This summer, each member of our summer team is expected to have at least fifteen one-on-one meetings with community members during the month of July. They are asked to choose individuals from three categories: 1. a list of individuals who have agreed to participate in the relational meetings, 2. an Illuminated team member, and 3. an individual from a faith community or an organization of their choice. The following excerpt has been taken from our training on relational work.
In 2008, Illuminated Cities was a just an idea and it began with the intention of taking young student leaders from metropolitan Detroit for a community service project to build houses in India. The idea came with a disregard for the opinions of and assumptions about the community in New Delhi. The original project idea never took place, but one critical component it lacked was needs-‐assessment. As we prepare Illuminated fellows to think about change in their local communities, one‐on‐one’s are a crucial component of the needs assessment process for their Action Plans. They also lend themselves to exposing participants to multiple viewpoints within a given community.
As we were preparing for the Mexico City pilot project, one of our Illuminated fellows wanted to create an Action Plan to address violence. Our team assumed she wanted to address violence in her community on the south side of Chicago. Upon further discussion, we discovered that she wanted to create programming to address emotional and physical violence in relationships. Her Action Plan did not match up with our assumptions about her project. We had to first acknowledge and respect this difference in order to be able to provide any assistance with her project design.
One-on‐one’s can serve as the difference between bringing a program into a community as an outsider, and having a community-led movement with ideas that have buy‐in from that community. They are the difference between imposing one’s own ideas onto a community and working in solidarity with community-members who can serve as change‐agents in ways that make sense to them in order to catalyze reforms towards a more just and sustainable world.