Finishing What We Started

I have mentioned a few times the macro work I did last semester in a local community for a group assignment at school. Last week we presented our findings to the class, the week before that we turned in our 39 page report and over the weekend we got our grade, 100. It felt really good to see that grade, like all our hard work paid off. The feeling was fleeting though because I knew there was more work to be done.

When the project was first assigned a few of the people in my class, myself included, raised concerns about the assignment. What is done with this information we will be collecting? Will the community benefit from it? The assignment was to do a needs assessment, to engage with the community on all levels and report our findings. That’s it. I went to office hours the week after the assignment was given to discuss my concerns in further detail with my professor. It didn’t feel right to go into someone else’s community, gather information from community members about there needs and then do nothing to help meet those needs.

Something that we learned after speaking to multiple people in the community is that there have been a lot of empty promises made to this community by politicians over the years. I don’t want to be one more person adding to a problem, keeping the information we gathered and not sharing makes me feel like I would be part of a problem not a solution.

I don’t have any delusions about what my role is going forward. What we are working against is bigger than us and it will take more than two undergrad social work students to “fix” it. I do know that we have information that could help though and we are in a position to be able to share that information with people who have more power than we do. Whether anything is done with the information we share or not is kind of out of our hands but that won’t stop us from sharing it and doing our part.

During the project I shared a lead role with another group member and that is who I will be working with going forward now. We have enlisted our professor who originally assigned the project to guide us in our next steps, she has a background in lobbying and working with communities. The plan right now is to meet up (my classmate and myself) and discuss next steps. I have already started brainstorming and I think she has too so now we need to share our thoughts and get on the same page. Our end goal is to meet with the local Senator, the Dean of our school (our college is building a satellite campus in the community so we feel this information will be relevant) and possibly the mayor.

It’s hard to see the end of the road on our work right now because we are just getting started. We agree we need to go back into the community and gather more information first. I think we will more than likely have to take our original document and completely rework it so it is relevant for the person we are meeting with later on down the line. I think my classmate and I are both hoping that we will be able to get the majority of the work done this summer and have time to schedule some of these meetings because time will be scarce when fall term rolls around. We both have the time now so hopefully we are able to put it to good use.

I am glad we have a professor who is willing to review our work and guide us as we do this work. Neither of us have any real experience with communities, this is foreign territory. It is a good learning experience though and hopefully at the end of all of this some good will come.