Varied experts with years of experience and “earned” insights have comments featured in the Winter 2017 journal Philanthropy, a publication of Philanthropy Roundtable. Solutions to serious social problems aren’t just in innovative programming. The following are insights of Robert Woodson, founder of the Woodson Center.
We think this is wisdom for Muskegon and we are greatly encouraged that Bob underscores the core values of 70×7 Muskegon that are the tools for transformation.
….The brave philanthropists and committed community activists who risked all to wage campaigns to eliminate slavery and devastating alcohol addiction took it upon themselves to attack huge, widespread, and deeply rooted ethical problems. It was against seemingly insurmountable odds that they pursued their vision and prevailed.
In my work over four decades with neighborhood leaders ministering to seemingly hopeless individuals, I have witnessed similar victories against great odds. It’s true that the poverty and social problems that stem from bad choices like substance abuse and criminal behavior are deeply rooted. No amount of income distribution, safety nets, or government programs will be a sustainable difference in the status of people ensnared in these behaviors. To reclaim their lives they need new vision, character qualities, and values.
That kind of internal transformation is possible, but it can only be engendered by community-based (often faith-inspired) personal relationships. The good news is that hundreds of committed, indigenous neighborhood leaders are providing this kind of life-transforming outreach. Once grassroots leaders have sparked an internal conversion, even men and women who had virtually lost their lives can emerge as responsible employees, spouses, and parents.
To fully harness the power of transformative neighborhood healers requires that we recognize and support a new brand of “experts”—operating in civil society rather than government agencies or the ranks of certified professionals. America is ripe for revitalization of values. But this must be led by mentors and healers who personally understand the problems they address and have a stake in their solutions.