Monday, May 24, 2010

Can we connect the dots? Part I

A couple of days ago I visited one of the poorest neighborhoods in inner city Dallas, Texas.  A large scale community project was underway.  Over 100 volunteers from Home Depot worked side-by-side with the residents of the neighborhood to build a KaBoom! playground for the children who live there.  It was a very cool experience. 

As I drove away, my mind continued to spin. 

How do we change, reclaim and rebuild blighted areas like this one?  I know it takes leadership, and this community has that on the ground every day.  It also has a business champion (one of these posts I'll tell you about the particular, courageous leaders at work here) devoted to following the lead of the local leader. 

Still, substandard housing, lots of it rental and slumlord owned, dominates the streets.  Vacant lots abound.  People and work have basically disappeared over the past 40 years.  The schools are weak, the drop out rates extremely high and not improving.  Unemployment for those still living in the area is very high, and those who work don't earn enough to make life work, certainly not work well. 

Then, I think of the Louisiana coast, of New Orleans, of the fishing professionals who've been wiped out by the incredible BP spill into the Gulf of Mexico that now laps up into the wetlands and sweeps around the Florida coast on its way up the East Coast. 

I think of terrorists and oil imports and what seems to me to be clear connections. 

Somehow in the midst of all of this challenge, each of these large scale difficulties, swirling and seemingly disconnected, we may have a perfect storm brewing that will blow in great opportunity for bold, creative responses or one that will blow us further and further away from each other and down the wrong path. 

What we need in the neighborhoods and among the people with whom I work is heroic leadership willing to think with great, amazing creativity to connect the dots of opportunity that can be identified in the swirl of these seemingly desperate problems.  While the issues/challenges may seem disconnected, I'd argue that we dare not allow them to be viewed in isolation from one another. 

Drop in tomorrow for the rest of my ponderings. . .

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