While many organizations pay lip service to community involvement, Metanoia’s community based values flows through the most important decision making centers of our movement. We take the feedback of our community seriously, and hand over the stewardship of our resources to neighborhood residents. We really do believe that neighborhood residents are the true experts on their own problems. When we began in 2002, by a coalition of churches in South Carolina (the SC Cooperative Baptist Fellowship), we spent the entire first year just listening to community residents before attempting any programming.
Metanoia’s focus on community feedback continues today as a majority of Metanoia’s Board of Directors are themselves neighborhood residents and majority of our staff, including our CEO, are community residents themselves. Metanoia hosts an annual town hall meeting each year to gage community feedback, and we use the feedback from these meetings to drive the direction of our focus and programming. We do not begin with what outsiders or ‘experts’ feel the people of our community need, we begin with what our neighbors feel they need. In this way our neighbors are not just clients of our services, they are citizens who work with us to make positive change sustainable through community participation and buy-in.
Metanoia arrives at strong community participation by obeying the ‘Iron Rule’ of community organizing – to never do for people what they can do for themselves. And by always requiring an exchange for any opportunities we present to the community. For example, our after school programs are not free to parents but charge four hours-worth of community participation a month. By creating systems of exchange, we create a sense of pride and ownership that local residents feel toward Metanoia. The highest compliment that is paid to us is when residents refer to Metanoia as “us” or “we” rather than “them.”