Last week, we brought together five incredible individuals from around the world to participate in our first-ever fellowship program, the GOOD Exchange. Without being certain what exactly would transpire, we had a hunch that these change-makers’ interaction with one another and local like-minded organizations would yield some remarkable outcomes. Having been present for nearly all of the workshops, activities and brainstorming sessions, I was blown away not only by the engagement and enthusiasm of each participating fellow and organization, but also by the depth of conversation and the meaningful exchange of ideas that lasted through the final Friday event. I reached out to the fellows and other participants of the program to ask: What was your biggest takeaway from the week? Here are our collective top 10 takeaways, in no particular order.
In order to best work with communities and implement great things, it's vital that we completely engage with the local communities to understand what they really need. Too often, organizations begin projects without having fully heard what the community actually wants or most desperately needs.
2. Give people the chance to participate in creating or re-imagining their urban environment and community.
There is a strong desire among many of us to do this, but often we are not given the opportunity to be heard. Or, we are constrained by what we perceive to be barriers, real or imagined.
3. Look for similarities, not differences.
We are way more alike than the way we talk about poverty and power implies. Our fellows were from very different communities and from all across the globe, but they each shared similar struggles with one other—and with those from the LA-based organizations they met with during the week. Each was seeking funding; balancing the administrative slog with the actual hands-on work with high-level promotional duties; working to gain community trust, etc.
4. We are global citizens.
Poverty exists everywhere. So do solutions. The international image of Los Angeles is one of extreme prosperity but, if one looks closely, many of the same problems that plague communities elsewhere exist here too. We are truly global citizens and solutions that work in one part of the world are often widely applicable in others.
5. Learn from success stories.
In order to escape cycles of poverty, people need to be shown that other options exist. Without the ability to imagine what one’s future could be, a person often continues down the same road that his or her parents and grandparents did. It is important to be exposed to role models who have broken the cycle of poverty and gone on to do more than they once imagined possible.
6. Business can be a force for good.
Sometimes, the most innovative and best solutions come from for-profit businesses, with the resources, bandwidth and requisite amount of “cool” needed to garner support and make a lasting impact.
7. Workspace is important.
The vacant storefront we re-imagined and repurposed for the week sparked conversations by the GOOD employees, fellows, and partner organizations about creativity. For a creative community, being cognizant of how open, diverse and creative a workspace can be is important but often overlooked.
8. Get outside of your bubble.
Meeting people from other countries “fighting the good fight” makes doing a project that often seems isolated or relegated to one specific region feel relevant and important. Community and camaraderie can extend beyond borders and encourage you to keep going, even when challenges lie ahead.
9. Take time to break bread.
Sharing a meal that tells a story about your culture is one of the best ways to generate meaningful dialogue that cuts across borders and unites us all. Food = love.
10. Small actions make a difference.
During their time here, the fellows traveled across the city and met with dozens of change-makers and activists. While we may have a tendency to see individual actions as small, that is short-sighted. Collectively, we can have impact.
Photo courtesy of Sarah Shreves.
Special shout-out to those who helped make this fellowship so great: Modernica, Spectrum Wine Auction, Celadon & Celery, Revelry Event Designers, Art in the Age.