In 2013, as Embrace was turning 7 years old, our board of directors participated in a strategic visioning process. During that season of discernment, we made the decision to shift from being a practitioner of Asset Based Community Development (doing the work) to being an intermediary (training and coaching others in how to do the work). We made this shift because we wanted to fuel an Asset-based Community Development (ABCD) movement, not simply grow an organization.
At the time, our board chair challenged us to come up with a BHAG – a Big Hairy Audacious Goal. We adopted the goal of helping to fuel 20 community strengthening efforts in 20 neighborhoods by the year 2020. In 2013, when we made this commitment, we had successfully transferred control of the Hillside Court development effort to a team of resident leaders. We had also started our first intermediary project in the Brookland Park community in partnership with Northminster Church. The idea of us going from 2 neighborhoods in our first 7 years to impacting 20 neighborhoods in the next 7 years seemed a bit crazy.
The past seven years have felt like two steps forward then one step back, with occasional seasons of full stop as we recalibrated and then pushed forward. The progress feels very slow at times, and there were a lot of painful failures and disappointments along the way. However, after much trial and error, I am thrilled to report that we achieved our Big Hairy Audacious Goal!
Over the past seven years, we have coached leaders who are strengthening more than 20 communities: from Richmond, to Chester, to Petersburg, to Corpus Christi, Texas. Some of these development efforts were sparked by local youth, some by concerned citizens, some by local churches, some by schools, and some by non-profits. Some are in urban settings, some suburban, and some rural. You can learn about many of these projects, our partners, and sponsors in the Case Study section on our website.
It has been a real joy to work with so many passionate and committed partners through the years. Over the next year, I will be introducing you to and following their projects as they unfold. I hope that their stories inspire you and make you as hopeful about the future of our nation as I am.
Our board has again entered into a time of discernment. What will our new BHAG for this new decade be? That is the question we will be considering throughout this year.
We are so thankful to all the partners who allowed us to walk with them as they strengthen communities from the inside out!