George King, one of the earliest residents of Hope Meadows, helped shepherd a community process to revise neighborhood engagement policy in 2002. Photo credit: Judy Griesdieck
A transformational leader empowers all residents of a GHC to become active partners in working to accomplish the neighborhood’s mission.
Shifting the primary initiative for care and support
Generations of Hope Communities are designed to augment social services by shifting the primary initiative for care and support from professional service providers back to the neighborhood, creating a way of life where everyone, including vulnerable people, can contribute and succeed.
To accomplish this, GHC leaders must tap the positive transformative power of intergenerational community living — where the gifts and talents of ordinary people of all ages and vulnerabilities become available in new ways, resulting in creative solutions to social challenges. When responsibilities and power are shared, the community develops a sense of pride, ownership of its mission, and a powerful sense of connectedness and neighborliness.
Building community capacity is different from familiar service delivery paradigms and can be difficult to master. GHC leaders have to walk a fine line between taking charge and standing back, recognizing that they can be most successful when their work is characterized by consent rather than control. Consent requires building relationships that are collaborative, reciprocal, trusting, and friendly.
Ultimately, for leaders of GHCs to succeed, they must be comfortable playing a supportive background role, and genuinely respect and enjoy being with people of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities. As a parent at Hope Meadows said, “This is not just a job; it has to be about who you are.”