Kellogg Foundation Forum Comments

Last Year, the Kellogg Foundation Asked for Input Through An Online Forum. Following are some related comments.

How Can We Strengthen Families

RE: How can we strengthen families?

Posted by Bettertown on Thursday, February 28, 2008 12:49 PM

As a former HUD employee, community economic development specialist, organizer and consultant for Public Housing Authorities, I would suggest that one of the highest possible concentrations of vulnerable women and children in the US reside in Indian and Public Housing. HUD does its best to provide family self-sufficiency services designed to help empower and enable residents to address the full spectrum of factors included in the questions of how can we strengthen families. However, improvements are needed and possible.

During 40 plus years as a student and then developer and deliverer of self-development training programs, I have observed that there are three primary factors that determine our success in life and there are certain successful living skills that help foster the realization of potential. The primary factors for success include Clarity of vision; Definiteness of Purpose; and Appropriateness of beliefs, attitudes and actions.

For families to be strengthened, the individual members need to be supported in realizing more of their inherent potential. They require greater access to resources on successful living skills such as being able to imagine a better life and family situation, goal setting skills, financial literacy, creative thinking and problem solving skills, time management, and entrepreneurship.

The good news is there are abundant development training programs available. They just need to be made available and in some cases adapted to most effectively reach and serve and help empower this population you seek to serve.

The effectiveness of the HUD funded PHA resident empowerment and family self-sufficiency programs while well intentioned suffer from the fact that the PHA personnel are all too often not provided the access to the development training they need in order to be effective at helping residents help themselves.

Most development training companies target only the top 10% of the population with their programs which is why some of us have created a campaign to Expand the Circle of Success and donate millions of dollars worth of development training resources to and through non-profit organizations that sponsor our Empowerment Resource Centers.

Another major problem is the fact that PHA’s are comprised of Commissioners who are all too frequently appointed for political reasons rather than experience, qualifications or sincere concern for the welfare of the residents.

I helped develop an innovative model Empowerment Resource Center for a Housing Authority that received awards from HUD and the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials. One component of our program was working with Les Brown, one of the top trainers in world, to adapt his 100 page, $100 product to 12 pages for children as young as 7 years of age.

The program and events with Les were so successful that the Executive Director (ED) of the PHA and I were invited to speak and share our success story at their national conference.

Because one of her commissioners was jealous and had control issues, the ED was told she could not go even though she was featured in the conference program and it was an honor for the PHA. The ED went on her on time and money because she felt she had to deliver the presentation we had been invited to share with other PHA’s that could benefit. Her “reward” was to be fired from the PHA.

I deeply appreciate this and the other questions you are asking as it has me thinking about the possibility of helping shape a national non-profit organization representing residents of public and subsidized housing that could transcend local politics. It could also be able to demonstrate enough substantial potential for transforming the lives and learning situations in those housing communities to receive support and that would then help foster their leadership development and create environments within which the success of any of the proposed applications for strengthening families would have a far greater chance of success.

Thank you again for the opportunity to share our insights and recommendations.

How Do We Build Stronger Communities

RE: How do we build stronger communities?

Posted by Bettertown on Wednesday, February 27, 2008 11:09 PM

I believe the field of Community Economic Development with its focus on self-help, empowerment and capacity building, provides a major piece of the answer to this question.

After living in intentional communities for many years and working in community and economic development, I discovered the field of community economic development and the CED Masters program at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester, NH.

Through the CED program, I learned that the primary goal of community development is to help people improve their economic and social conditions. Community economic development, a subset of community development, is a people-initiated strategy which seeks to develop the economy of a community, region or country for the benefit of its residents.

Community economic development strategies seek to develop efficient, productive and profitable ventures and programs within the context of a community’s social, cultural and political values. Thus, these strategies focus on issues that can foster stronger communities such as:

* local ownership of economic resources;
* citizen participation; and
* building the capacity of local people to participate in and manage the development process.

This introduction to the significant differences in CED helped me understand why so many traditional approaches to community and economic development fail. It is primarily because they lack the comprehensive focus and the commitment to self-help, empowerment and capacity building inherent in community economic development.

During an introductory class in the CED Master’s program, my classmates and I developed the following list of the root causes of the problems that threaten our society:

* The me generation
* Getting away from God
* Lack of spirituality
* Lack of common vision
* Absence of wisdom
* Focus on accumulation versus circulation
* Spiritual and cultural disintegration and the
* Lack of an appropriate values system and ways to express it.

The following month we considered potential solutions to these problems by reflecting on the values of community economic development which we described as including:

* Active citizen participation in government and community
* Focus on human development and community development
* Building collaborative partnerships
* Local resource utilization
* Application of cooperative principles
* Retention of wealth in the neighborhoods
* Seeing personal and organizational goals within the context of community and society
* Consideration and appreciation of multicultural differences in religion, race, values, perspectives and communication
* Enabling people and communities to empower themselves
* Recognizing a spiritual underpinning, a sense of oneness

After twenty-five years of serving in various management capacities in community and economic development programs at the local, state and national level, I can attest to the significance and relevance of these CED Principles. Many communities are discovering that the principles and practices of community economic development provide a framework and formula for addressing the root causes of major concerns such as crime, drugs, gangs, quality of schools, increasing multi-cultural diversity and the need for jobs. Fostering the establishment of local Community Development Corporations is a powerful way of helping residents develop a larger vision of community and expand their ability to help co-create and shape the future of their community.

Here are two of my favorite quotes on the topic of empowered communities:

“When a community and its people are empowered, they have the capacity to articulate their needs; to identify actions to solve those needs; and to mobilize and organize resources in pursuit of commonly defined goals.

When the people of a community come together to visualize and work together to achieve a common future, they recognize that everyone — regardless of education, job, race, age, or background–has something important to contribute to personal and community empowerment. Indeed, the greater the diversity of the participants, the richer the vision and the more effective its accomplishment” Lorraine Garkovich, University of Kentucky

” Let us imagine the community where we would all want to live. It is a community where families, regardless of income or structure, have access to a wide variety of services and programs designed to nurture and strengthen them. It is a community where residents have opportunities to find jobs that match their skills and provide a living wage.

It is a community with different economic classes, but where a person begins life is not the primary determinant of what they can achieve. It is a community that encourages its members to be active participants in all phases of life by acknowledging that everyone has skills or ideas that can contribute to bettering their world. It is a community that recognizes that some tasks cannot be completed and some goals cannot be achieved alone. Indeed, cooperation and interdependence, not competition, would be the key characteristics of successful communities and a successful society.” Lorraine Garkovich, University of Kentucky

There are also some great resources that help build community consensus available from the National Center for Community Education in Flint, Michigan and the Community Empowerment Resource Center model.

RE: How can we improve the quality of education and keep young people in school longer?

Posted by Bettertown on Wednesday, February 27, 2008 11:22 PM

“Inherently, each one of us has the substance within to achieve whatever our goals and dreams define. What is missing from each of us is the training, education, knowledge and insight to utilize what we already have.” Mark Twain

While the vision of being able to make significant improvements to the quality of our educational systems in order to keep children in school longer is well intentioned, there is a another tested and proven approach that could produce far greater results. I believe that what will best motivate and empower students to remain in school and realize maximum benefits are internal factors related to their sense of self-esteem, empowerment and the realization of being in control of their destiny by learning to manage their emotions and maintain “heart mind coherence”.

The educational resources available from the non-profit Institute of HeartMath® include several free reports on the success of their programs documented by studies in many states and learning situations.

It’s a huge “problem” and an ever larger “opportunity”. In my 40 years of experience in personal and community development and empowerment, I have never seen a resource with greater potential to positively impact the entire world than Heart Math.

The objective could perhaps be stated as to help improve and expand the young person’s capacity to enjoy and benefit from education and continue a life-long interest in realizing their inherent potential, fulfilling their purpose and being part of the solution to the many complex challenges we face together.

If we want to build a better world, one possibility is to Expand the Circle of Success, one person at a time, beginning with our youth, along with their parents and our educators.

“Whatever you can vividly imagine, ardently desire, sincerely believe and enthusiastically act upon, must inevitably come to pass.” Paul J. Meyer

Mr. Meyer, the leading self-improvement author of all time, founded Success Motivation, Inc. which has been the world leader in personal and corporate development for over 40 years. During the company’s history of helping people and companies in over 70 countries, they have discovered that successful people and organizations possess five primary success skills. They have a positive mental attitude, they are goal oriented, self-motivated, masters at managing their time around their priorities and they are masters at managing their financial resources to support their priority goals and values.

There are innovative new programs and resources being developed for distribution through local non-profit Empowerment Resource Centers based on award-winning prototypes. The objective is to provide previously underserved populations with expanded access to some of the world’s best development training programs and successful living skills that along with Heart Math programs, will help accomplish these objectives.

In one model program, Les Brown (one of the top 5 motivational speakers in the world) helped adapt the contents of his 100 page, $100 program down to 12 pages that won state and national awards for reaching and serving children as young as 7 years old in a Public Housing Authority through a prototype Community Empowerment Resource Center.

Now we are working with several companies and non-profit organizations to tap the power of edutainment to deliver education and empowerment. We are creating “Empower Marionettes” of trainers such as Les Brown and Mark Victor Hansen to deliver world-class training on successful living skills (including visioning, positive mental attitudes, affirmations, goal-setting, time management, creative thinking and problem solving, conflict resolution, leadership, entrepreneurship and of course the Heart Math programs) for children of all ages.


3 Responses

  1. Just saying hi to everyone.

  2. Car accident and drunk drivers are the most pressing problems of our everyday life.
    According to the World Health Organization, each year 1.2 million people die and nearly 50 million of people are injured or became disabled in car accidents. The cost of road traffic injuries for each country is almost 518 billion dollars per year, which is from one to two percent of their average Gross National Product. By 2020, the car accident will be the tenth leading cause of death in the world.
    To solve the problem and reduce death rate of car accidents on the roads, according to World Health Organization, it is necessary to resolve the five major tasks: riding a motorcycle without a helmet, problem of road infrastructure, problem of speeding, problem of alcohol consumptions and the usage of safety belts.
    In the whole Europe the death rates during car accidents has steadily decreased: in 1991 – 162 deaths per 1 million citizens, in 2004 – 95; in 2007 – 77. In 2007, the most dangerous roads in Europe were in Lithuania, where out of every million people in the car accident died 223 people, and in Latvia – 177. But still some other new EU members remain problematical, such as Estonia and Poland where the number of car accidents continue increasing.
    The main reasons of car accidents are: the tendency of modern European drivers to constantly increase the speed of driving, neglecting the rules of safety belts usage and security facilities for children (child seats). In most of the Eastern European countries that undergo rapid motorization, road infrastructure development, the progress of security services cannot withstand the increased load.
    The experience of countries with developed motorization, such as Canada, France, Finland and the United States, proves that to reduce car accidents and avoid the enormous social and economic losses the next steps should be followed:
    Car accident
    • a flexible and adequate legislative framework for the organization of traffic;
    • road infrastructure: to settle pedestrian crossings, repairing roads, provide the necessary number of parking spaces;
    • pay special attention to promotion of traffic safety and clearly show the consequences of traffic violations to people.
    The main focus of foreign legislation system, to avoid car accidents on the road and provide its safety is the violators’ liability.

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