We are excited to announce that the pilot Soul Care group that emerged from this summer’s listening project has launched! In fact, due to the growing interest and energy behind this initiative, we have already exceeded our goal of 12 participants and are adding new elements that will allow us to grow larger and smaller at the same time.
In our launch meetings on September 21st & 22nd, those in attendance affirmed the emerging vision of creating a safe space for community builders everywhere to find the encouragement they need to encourage others. We are seeking to do this by providing space for honest, heartfelt sharing that allows us to release the hard stuff, celebrate the good stuff and find inner peace so that we can be peacemakers in our respective communities. Our strategy for providing these spaces is to co-create them.
Each participant has committed to gathering together once a month to encourage each other and to take turns sharing a soul care practice that has helped them to thrive and build resilience in challenging times. Together, participants will reflect with one another on how that month’s shared practice can be incorporated into daily life for continued benefit and renewal.
Growing Smaller as we Grow Larger
As this group grows larger, we recognize that, in order to achieve the deep level of sharing envisioned, we must also grow smaller. In addition to a globally accessible monthly gathering described above, there will be opportunities to meet once a month in smaller groups between the large group meetings where an intimate setting will allow participants to check-in with one another, talk about how their respective soul care practices are going, and share insights and support with one another at a level that is difficult in a larger group setting.
Richmond Group: The first small group we are launching is composed of community builders across various sectors (Non-profits, Educators, Governmental & Faith Leaders) based in Richmond, Virginia..
Virtual Group: The second small group we are launching is composed of Asset-Based Community Development Practitioners from across the globe. This group will remain virtual so that it can be accessible to its geographically diverse participants.
How Safe Space is Being Created
As we shared in our previous post, the listening project revealed that the top priority for community builders was to have a safe space to come together. Our first task as a group was to discover what would make the space safe for everyone.
While everyone in our Soul Care Initiative is a community builder engaged in strengthening communities in some way, we all come from different backgrounds. Where there is difference, we must be intentional in ensuring we honor that diversity and strive for inclusion of all voices and perspectives. Inclusion is imperative to making these safe spaces work so that each participant feels fully seen and heard as their authentic selves.
The group worked together to create a social contract of basic guidelines that everyone could commit to abiding by. This contract is a living document that will evolve and grow as the group does. The social contract allows participants to build bridges of support across differences in a way that is accessible, inclusive, and celebratory of the complexity and vastness of human beings.
Practicing inclusion is hard! It requires assuming positive intent, a willingness to admit when your intention did not match your impact, and a commitment to “getting it right” instead of “being right”, as Sociologist and Author Brene Brown says. But as safe spaces are created, bridges can be built that lead to joyous, thriving communities of support and encouragement.
An Unexpected Emerging Outcome
While our initial listening project was focused specifically on community builders, it has become clear through our conversations this past month that every human being needs soul care - a way to renew the energy and life-force within us that allows us to be fully alive and wholly ourselves. This is particularly true during this very stressful season!
At the time Wendy and Cheryl launched this project, they envisioned it as a way of supporting community builders but several community builders from within this project as well as those in our Network have expressed an interest in launching this type of project in their local communities as a tool for strengthening communities from the inside out.
As with all ABCD efforts, you never know where it is going and unintended outcomes like this are what makes the process so exciting and rewarding!
Want to Join In?
We are excited about the transformation that is already happening in this project and among participants so early in this initiative. If the energy and intention of these spaces resonates with you, and you identify as a community builder, we would love for you to join.
To get connected, contact us here. In your email, include how you would define your role as a community builder and what community you are seeking to strengthen through your community building efforts. If you are interested in joining a small group in addition to participating in our large group gathering, please let us know if you are local to Richmond or if you are outside the Richmond region.
As of right now, there is space for four new members in both the virtual and Richmond-based small groups. Please reach out to us if you would like to have a conversation about joining a Soul Care group!
You can also visit our Soul Care For Community Builders webpage to learn more and follow along as this project unfolds.