Don’t separate the process from the result

It is pretty safe to assume that just about everyone is operating with good intentions.

It is pretty safe to assume that just about everyone is operating with good intentions, especially in nonprofit, community service organizations. Michigan State University Extension has a strong desire to fulfill the mission of bringing resources to people. It could be youth programming, economic development, health and nutrition resources or agricultural knowledge. It’s important to remember, however, that these services and resources are being delivered to real human beings who have thoughts, feelings, opinions and points of view.

As plans and processes happen, it’s vital to try to take into account how the services will affect the communities or populations where they are being delivered. One shining example of this is found within Michigan 4-H and its model of youth leadership. Youth are often directly involved in conversations about the direction of their clubs and activities. When developing workshops, curriculum or activities that are designed to empower or educate, the youth need to be involved in the design process. The same could be said for any of the other services that MSU Extension provides. If you are working on anything that will have an impact on a given community or population, then members of that group need to be at the table.

This kind of thinking, or operating, can change our whole outlook. Hearing alternative opinions, perspectives and points of view can alter the entire direction of the conversation and plan. It can also help to build trust with populations that may be historically underserved or underrepresented. Asking rather than dictating can help to avoid the appearance of paternalism.

As you go through your processes and plans, seek ways to get input from the people you are working to serve. This way we can build stronger partnerships, deliver better programs and help to build more resilient communities.

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