Amy Jones: Creating Communities of Excellence Across Divided Lines

Creating communities of excellence across divided lines

For a country that calls itself United I continue to be disappointed and frustrated by tragedies that expose the division that still exists across racial, ethnic and religious lines. As a sociologist, a feminist, and a believer in justice and equal opportunities for all, the nagging inequities that so profoundly shape every aspect of our society are like grey-colored glasses, dulling some of the optimism that is often wrapped up in the social and public health programs that I have worked to implement and manage. And while I wouldn’t go so far as to call myself a pessimist, after a saddening few weeks of news laden with neighbors shooting neighbors because of who they love or how they look or what they believe, I find myself at a loss for where and how to move forward to something better.

When unbearable sadness or frustration with what’s happening around the country hits me, my first instinct is often to run away. I find myself half-joking with friends about how we could just move away from the madness, as if the problem is the U.S., and simply being elsewhere is the solution. But when the fog of frustration clears and I begin to regain a certain degree of level-headedness, I remember that to fix something that doesn’t work as well as you think it should, you have to invest the time and effort. When the problem is centered around people and communities, you have to have difficult conversations and make significant sacrifices. Most importantly, you have to stand first face to face with people in your community to learn who they are, then shoulder to shoulder with them to start to work towards a shared mission.

After learning more about Baldrige and particularly in starting to apply the concepts of Baldrige to communities, I am starting to see that there are ways to move forward that don’t involve running away. Instead of looking outward for an escape,  Baldrige and Communities of Excellence are about looking inward, and understanding what my community is - in my neighborhood, at work, and at school. Rather than turning our back on something that isn’t working perfectly. Communities of Excellence provides a pathway towards creating a sense of unity between sectors that are often focused on their own missions. Whether it’s health care, education, or transportation - each of these facets of a community are connected and to create a community that works we have to start looking inward at the community as a whole. We have to start looking at each other and begin to have conversations about what and who the community is, who the stakeholders, customers, and leaders are, and how the community can work together to take action towards community-wide goals.

Communities may not have the formal structure of the organizations and businesses that Baldrige is made to thrive in. But using Communities of Excellence, communities can create the sense of structure needed to guide the difficult conversations and create pathways to start crossing the lines that have for too long divided communities. Creating Communities of Excellence means crossing not only lines between various sectors, but racial lines, religious lines, geographical lines, and generational lines. Communities are not homogenous and not everyone will agree on how things should be done. As communities across the country face agonizing divisions that end in innocent death, heartbreak, and stagnation, we need Communities of Excellence more than ever to help us begin to cross the lines that divide us,  asking the difficult questions rather than running away, and unite around a community’s shared MISSION, VISION, and VALUES.

Learn more about Amy Jones here

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