Project Activate Launches
A new way to approach extraordinary.
At the Community Foundation, we have a tendency to say the word “extraordinary” a lot. But while we’ve been known to use “extraordinary” to describe everything from the fact that we have more B-Corps in Lancaster than in the entire state of Ohio, to Lancaster City being designated the first Welcoming City in Pennsylvania, to the Extraordinary Give raising more than $42 million for more than 500 local organizations in just seven days of giving, it’s important to note that “extraordinary” doesn’t mean “surprising”. Our community consistently breaks records, turns heads across the country, and inspires shifts in culture from the bottom up not because we’re surprising, but because it’s part of our DNA. Sometimes “extraordinary” doesn’t need to be on a large scale; sometimes it’s starting small, with human connection and collaboration.
And so, it wasn’t surprising to us that when 25 community members helped us launch Project Activate earlier this month in Southeast Lancaster City and Paradise PA that the results were, well, extraordinary.
Building belonging in neighborhoods across Lancaster County.
Project Activate, part of the Community Foundation’s new impact strategy Activate and Amplify, is about neighbors using deep listening to develop new and creative solutions owned by their community. In partnership with Greater Good Studio, Activate Teams of 10-15 residents will undergo workshops and training in human centered design (also called design thinking), a process that uses local feedback to shape and guide projects. From this process, Activate Teams will develop small pilot ideas shaped by community voices that can be scaled into larger initiatives through feedback and tweaks from residents.
The central aim of Project Activate is to develop ways to build neighborhoods where everyone feels like they belong. This can, and must, look different ways for different people and communities.
Each community has different needs and attributes that present unique challenges and opportunities; the goal of Project Activate is to identify what these barriers are, and what the positive goals that can come from them might be to provide opportunities for everyone to feel like they belong in their neighborhood. Our hope is that with a sense of belonging comes a sense of purpose and place, and a way to channel positive energy of inclusion into action that benefits the entire community.
The beginning of an intentional process.
The key element of the success of Project Activate is the process of learning how to listen deeply to community needs, translate those stories into ideas, and those ideas into action. It’s a long but intentional process of challenging team members’ preconceptions and getting to the root cause of barriers to belonging, rather than just symptoms.
Earlier this month, the first two Project Activate Teams gathered to begin this work. They began by mapping out barriers to belonging in their respective communities of Southeast Lancaster City and Paradise, PA. From there, they did a deep dive into what they thought might be the root causes of these barriers, and then flipped those root causes (negative things) into positive goals to work towards as a community. After they established positive goals, they worked to refine the countless ideas into three areas they’d like to study further by getting stories directly from neighborhood residents.
This is only the beginning, and it will not be a straightforward process. And that’s okay! No community movement that creates change is straightforward. And while we don’t know where we’re headed, we do know that with these teams the results will be surprising, but unsurprisingly extraordinary.
We need you for what's next.
While the Activate Teams are off and running, there are still plenty of ways for you to get involved!