A compassionate and bold response

I recently returned from a Latin American housing conference that Habitat for Humanity helped organized in Monterrey, Mexico. It brought together leaders from the public, private, academic and social sectors who are working hard to keep housing at the forefront of global discussions.

As we talked about our courses of action, we often referenced the creation of partnerships and the empowerment of communities. But consider what that actually requires.

Transforming communities is hard. Partnering is hard. It’s sometimes tempting to think that it might be much easier to do the work without partnering with so many stakeholders. Before too long, however, that lack of collaboration would undoubtedly begin to show.

I’ve seen too many instances around the world where public and private entities have worked together to build physical structures, but without the buy-in of the people who are going to live there, sadly, those efforts almost never succeed.

At Habitat, we believe the strongest partnerships involve the public sector, private individuals and businesses, and the people who will quite literally live into the partnership’s promise. It just makes sense for a community to actively participate in shaping the area in which they will live and work.

When you can identify the strengths — and needs — of a neighborhood, tailor solutions to those realities and involve the people who will live there, communities have a much better chance of nurturing success. In Vero Beach, Florida, for example, Indian River Habitat recruited homeowner LaKisha Erwin to help manage neighborhood revitalization efforts in the community where she resides.

“What I love about neighborhood revitalization,” she says, “is its focus on the assets of a community that are already there. People are getting to know each other and are getting inspired.”

As we work to create sustainable transformation in communities around the world, it’s that inspiration — and involvement — that we most need.

For 30 years, speaker and teacher Angela Blanchard has helped communities define themselves in this same way by focusing on strengths and resources rather than any perceived “brokenness.” She recently brought her insights to Virginia’s Habitat of Greater Charlottesville, leading a workshop and community conversation that emphasized neighborhood engagement and broad-based collaboration.

“Habitat is doing things no one else is doing,” she said during the event, “and in a way that is compassionate and bold at the same time.”

That’s what we strive for every day in every community in which we work. I’m especially thinking of Nepal at this time, as we continue to work in support of those families who lost so much so quickly as the result of devastating earthquakes this spring. It’s through our local and regional networks, steadfast partnerships, long-term work in the country and support of readers like you that we begin the work of building alongside families as they recover.

That’s the type of partnership we need as we work toward a world where everyone has a decent place to live. What will your bold and compassionate response be?

— Jonathan Reckford, Habitat for Humanity International CEO