Week 7: Getting to the Core – Detroit Community-Engaged Research Program

Week 7: Getting to the Core

At Week 7, it’s hard to separate parts of DCERP. In fact, planning for the Showcase has shown me that all of these themes — community, leadership, Detroit identity, wholistic planning and organizing, research, my site, and so much more — will only continue to criss-cross and converge with time.
That’s why the prompt regarding something “that has stood out to you that didn’t occur at your placement” is more or less impossible for me to respond to. Instead, I’ll dive into something that has stood out to me because it came up at my placement and at one of our meetings, an overlap of people, organizations, and theory.
Sharing about a meeting with one of our biggest funders, my mentor came into the office one day talking about advice he had given to other non-profits. The main thing, he said, when asked about applying for funding and other program support tools, is to stay true to your mission. From the start, you have a mission statement with what you are trying to achieve as a group, and you want to make sure that that goal matches with any project you have and anything you might need a grant for. Sounds logical. Community organizations start with a clear purpose in mind; why not stick to it? As those in the non-profit world know, however, a lot can change in a little time, and grants present nearly-endless opportunities to jump-start your organization or to try something new. If you can’t connect it to your mission, my mentor advised, you have to leave it. And if you can’t leave it, you might have to adjust your mission.
At the moment, these words felt important. Guard this for later, I told myself. But later felt far away or minuscule: one day, when I’m in charge of pursuing X opportunities, or now, with the organizations I lead on campus which cater to a small community.
Tiffany Brown’s presentation at our meeting this Tuesday helped me to realize that my mentor’s consejos can be applied to a number of scales and situations.
As part of her self-introduction, Tiffany listed her core values, and she encouraged us to think about our own (seeing as no one had yet established them). This point resonated with me, drawing my mind through a few lines of thought. First, respect and admiration: wow, I felt, she knows herself well. Second, viewing a memory through a new light: my high school basketball program was built on three core values, and while not everyone was equally excited about calling these ideals out and prioritizing them, it worked in making our team successful on and off the court. Third, a connection: Tiffany’s concept of core values matched my mentor’s perspective on an organization’s mission or purpose; the primary difference was the scale.
After DCERP, with time to reflect on my experiences and values, I would like to sketch out core values of my own. By the time I return to school, as well, I want to take a look at the mission statements of groups I lead or partake in, using the beginning of the academic year as a time to recenter and to brainstorm creative ways to match action with theory.
In this moment, I’m thankful for the mix. My mentor’s comments, my past experiences, and our group meetings are impactful on their own. They are also unique, stemming from different contexts and perceived under different circumstances. I believe that the connection of these three events is most powerful, however. Had I not experienced this idea more than once, I am uncertain of the effect it would have on me. Maybe I needed a reminder, or maybe the repetition proved something on its own: if an idea can carry importance across situations, it just might carry truth, as well.

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