Stories of Success Yield Energy, Hope, Ideas, Buy-in

Stories of Success Yield Energy, Hope, Ideas, Buy-in

Asheville, North Carolina community takes new path to creating a place where children thrive

With a big-picture goal of creating a community where all children thrive, an Asheville, North Carolina advocacy organization had great success recently with what is still a relatively uncommon approach in community development in the U.S.

Children First/Communities in Schools is dedicated to empowering children and their families to reach their full potential through advocacy, education and service.

About three years ago, the organization began zeroing in on systems thinking as a way to amplify community change.

This past spring it held an inaugural Appreciative Inquiry summit around the theme of creating a community where all children thrive. Called the Success Equation Summit, the event was led by Innovation Partners International consultant Cheri Torres.

Organizers were blown away by the
diversity and number of participants in the Success Equation Summit.

Key event goals included igniting energy, sparking and strengthening relationships and introducing new thinking, all towards a sustainable, long-term reshaping of the community.

Children First director of advocacy and community engagement Greg Borom says he was thrilled with the summit outcomes, to begin with, the level of emotional investment and energy amongst participants.

People talked about being “transformed” by the strengths-based story sharing that occurred in small groups.

Borom himself says he found it a decidedly refreshing approach, as it began with sharing stories of children who have thrived and what contributed to those experiences. This then provided the foundation for building out action plans for going forward.

Noting he has worked around issues of child poverty for quite some time, Borom says it's not uncommon to feel a sense of despair and weight.

This approach, however, by building on past stories of success, fostered a sense of hope and a plethora of fresh ideas.

In fact, some people were so inspired they began making calls that very day for moving ideas forward. Some of the ideas have since begun to get traction, including one around bringing fresh fruits and vegetables into a low-income housing area. Another idea to provide education to families of preschool children is set to take off this fall in area elementary schools.

Borom counts the positive stories of children who have thrived as the real strength of the entire process.

“I think that’s what helped build the positive energy that came out of the day and a half, I think it’s what excited people who were there,” he says, adding the whole experience  also confirmed for the leadership that, moving forward, this is something “the community can buy into.”

For more on Children First and the summit, visit this link.

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