Friday, October 02, 2009

A million small things

Working to make things happen usually isn't rocket science. It's often the opposite. Very simple little things done over and over and over again. Maybe a thousand little things. The challenge is getting away from pointing out errors or weaknesses and moving to action and results.

There are lots of issues in St. Louis deserving attention. The challenge is, how to make an impactful difference? Having meetings, talking about issues, making points about what needs to happen often leads to suggestions that these things require the actual work of someone...else. That's not effective.

If you want to see something happen, then you have to be part of making it happen. This subject reminds me of the criticism of volunteer groups. It always strikes me as extremely ironic when people are critical of volunteer organizations. Why would people criticize volunteer efforts?

Rather than criticize, how about joining, offering funds, or partnering in some other way? There certainly is plenty of work to do and not enough money, time or people to make it all happen. When people volunteer, they give of themselves, and they are trying to make a positive difference. They need help and support, not criticism. We get more done working together and leveraging our efforts.

A point was made at a recent meeting about helping to improve educational outcomes in city schools. The person made the statement that each one of us needs to become personally invovled. He was right. How does that happen? We hear lots of complaining about the city public schools. Other than complaining, what are people doing to make a difference in improving them?

I read online recently about the idea of targeting historic buildings for preservation. The idea is appealing. How will it happen? It will take a million, or maybe a thousand, small steps. People have to work together. Get on the same page. Share a vision and a passion. Overcome differences, find common ground, and move forward toward making things happen. That means alot work for a lot of someones. And usually it's on top of our normal 8-5 jobs, family and home commitments, walking the dog, and everything else that demands of our time.

Let's explore the things that we've done to make good things happen. A couple of best examples in St. Louis include the creation of Metrolink and the restoration of Forest Park. Getting those projects done took a million small things and years of work. What are some of the other big challenges we face? Zoning reform? Improving educational outcomes? Dealing with vacant and abandoned buildings? What should happen, but more importantly, how do we get things to happen?


LisaS said...

If you have the time, an afternoon spent raking the yard or planting flowers at a school will be greatly appreciated, as will helping a teacher grade papers or decorate a bulletin board. These aren't direct child-centered activities that require all the paperwork to be filled out, but give people a flavour of the life at the neighbourhood school.

some things are even easier: my daughter mentioned this morning that one of her friends got in trouble in class the other day because she didn't have a notebook. "why?" I asked. "her mom lost her job right before school started and there wasn't any money." was the answer.

why is the notebook so critical? because there's no budget for textbooks--or any other books--for our school's Spanish class. so our teacher (who is great) has the children write everything down. a notebook is critical. I'll be buying one for this kids over the weekend.

a notebook. crayons & markers. a winter hat & gloves. these are very little things that make a big difference, and we don't even really think about them. and it's easy pick up a few extra things on your next trip to the store & drop them off at the school counselor's office.

Mark Groth said...

Many of these 1000 little positive activities just need conscientious shepherds to make them have a noticeable impact. Gateway Greening is an example I'd use. They do an excellent job of organizing volunteers, employees, resources, fund raising etc. Look at all the community gardens that have sprung up. Look at all the flowers/plants downtown. Take a look at Bell Garden and city seeds. This group is a rare combo of talkers and doers. They take care of the politics of procuring land for gardens. The neighborhoods organize groups to make it happen and maintain them. It's hassle free. No politics, all action.

We need an effective group like this focused on rehabbing and gaining residents in the city.

For me personally, I have much good intentions, and very little time and even less $. I wish we bloggers and improvement minded legions could join forces to form such a collective. A group that could organize and raise money to purchase properties and rehab in fringe neighborhoods. A targeted effort with the goal of rehabbing historical building and increasing the # of people living in St. Louis would make me jump. You gotta have big guns though to fight the status quo politics, city and staid mentalities.

There's an element that intimidates me about activism/volunteering too: the amazing amount of politics/hurdles involved. I don't want to volunteer for groups that don't have a clear objective or attainable end goal. Take the fine folks that worked on the Save the San Luis last minute effort. Amazing work, amazing people. I know I would've had a blast and met some great people; but I knew that that building was going down because the Catholic's pull in this town if stronger than theirs. I would've felt even more hopeless and disenfranchised had I spent time, effort, emotional stock and then see Krewson, the judge and the church ram rod the parking lot through. Ignorance is bliss. Or, absense makes the heart grow fonder, or something like that...

I want to get involved. I have limited time to give. I want action. Gateway Greening allowed us to build a garden in 1 year. I need quick results with a high probability of success to drag my lazy butt away from family, friends, pass times, cards games, blogging etc. I don't want to have to fight the powers that be to get something done. I want to own it and move on it.

Sorry for the long winded reply.

IONE said...

U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan, D-Mo., plans to introduce a bill today that would seek to create a 20 percent federal tax credit for homeowners to rehabilitate historic structures.
Carnahan’s “Historic Homeowners Revitalization Act of 2009” is modeled after Missouri’s historic tax credit program.
Earlier this month, Carnahan told the Business Journal that the federal tax credits could be paired with state tax credits to provide additional incentives for the rehab of historic structures.
The proposed changes to the existing federal tax credit program would cap the tax credit at $60,000. Additionally, to qualify the homeowner must have qualified expenses over two years in excess of $5,000 for a primary residence.
“Missouri serves as a national model where historic homeowners qualify for help to revitalize their home and community,” Carnahan said in a statement Monday.
The American Institute of Architects and Preservation Action have both endorsed the bill