The Arcadia Institute

Making it possible for people with disabilities to be welcomed, supported and respected in their community

Entries for March 2012

An Interview with John McKnight

On March 15, 2012 about 70 people gathered at Transformations Spirituality Center in Kalamazoo for the 3rd Building a Community of Belonging: A Forum of The Arcadia Institute and Its Partners. (At the end of this blog you can see the complete list of our Partners, Supporters and Sponsors.)

John McKnight was our guest facilitator for the afternoon portion of the Forum. John guided us through four questions that lead us to look at the personal gifts, talents and contributions each person brought to the Forum:

What are your gifts? What were you born doing well?

What skills are you good at doing that you have learned?

What are you passionate about?

What do you know well enough to teach?

Groups shared and our Blog for March 20 was a word cloud of those gifts. We will use this information as our Network moves forward in 2012.

On March 21, Allison Hammond interviewed John about his impressions of Kalamazoo and the work we are doing to make Kalamazoo a Place Where All People Belong.

A: What was your overall impression of Kalamazoo?

J: Since I stayed downtown in Kalamazoo I didn’t see the whole area, but I was pleased to see that Kalamazoo’s downtown area seems to be active and alive. I don’t always find this is the case in other towns the size of Kalamazoo.

A: What did you think of the work we are doing with the Network?

J: I think that the approach The Arcadia Institute and its partner organizations is using is smart. Engaging important not for profit organizations to change the culture of Kalamazoo into a place where people are welcome and included is a wonderful approach.

A: What would you suggest as next steps for the Network when we meet again?

J: I have two suggestions. First, I encourage all of the organizations who were involved to use the questions I asked at the Forum. It is a new way of working toward an organization’s mission. Instead of looking at a strategic plan as how to get people in the organization to do work toward the mission, ask the people another question. How do your gifts, skills, passions and teachables contribute to the organization’s work toward the mission? You can completely change the conversations in an organization to talk about contributions rather than how to get people to do things.

Second, the not for profit organizations that provide community programming typically invite people to join them and partake in whatever is offered. I think that is inviting people into the organization’s “agenda.” Another approach is to invite people to join by asking them what gifts, skills, passions and teachables the invitee can bring to the organization. For example, The Nature Center could invite people to join and share their mission and their programs, but the third part of the invitation is to ask people what they would like to contribute to the Nature Center so that all mutually benefit.

When an organization knows what its members’ gifts are, they can also let other organizations know about them. In this way, the Nature Center as well as people who participate there begin to connect more broadly to the whole community.

Real relationships are friendships built when people are doing things together that meaningfully impact the community. You cannot “find friends” for people, but you can help them make friends by offering as many opportunities for people to engage with one another. For example, I have twenty-four faculty that are my colleagues, but I would only call five or six real friends. We need to offer people who are marginalized as many opportunities as possible to spend time with people who have like interests in making meaningful contributions.

A: Thank you so much for coming to spend time with us in Kalamazoo.

J: I appreciate being there and I am interested in knowing what your group does next.

For more information about John McKnight you can visit The Asset-Based Community Development Institute or Abundantcommunity.com

For more information about The Arcadia Institute you can visit www.thearcadiainstitute.org.

Building a Community of Belonging Forum Partners
The Arcadia Institute
YMCA of Greater Kalamazoo
Kalamazoo Nature Center
Boys and Girls Club of Greater Kalamazoo
Southwest Michigan Council of Boy Scouts
The Portage District Library

Advocacy Groups
ARC of Kent County
ARC of Michigan
ARC of Western Wayne County
Disability Network of Southwest Michigan

Sponsors
Kalamazoo Community Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services
Center for Disability Services
Residential Opportunities, Inc.
Family & Children Services

Supporters
Julie Pell
Prevention Works
USA Tae Kwan Do
YMCA Sherman Lake
Kingdom Sports
Air Zoo

Additional Funding
Connections Council
Support for this forum was provided by a grant from the
Kalamazoo Community Foundation.

Gifts We Discovered

Building a Community of Belonging: A Forum of The Arcadia Institute and Its Partners was a day spent talking about gifts. The gifts that each person brings into any association, organization, neighborhood or family. Here is a link to a word cloud of the gifts we discovered that day:

Our next Network Meeting is March 26 from 9 – 11AM in the West Lake Room at the Portage District Library. NOTE: The Library Opens at 9AM.

Excitement Building

Excitement is building here at the Arcadia Institute about the third annual Building a Community of Belonging: A Forum of The Arcadia Institute and its Community Partners on Thursday. We would like to take this opportunity to thank our Partners, Advocacy Groups, Sponsors, and Supporters who have made this event possible. We are very grateful for your involvement in our community and your commitment to making Kalamazoo a community where all people belong.

Building a Community of Belonging Forum Partners
YMCA of Greater Kalamazoo
Kalamazoo Nature Center
Boys and Girls Club of Greater Kalamazoo
Southwest Michigan Council of Boy Scouts
The Portage District Library

Advocacy Groups
ARC of Kent County
ARC of Michigan
ARC of Western Wayne County
Disability Network of Southwest Michigan

Sponsors
Kalamazoo Community Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services
Center for Disability Services
Residential Opportunities, Inc.
Family & Children Services

Supporters
Julie Pell
Prevention Works
USA Tae Kwan Do
YMCA Sherman Lake
Kingdom Sports
Comstock Community Center
Air Zoo

Additional Funding
Connections Council
Support for this forum was provided by a grant from the
Kalamazoo Community Foundation.

Why The Nature Center is Committed to Inclusion

The Kalamazoo Nature Center has been at the forefront of community participation for people with disabilities for quite awhile. Jenny Metz, Experiential Education Director, has work very intentionally to create the camping programs for all children and youth. The Nature Center has also opened its doors to adults with disabilities who are looking for volunteer opportunities.

For the third year, The Nature Center is a partner in the Building a Community of Belonging Forum presented by The Arcadia Institute. Recently, Jenny was asked why the Nature Center continues to be committed to this effort. She gave three very clear statements:

“It is important to get together with like-minded groups to brainstorm, network, learn and share so we don’t get stuck in a rut.”

“Learning new things so we are energized to build the capacity to include all people in our programs and activities of our organization.”

“Basically, it is the right thing to do because everyone should be welcome in all aspects of public life.”

Jenny as an individual has been valuable to the planning process for Building a Community of Belonging. We invite you to read more about the Forum by visiting here.