When you advocate for anyone other than yourself, and you have to step outside your own mind and psyche and those realities that you are intimately in touch with, how do you know that you are properly and accurately advocating for that group, for its myriad thoughts and wishes? What is the mechanism for tapping into those other minds and psyches? How do you ask them what they want? And do they even know what they want, or is it limited or bounded by the range of realities that they have, individually and collectively, yet known, as opposed to the plethora of possibilities that may lie beyond action that has yet to be seen, or may not even be a figment of imaginations one and all. And how do you ask people how to improve this or that without implying or making them feel like what they have right now, their status quo, is not good enough, needs improvement in order to be acceptable, or in any other way putting it (and by extension them) down in any of the million ways that is possible?
Is it enough to know the questions you don't know the answers to?
Everyone knows different things. Some people know fixing cars. Some people know how to read people. Some people know astrophysics. We know something about community development, and are continually trying to educate ourselves in this broad and bottomless body of knowledge, but we only know what we know, and often don't even know what we don't know. So, as we advocate for this place, for these people, many of whom don't even know who we are, we often wonder if we are the horse or the water or the person holding the reins in the old aphorism "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink." I think where we are is that we are creating and developing and executing a number of initiatives - the Northside Cultural Plan, the Northside Common Market, the LuigART Makers Spaces affordable live/work program, the Night Market - that are iterative processes of asking, doing, asking again, doing again, and so on, so that we stay on target.
It is the only way to keep in touch, truly, with any other than your own thoughts and feelings. It is the only way to keep in touch with those we are impacting - to just keep asking and doing, continually. It is time-consuming, and it is an uphill challenge, to locate, identify, contact, explain, listen, document, act, for each program, each initiative, each element of work that is attempting to contribute to moving this neighborhood forward. It is not the easiest path - in fact, it is probably the hardest, if you were to work out the time-to-return ratio, but it is how it needs to be done. The easiest path is often the wrong one, if my experiences have taught me anything. And the hardest paths are often the most rewarding. So we continue on, to question, to be self-critical, to learn, and to do as much as we can based on what we are hearing.