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Riding the Information Tidal Wave

17 Sep

P3_Logo_FINAL-B&W1Quite by accident I ended up having dinner with friends and a Connecticut sculptor/university professor and his wife. The conversation moved from art to students and then to history. Along the way we strayed into my favorite subject; information overload. For the professor, the availability of a wealth of information was mitigated by students with little or no ability to locate primary source material, determine the validity of the information or critique and analyze resources to support their theses.

In fact, information overload can make it more difficult to locate relevant information in a timely manner, let alone understand and digest it enough to use it to make informed decisions. Organizations, as well as human beings, face the same challenge. This is especially true of organizations in the non-profit sector where the need for services often exceeds the available resources.

P3 faces the same challenge, too much information and not enough time to process it, let alone draw meaningful correlations to our mission and goals. There are reams or terabytes of facts, figures, charts, graphs, research, grants and news that might prove to be instrumental in our journey towards empowering young people but we don’t have the time, energy and wherewithal to always do what we desire.

The P3 board is going on a retreat to determine our next steps. If you would like to join us drop me an email and I will give you details. If you have something valid to add to the community of people pushing this organization forward but cannot attend, let me know so that we can include you in the team of people necessary to make this organization a thriving vital part of the community.

Neighborhood or Community

24 Jul

Did you know that there is a bike tour of the Austin neighborhood? The online site also includes images of various historic buildings and residences in the neighborhood. If you scroll through to the 3rd section you may even see a familiar house labeled Catherine Schlechtk House, described as an 1887 Queen Anne designed by Schock http://www.chicagovelo.com/austin.html.

The popular site Street Advisor, used by many people when moving to a city or state, also has a number of reports on the Austin neighborhood http://www.streetadvisor.com/austin-chicago-cook-county-illinois. For those unfamiliar with the site, it allows people living in or near the location to rank the area for everything from its architecture to who lives there. Surprisingly, in addition to great architecture, it also ranked high for Neighborly Spirit and was suggested by more than one writer as a good place for both professionals and families with kids.

While you may think I am bringing up these items up simply because I am weary of writing about crime rates and cajoling people to action, it is actually a response to something I saw in the Chicago Tribune Crime in Chicago article. The anonymous writer asked the question “What’s the difference between a neighborhood and a community…?” While the answer referred to a 1920 Social Science Research Committee report from the University of Chicago, I considered how I would answer that question myself.

Various dictionary definitions of community proved to be ambiguous though all had similar beginnings; that of a social group with common interests. The definition of neighborhood seemed to be more concerned with location, mostly connected to a place where people live. Psychologist Seymour Sarason first defined the phrase sense of community; he suggested that community is defined by the following factors:
1) Membership: Members have a sense of belonging; they identify with the group and they are willing to make an investment.
2) Influence: Members feel their participation makes a difference and that they have a say in what happens in the group.
3) Fulfillment of Needs: Members’ needs are met by the group; they are rewarded individually and by the success of the group. An important factor is that members are able and willing to help one another and to receive help in return.
The final and most important factor, in my estimation, is this
4) Shared Emotional Connection: Members have a belief that community has a common history, and common places as well as shared events and positive experiences. Members also experience the risks and rewards that come from their individual and group investments, be they time, money or intimacy.

Pyramid Players Productions is trying to create a community within the Austin neighborhood. In order for P3 to foster, build, and grow a successful and thriving community, it needs members. But P3 needs members who are willing to step up and take ownership and responsibility. You do not have to live in the Austin neighborhood but you need to be willing to want to be a part of the community that is striving to empower young people to discover hope and build self-worth through performance based arts and athlete development initiatives in order to be prepared for real-world success. To read the entire mission statement see http://pyramidplayersproductions.org/#/.

Your reward for participation in the P3 community will be that you are helping to make a difference, that you are a part of the answer to the challenges that teens face in Chicago. Someone in your past made an effort to engage you, to help you to get to where you are now so it is time for you to join this community and offer a hand to the next person.

Fast Forward

12 Jul

As children we wanted everything to go faster; from the time we took our first steps to the moment we danced across the stage with our college diploma in hand. Somewhere, weeks or months after that event, we suddenly realized that we wanted time to slow down; we were no longer in such a hurry. We began to see the benefit of taking our time, enjoying the journey, and savoring the moment.

 Now as we approach the opportunities and possibilities that P3 / Pyramid Player’s Productions offers to us, both personally and as a community, we are suddenly seized by the need to rush headlong into the service portion of organization’s mission. While the desire for action is commendable, it is equally important that we build a foundation for the organization. Far too many non-profits fail, not because they did not have a strong mission, but because they failed to attend to the up-front organizational and structural work necessary for long-term stability and growth.

 We need a business plan with the requisite financial forecasting and a written and verbal vision plan as well as a final version of the mission statement. There needs to be a logo available for the board to use on correspondence, newsletters, blogs and other branded material. Committees need to be formed, chairs appointed, tasks assigned and due dates for deliverables determined. All of these items, and many more, need to be done deliberately, methodically and a little slower than we might like.

 Ralph Waldo Emerson said that nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm but good planning allows enthusiasm to be channeled into great decisions.