How We are Empowering our Community and Four Things You Can Do to Empower Yours.
Written by Justin Chan, Founder of The Community Company.
June 13th, 2019.
“This is mine and I earned it. I can choose what to do with it. Somebody out there valued what I did and purchased it.”
Poverty Inc. is a fascinating documentary that puts a spotlight on the work that multi-national charities do in the field through storytelling, unpacking the true impact they are having in developing countries around the world. If you haven’t watched it, I highly recommend you check it out.
The quote that I shared was from an entrepreneur in Haiti, who created a business that empowers their community through jewelry making. This was an inspiration for me as I created The Community Company because of the power and meaning behind it.
There is a major difference between money given versus money earned, and it plays a big role in empowerment.
Being given money is inherently a hand-out that comes with expectations. What are you going to do with the money and are you going to spend it wisely are the two common questions that are asked.
Earning money on the other hand means you can do whatever you want with it. People valued your worth and purchased something you created or a service that you provided for money - there are no strings attached and you truly get to choose how you spend your money.
Think back to when you received your first paycheque - all the pride you felt in your efforts being recognized and the excitement from all the possibilities you could realize.
We have all heard the expression about giving a person a fish and feeding them for a day, or teaching a person to fish and feeding them for a lifetime.
The empowerment model is special because it puts the spotlight back on our partners. It’s about recognizing and valuing the unique talent that each partner has. It’s about creating products that are meaningful to our partners.
Most importantly, it’s about working alongside our partners as they create meaningful change for themselves in their own lives.
The Community Company has collaborated with seven amazing individuals overcoming adversity and has co-created seven beautiful products - we’ve taught our partners how to fish, or at least the essential elements of fishing. While I love the fish expression and everything it stands for, I don’t think it’s enough. It’s not enough to simply teach our partners how to fish.
Real change can only happen in our community when we provide people with both the equipment to fish, And also access to the same proverbial pond that the rest of us are fishing from.
When I started my project, I had access to materials, programs, and a network of professors and thought-leaders to mentor me through uncertainty. This was a privilege that I had, and it gave me a leg up on so many other just-as-worthy individuals in our community who wanted to start a business. The obvious question is: what’s stopping our community partners from having the same support system that I had?
The next chapter of our project will be about empowering our partners to join us at the pond.
My vision for this project is to create a platform where our community partners have access to the same resources that we have, so that they can create new opportunities for themselves.
One of our partners recently shared with me their desire to join a woodworking group so they can have access to the tools and space required to become a creator. Putting yourself out there and wanting to improve yourself requires vulnerability, and I am so proud of them for having that desire. In sheer excitement, we informally placed an order for a wooden bench in our home office.
Many of our partners also have amazing artistic abilities that they want to share with the world. The Community Company has many markets lined up over the summer to showcase our community products - we have also decided to feature one of our partners at every market, allowing them to showcase their amazing artwork and have them for purchase as well.
These are just two of the many ways to empower community members as they turn the page on the adversity that they’ve experienced in life.
As a community, there are many things we can do to support people’s passions. The following list is universal and it applies to both those experiencing adversity, as well as our own friends and peers. Here are four things you can do to empower your community:
Become An Ally. This means truly listening to others as they share their passions, goals, and dreams with you. Listen to connect, and not just to create an answer or solution that you think is right - this is about building trust and journeying with an individual. Here’s an amazing blog post on what it really means to be an ally for more inspiration.
Support their Passions. At the end of the day, purchasing products that people created shows that you support what they do and that you believe in them. You could like their social media post. You can say you support them. Or you can actually show you support them - we recommend doing all three.
Open Doors and Create Connections. Introduce people to connections that you think will help get them closer to where they want to be. We are connected to some amazing and inspiring individuals - there is no better feeling than to see someone you know get closer to where they want to be because of an introduction that you made.
Treat Everyone as an Equal. One of our partners, Andrew, said it best: He shared with me that life is like a railroad - we all know where we want to be but because of circumstance, we’re all at different stops along the journey. Some of us were more fortunate and started at a closer station, while others started further away. Just because someone is at a different station, doesn’t mean they deserve less respect than others at your stop.
I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I did writing it. We’re truly about creating systemic change in our community by empowering and uplifting those that are experiencing adversity through entrepreneurship.
Look forward to posts on topics such as homelessness, inclusive language and interviews with changemakers in our community. If you connected with our message on empowerment, the greatest compliment you can give us is to share this project with a friend and help us raise awareness. You can find our Facebook page here and our Instagram page here.
If you are financially able, click the button below to purchase a product and help us empower our partners. Our latest set of products were created by three individuals overcoming homelessness. You can learn more about it below.