Human services organizations and coalitions often talk about “making room at the table” for non-professionals, local residents and people with lived experience of poverty, addiction, mental illness or trauma.
But those organization leaders rarely spend time at the community’s tables—that is, the block parties and cook-outs, playgrounds and parks, neighborhood association meetings, parent-teacher organizations, Little League games and other grass-roots venues that are essential grounds for change.
For people in Buncombe County, NC, the question was: “How do we shift and learn about movement-making within communities rather than at the level of the agency?” Lisa Eby, communication and community engagement division coordinator for Buncombe County Health and Human Services (backbone for the MARC project), said in a MARC webinar focused on community capacity. “If we’re going to tip our communities toward greater resiliency…often the best way is to start from the inside out.”
For starters, that meant putting “community members” at the top of a list of essential partners, rather than as a postscript following the usual litany of health providers, human service organizations, school systems, law enforcement agencies and policy-makers.