ignited in our communities because of the passions residing inside me and others around me. Our passions are those things that we care deeply about and are motivated to put into action for the betterment of others and ourselves. Living in small communities we see passionate Doers nearly every day and they are making things happen all around us. Doers are moved to become involved in something bigger than themselves in order to liven up community spirit; to celebrate our successes; to learn from our failures; to share history; to get together when support is needed, to support our youth, to raise our kids, to raise money; to strengthen our faith; to be encouragers; to lead; to meet a need; and the list goes on.
Typically, we (the community) tend to believe that creating a call to action for Gathering the Doers requires a formal structure; a request for volunteers; a community-wide understanding of a common need, mission or objective; and the permission from someone of authority to start a project. In reality the process of creating a culture of Doers in the community is really quite simple…
STEP 1: Give yourself permission to start something that you are passionate about.
A small group of entrepreneurs from Brookings, South Dakota, gave themselves permission to declare their hometown the “Creative Capital of the World”. They turned their passion into action and created business, activities, conversations, and opportunities to revolve solely around their public declaration that Brookings was indeed the Creative Capital of the World. They did not ask for anyone else’s permission. They just implemented their ideas (some successful and some failures), printed some t-shirts, created a website, and became the individual Doers that this community needed to carry out the self-proclamation. Because of their passion, others now believe in this grassroots movement and are becoming the Doers that are changing the culture of their community.
You don’t need special skills or resources to Gather the Doers, just give yourself permission, take the leap, put your passion to work, and keep participating…keep investing…keep inviting…keep listening…keep empowering! Your community will love you and others will be empowered to become a Doer too. #Iamrural
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The Community Coach. Having a passion for community leadership and development is what drives Paula Jensen’s personal and professional life. Paula lives in her hometown of Langford, South Dakota, population 318+. She serves as a Strategic Doing practitioner, grant writer and community coach with Dakota Resources based in Renner, South Dakota. Dakota Resources is a mission-driven 501c3 Community Development Financial Institution working to connect capital and capacity to empower rural communities. Contact her at email@example.com.