“We are people pushing forward into new relationships with God and one another to create strong communities.”
This sentence closes out Metanoia’s mission statement. In the earliest days of Metanoia, it was actually our original mission statement in its entirety. Before we were operating programs or
initiatives within our community, this statement drove our work. We have had three or four strategic planning cycles since it was first adopted and each time the statement comes into question. Should we keep it? For some it doesn’t say enough about what we do, and some in our constituency feel naming God in the sentence is too overtly faith-oriented given how much work we do with public and corporate partners. But the sentence continues to survive.
For me, the most important concept in the statement is precisely the concept of relationship. Metanoia has always had a fundamentally relational approach to community development. That is, we believe that the best and most transformative community development efforts arise out of authentic relationships. Here are two things that define these kinds of relationships and make them authentic.
A funny thing happens as we develop relationships of mutuality that are less focused on transactions and more focused on people. The work becomes sustainable. These days I am often asked how we have sustained this work over nearly 15 years, and without question the value of relationships has been our saving grace. I could never wake up and do the hard work we have done for a hypothetical concept or ideal. We all wake up and work for people we love and care about! That is especially true when we know those people love and care about us as well. One of the great privileges of my life is that I get to have authentic relationships with a remarkably diverse set of people from so many backgrounds, races, incomes, etc. These relationships are what sustains the work.
This past month we spent a significant amount of energy working to apply to have the southern half of the City of North Charleston designated as a federal Promise Zone. To do this we collected 21 partners across the non-profit, business and civic sectors. The application was extensive and required a letter of support from each of these partners. Suddenly the relational work Metanoia has done over the past few years was put to the test. Happily, within a week or so, we were able to collect significant commitments for the Promise Zone possibility and we got our application turned in on time. That may not have happened if we had pursued a principally transactional approach to working with these partners through the years. We don’t find out whether we are awarded with the Promise Zone designation until late April, and it is a very competitive process. But whether we are funded or not I can promise that we will still continue to focus on building quality relationships as the primary vehicle for our holistic community development efforts.