by Mantreh Atashband
Over the years, Zarathushtis have built a great reputation around being charitable and supportive to social causes in their own communities, and in society as a whole. Whether rallying to reconstruct an old school in Iran, or support a struggling family in India, the collective “we” always pull together. We pull together and donate our time, talent and treasure to help support initiatives greater than our own self-interest.
Many communities have the desire and will, to mobilize and support change, but can get flustered and agitated in the process for a variety of reasons. Looking for resources and the tools to aid in supporting any cause, can be a challenging task. And sometimes these issues can cause ripples in a community and within its members. When individuals and organizations do come together to work for a common or shared goal, it is not uncommon to see a scrambling over power, leadership, opinion and competing interests. Ultimately, the group needs to come to a consensus of moving toward true collaboration and team work – trust and transparency are critical ingredients to accomplishing a shared mission!
Most communities share the same struggles through similar dynamics – constantly in search of a change for the better, out with the old and in with the new, but how do we accomplish REAL CHANGE?! How do we begin? Who do we turn to?
In order to effectively mobilize a community, there are some key aspects that need to be addressed, including:
– Who are the community gatekeepers? You need to identify the key people in the community who can push your agenda—who are ready to take a stand, and are willing to work to see it accomplished. You need a catalyst!
– What is the community vision? It’s very important to be on the same page, working toward the same goal—and making sure the vision and goals are aligned.
– Who are the truly dedicated members? Identify those individuals who can support the same goal, even if they don’t see eye to eye!
– Have you recognized and encouraged? Paying gratitude to those who contribute to reaching the goal is very important
– PATIENCE, TIME and WILL! Make sure you have lots of it – because you’ll need it!
All this sounding too heavy, or maybe too familiar? Wondering how in the world all this is accomplished?
When I think of the work we’ve been doing at NextGenNow, I think of a young organization still in its infancy, but a shining example of a true community catalyst. As a director of NextGenNow, I’ve had the unique experience of helping to mobilize young Zarathushtis, to help start a dialogue about the future, to focus on the now and what we can do together to mature the inevitable change required to advance as a united community
We are evolving into a catalyst of change, addressing the unique challenges facing the next generation of Zarathushtis through a respect for our religion, heritage, culture, and most importantly, the founding generation in whose footsteps we follow.
NextGenNow, is also a community think-tank in which ideas are shared, issues are tackled, and initiatives are launched. We work to support and sustain Zarathushti communities, providing a connection to the next generation of emerging leaders, and working in collaboration with FEZANA member associations, committees and other critical Zarathushti organizations worldwide
Back to our model – once your people are hyped and ready to make an impact, don’t forget to iron out a few additional kinks.
You need to ensure that everyone’s morale is on the up-and-up before you launch. You need to communicate, communicate, and communicate! If you have personal biases, discuss them! If you feel a ‘turf war’ happening within the team, that may hinder the forward movement of the goal, talk about them!
As they say, “you have to clean your house first, before inviting people over!” So, you can’t mobilize and be an effective tool for change, if there is fighting and bickering on the inside. Everyone has to be on the same page, and working toward the same goals!
Okay – so one last thing before going to launch, make sure, YOU’RE ORGANIZED!
Ensure your team has a well thought out plan with measurable objectives, that you’ve selected a leader, your goals are in order, your timelines are set, and everyone knows their tasks.
Now that the groundwork is in place – let’s PUBLICIZE!
In order to gain community support, you have to publicize, engage across divides and find a common ground. Relationship building is critical. Generate support and involvement for your cause through a good public relations plan. Remember that a new initiative must be recognized and perceived as an asset by the community in order for it to be successful!
So, now that you’ve got the basic understanding of community mobilization, let see you put it to use. GO CREATE CHANGE!
Mantreh Atashband is a public health professional working with communities and organizations to address gender as a determinant of health. Aside from her involvement with various Zarathusti initiatives, she also holds executive positions on diverse boards of directors and supports organizations in their capacity building and organizational development.