Date: 7/24/2018

Author: Jack Storey, Executive Director

Employer: FUEL (Franklinton Urban Empowerment Lab)

“Caring for a community is tough; convincing others to care about their community is tougher.”

 When asked to write this blog post, I stumbled for a little bit. I work in Community Development, an “industry” that is defined by being a steward of places. How then, to accurately represent that in short form, and without rambling too intensely? I’ve decided to write it about personal responsibility, and not career-based responsibility. In these precarious times, I thought it might be more prudent to extol the values of individual community development.

People often ask me what I do for a living. I mostly respond with some version of “I try to empower folks in specific geographies to stand up for themselves; provide from themselves and their families; and to feel engaged in their citizenship.” Of course, my day to day is more about building affordable housing and providing specific programming for residents to help them achieve the loftier statement above, but that’s the boring stuff. The bottom line is this: caring for a community is tough; convincing others to care about their community is tougher.

I believe it is crucial for individuals to begin acting as stewards of their communities. You don’t have to build housing, but you should attend neighborhood meetings, host BBQs, or offer to lend your neighbor your lawn mower. It sounds easy, but even I stumble to fully live that kind of existence on a daily basis. It takes true effort, and with so many words, I hope you’ll find the inspiration to put that effort in for the sake of your community’s wellbeing.

You could start a block watch program if you don’t already have one; there are countless examples online.  I could ramble on, citing great examples, but I’ll keep it short and sweet by asking you to do one thing: Get to know at least FIVE of your neighbors. I don’t mean get to know their faces from the inside of your car as you politely wave while driving past them. Get out of your comfort zone, walk over, and knock on the door. Introduce yourself, ask them a few easy questions about themselves, and finally: Invite them to dinner at your home. It’s easy and it changes the world. Your world.  I can tell you that putting in the effort to get to know and befriend my neighbors has given me many gifts, and it is a constant reminder that the world – even though it seems to be constantly on fire – provides some amazing good just outside your front door.

Date: 5/24/2018

Author: Dan Mayer, Associate

Employer: TRIAD Architects

Listen first, then take your talents and use them to the best of your ability.

 There are three impactful moments in the last ten years that have genuinely altered my personal views on stewardship.  The first was an experience in China; the second was an experience in Belize; the third was meeting Chris Lambert of Life Remodeled in Detroit.  The three moments coalesce my altered perception of need, or rather, the lack of understanding.  I grew up in a relatively affluent neighborhood and community in the suburbs of Columbus and was isolated from the struggling communities in my region.  I was naïve to believe I understood “how” to help or even if I could help.

In 2011, I traveled to China for a school project while completing my architecture degree.  I was fortunate to experience first hand the Miao culture in the Guizhou province.  A minority ethnic group, the community welcomed us with great fanfare exclusive of the poverty we were prepared to experience.  They sang and danced, dressed in intricate jewelry and vibrant gowns, with smiles and pride in who they are, not what people perceive them to be.  Our research was focused on how they work, live, play, not the architecture or style of their buildings.  We learned about their challenges of farming and providing for their families beyond material wealth.  My first lesson, Stewardship is not about dictating, but rather listening and embracing community pride.

In 2012, I traveled to Belize for a school project while completing my planning degree.  We traveled to a small river community on the western edge of Belize along the Guatemala border. Our contact was a former planner for Miami-Dade County in south Florida working for the Peace Corp during his retirement.  We met with people of all ages and backgrounds and walked the town from north to south and east to west.  This strong catholic community with incredible natural resources was hoping to find economic vitality through big ideas and monetary investment.  My second lesson, Stewardship is not about investment dollars, but by identifying the resources and opportunities that already existed.

In 2016, I traveled to Detroit to find opportunity for my employer at the time.  While there I met Chris Lambert, CEO of Life Remodeled.  Life Remodeled focuses on a neighborhood in Detroit that needs help.  Each year, through active fundraising and relationship building, Chris and his staff provide incredible neighborhood improvements over a week period that includes nearly 10,000 volunteers from around Detroit and the region.  I was fortunate to participate in assisting with the Durfee Middle School re-purposing to a Community Innovation Center, by far one of my proudest engagements in my professional career.  My third lesson, Stewardship is not about the grand gesture, but the individual efforts of people willing to do the smallest of tasks for a neighbor.

These three experiences forced me to look inward at my understanding of Stewardship and not “how” to help, but my willingness to support.  To be stewards we must champion community pride with the very people that live it, breath it, and know it.  It is not about change, displacing or directing, but about reaching out to a neighbor and simply asking “How can I help?”  Listen first, then take your talents and use them to the best of your ability.

Date: 4/2/2018

Author: Jami Goldstein, Vice President Marketing, Communications & Events

Employer: Greater Columbus Arts Council

“Stewardship and being a conscientious public servant go hand in hand. I do not believe you can successfully have one without the other.”

“Architecture is inhabited sculpture.” Constantin Brancusi

I love this quote. It goes right to the heart of stewardship: Do not think of the actions of your life, or your creations, as stand-alone entities, in a vacuum, existing only in the now.  Each action we take creates ripples in the world, in the present and into the future. Each creation is an opportunity to make someone else’s life better, and to be a testament to caring about the future of our society and our planet.

Stewardship as defined by Webster’s Dictionary is: “the conducting, supervising, or managing of something; especiallythe careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one's care.” Our founding fathers understood this when they wrote in the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States that its purpose was to “…insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity…”.  The last part, “and our posterity,” is forgotten, or worse ignored, far too often these days. 

Sadly, I believe our culture has become married not to conscientious stewardship but to immediate gratification. Society, it seems, has come to a place where if our own immediate needs are met, and those of our family, or business, we don’t really care what the repercussions are for the future. My hope for the future is the young people coming of age today, who are becoming more vocal with their disagreement of this behavior.

I have spent most of my 25-year professional career in public service.  I am fortunate to work in the arts, a first love, and I am passionate about the impact I see, regularly and first-hand, that the arts have on the lives of people in our community.  To me stewardship and being a conscientious public servant go hand in hand.  I do not believe you can successfully have one without the other.  My sense of the weight of responsibility of good stewardship is strong, and being a public servant is an important part of my identity.

Why did I choose public service? Is there a sense of selflessness that is important to me?  I must believe, regardless of whether I’m processing a bill or connecting an artist with a paid opportunity, that my work has a larger purpose, and that the work of my organization has a positive impact on people and our community. I don’t believe I could look at myself in the mirror otherwise.

Date: 2/26/2018

Author: Shannon G. Hardin, Columbus City Council President

Employer: The City of Columbus

“Stewardship doesn't occur in a vacuum. Being an impactful steward comes with the incessant imperative to partner.”

I joke that my public service can be viewed as selfish. I have a big family that stretches across town. Most of my family is working class. They live in Southfield, King Lincoln, Driving Park, and other neighborhoods which for years existed without clear avenues for upward mobility. My nephew, Christian, will grow up black in Southfield. My work as a steward for this city is to ensure he grows up in a community that looks at him with love and admiration rather than fear. That stewardship means pushing Columbus to become a place where race and zip code don't determine the fate of our young folks. There is no single policy lever to address all of the environmental stressors which pile onto our young people's shoulders. Affordable housing, access to healthcare, good-paying jobs, meaningful education, & safe streets form the ladder rungs to the middle class. I want the best for my nephew and, I believe, if we flatten obstacles for folks like him (i.e. boys and young men of color), we lift all of Columbus.

Now the "we" I mentioned in that previous paragraph wasn't the royal we nor was it meant to refer only to Columbus City Council. The aforementioned "we" refers to the Columbus community. Stewardship doesn't occur in a vacuum. Being an impactful steward comes with the incessant imperative to partner. No matter what any strong mayor tells you, great cities are built through collective stewardship. Collective stewardship means recognizing that the success of your family is tied to the success of families across Columbus. Collective stewardship is rooted in shared priorities and a desire to see every neighborhood in Columbus thrive.

As a young elected leader, my eyes are set on Columbus. I'm not seeking to serve anywhere other than right here. I'm comfortable knowing that my stewardship and focus will stay laser-focused on the plight of folks struggling in Columbus. My commitment is and will continue to be the welfare of this city. My commitment is to my family and to families across our city. I don't have all the answers. But with good partners, I'm confident that all of us can lead Columbus into an even brighter future.

 

1/22/2018

Author: Jason McGee, Instructor, Eastland-Fairfield Career and Technical School

The curriculum demands that they are taught a technical proficiency in architecture. I make a conscious effort to supplement this by asking the students to consider their social responsibility as designers.”

Teaching [is] Stewardship

Merriam-Webster defines stewardship as “the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one's care”.  As the instructor of the Architecture and Construction Management Program, I am entrusted to guide tomorrow’s architects and designers. My first responsibility is to the students, followed by the parents, school district, alumni, and the architectural community. 

I believe the notion of ownership goes hand-in-hand with that of stewardship. I am not the owner of my program as a piece of property. However, I have full ownership of the results, good or bad, while the program is entrusted to my care. This is a task both undeniably daunting and unimaginably rewarding.

The students entering the program are already interested in creating the spaces they inhabit. The curriculum demands that they are taught a technical proficiency in architecture. I make a conscious effort to supplement this by asking the students to consider their social responsibility as designers. The best example of this is reflected in the students’ senior projects; like a thesis, they research and design a final project of their choosing. 

A project I am particularly proud to share that exhibits social responsibility was designed by Kendra Soler. She wanted her senior project to be on the site of Eastland mall, a location near her home that she witnessed degrade over time. Her first instinct was: “I’ll bring back the mall” but she quickly realized that the area didn’t need a mall at all. It needed resources to empower the disenfranchised members of the community. She posited that domestic violence and single-mother households were one of the most devastating problems facing the community.  Her final proposal was a women’s shelter that became a neighborhood-wide intervention to begin the healing process.

While the final project was powerful and successful, the most rewarding days occurred during the design process. On several occasions I overheard Kendra and her classmates passionately discussing design and the issues they were addressing in their projects. It’s gratifying to hear these conversations happen spontaneously and without my participation.

Due to the generous support from the community, I feel a reciprocal obligation to the profession to curate creative, socially aware, young professionals. We will soon entrust my students to carefully and responsibly guide the profession of architecture. From where I stand, the future looks bright.

You can view more of our work on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.  If you would like to get involved with us, please reach out to me: jmcgee@efcts.us.