and Guides: Health
Minority Neighborhood Outreach
© 1995 by American Health Decisions
Word from the Chairman of the Board
Word from the Project Director
Where This Guide Comes From
Know What You Are After
What It Takes
a Teamwork Plan
Out the Team Plan
Dear Friend of Ameriean Health Decisions:
I am pleased to learn of your interest in American Health Decisions'
(AHD's) ethnic outreach project. As a national organization committed
to helping people understand their health choices, we are continually
challenged by the need for our programs and activities to reflect
the diversity of our population.
Under the leadership of Ralph Crawshaw, M.D., founder of Oregon
Health Decisions and creator of the health decisions movement, American
Health Decisions undertook an ambitious project aimed at uncovering
strategies for including diverse ethnic groups in a range of community-
based initiatives. In this guide, you will find recommendations
for reaching out to and communicating with diverse groups, engaging
leaders within distinct populations, establishing credibility, and
developing shared goals and objectives. As always, Dr. Crawshaw
provides a candid, straight-from-theheart assessment about what
works and what doesn't.
I hope this information will be useful to you as you engage people
in discussions on their health choices in your neighborhoods, churches,
community centers, and civic groups. Please let us hear about your
experiences so our collective understanding can continue to grow.
American Health Decisions
Decisions (AHD) is a group of 21 state citizen organizations. Each
state organization is dedicated to activating public discussion
and public action around health care.
Attendance by minority people at AHD meetings has been low. A fair
question to ask, then, is why the members of AHD, responsible for
initiating this guide, should know any more about outreach to minority
people than anyone else. The answer is simple.
AHD went into ethnic minority neighborhoods and talked, back and
forth, with all manner of local people, neighbors, about tough health
care issues. We formed outreach teams in Georgia to reach African-Americans
and Asians, in New Mexico to reach Native Americans, Asian-Americans,
Hispanics, and African-Americans, and in California to reach Hispanics
and Asian-American people. The W. K. Kellogg Foundation and the
club of KOS generously funded much of the work.
We asked minority neighbors what it would take to get them to a
neighborhood meeting about their health care. We asked, "What
do you do for yourself and your family when you are sick? How do
you get health care? Do you think your care could be better? Do
you think you can make it better by getting together with your neighbors
and talking out what you want?"
Neighbors' answers were direct and plentiful-enough to give AHD
a clear idea of what it takes for successful outreach to minority
people. We believe our findings can be valuable to others seeking
to reach minority people.
Scientific measures of the AHD outreach effort showed that the health
decisions process reinforces civic involvement for minority people.
The purpose of this guide is to pass along our practical experience
to help people working in minority neighborhoods. The guide is intended
to support workers from start to finish, from what to do before
knocking on a neighbor's door to how to say "Good-bye"
so its echo is "Come by, again."
The guide is not about how-to-do a particular outreach. It is about
organizing outreach efforts and how to get along with people who
may not wish to cooperate or are openly hostile.
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This guide is
the outcome of an ambitious American Health Decisions (AHD) project
aimed at uncovering strategies for including diverse ethnic groups
in a range of community-based initiatives. The AHD project team
included Barry Anderson, Ph.D., James Beverly, Tracey Colbert, Donna
Gambele, Ann Helm, Andrea Huff, and Gail Jorlemen.
decisions organizations worked with the AHD project: California
Health Decisions, Georgia Health Decisions, New Mexico Health
Decisions, and Oregon Health Decisions.
project received the sustained help of an Advisory Committee:
Tina Castanares, M.D., Ellen Pinney, Sharon Gary-Smith, Mary Strong,
Louis J. Bernard, M.D., William Brooks, Darrell Millner, Ph.D.,
Howard Lichter, Ph.D., Michael Garland, Dr. Rel., Gloria Musquiz,
Kaaren Johnson, Don Wilder, and Ben Rath.
be noted that if this guide reads as though written by a white,
male, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant this is a reflection of reality.
With those critics who may say that any guide for entering minority
neighborhoods should be written by a member of an ethnic minority,
the author agrees. However, despite a long and expensive search
of all relevant literature, no comparable guide for neighborhood
outreach written by anyone was discovered. It is hoped that this
first attempt is swiftly replaced by a guide written by someone
with sustained life experience in minority neighborhoods.
Rule for Neighborhood Outreach
Neighborhood meetings involving
local people should
employ their leaders, on
their territory, with
their customs, speaking
in their language about
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This Guide Comes From
is intended to help front-line workers understand and overcome
cultural boundaries in order to move across ethnic neighborhood
barriers. Front-line workers are people who want to turn neighborhood
barriers into gateways that allow neighbors to pass both ways.
may be difficult to openly recognize, everyone comes with an ethnic
background. Many people like to believe their way of thinking,
speaking, dressing, and acting is the right way and that people
who think and act differently are somehow foreign, wrong, and
inferior. Too often differences between people become barriers
when they might make for richness.
sees a neighborhood as a place where people live who have characteristics
distinguishing them from other people living in other neighborhoods.
Distinguishing characteristics may be race, color, religion, language,
education, geography, work situation, traditions, age, and/or
of characteristics are lumped together and called "ethnic" Neighborhoods
where many people have similar characteristics are called ethnic
number of people in an ethnic group is smaller than all the other
ethnic groups combined it is often called an ethnic minority,
living in an ethnic minority neighborhood. All this means is that
the people are in some way different from people living in other
neighborhoods. One easy marker for an ethnic minority neighborhood
is its grocery store selling particular foods neighbors like.
Another is restaurants that cater to special ways of preparing
names of neighborhoods carry different meanings than intended.
Slum, ghetto, barrio can be more than a simple way of labeling
an area. People who live in the neighborhood and call it "home"
may hear these names as a put down and be offended. It is best
to call the neighborhood by the name its inhabitants give it.
boundaries may not be clear but they are real. Once you enter
a neighborhood the neighbors expect you to understand what they
are doing in their words from their point of view. Without help,
visitors may fail to meet this expectation, and find unexpected
barriers. Barriers include failure to understand the special meaning
of race, geography, lack of education, particular views, color,
money, or lack of interest in the neighborhood.
mistake, the gap between an outsider who is reaching into a neighborhood
and the neighbors that live there can be vast. Outreachers from
the white majority or workers of different ethnic backgrounds
should not be surprised when their motives are suspected, greetings
ignored, and expressed goals dismissed by the neighbors who live
neighbors may see "outreach" as "invasion." Just consider if African-Americans
were to go door-to-door in white neighborhoods as outreachers.
This turnabout may sound unlikely but it does uncover some of
the "do-gooder" prejudices that make barriers where openness is
focuses on how to help neighbors make their decisions for improving
their neighborhood. The guide does not push any special program
such as neighborhood sports, teenage pregnancy prevention, anti-crime
action, or increased literacy.
As a diverse
nation of many neighborhoods, we need coordinated action to govern
ourselves. Seneca Indians in Brooklyn, New York, Samoans in Los
Angeles, African-Americans in Anchorage, all live in neighborhoods
bound together with countless other neighborhoods that make up
the U.S. Even if every neighbor has a vote, voting is not worth
much unless voters know why the election is important to their
neighborhood and to neighborhoods of others.
an open attitude, and hard work can build effective civic ties
between majority and minority neighborhoods. Helping each other
means helping neighbors learn, if they do not already know, how
to successfully change the government of their neighborhood and
the greater government.
neighbors cross over to other neighborhoods do we have a common
government. Outreach, crossing back and forth between neighborhoods,
is important for those who seek good government.
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What You Are After
is about achieving change the neighbors value."
neighborhood outreach demands person-to-person talk, not newspaper
print, tabulated polls, or flashy publicity. It is not the talk
of the leader of one neighborhood agreeing with the leader of
another. Outreach talk is for neighbors to hear and think about
talk should be easy and fun but the goal is more than talk that
makes people feel good. The talk should get the project idea across
to a reluctant listenerthat is what outreach is all about.
idea. This neighborhood will have better police service from the
city (town, state) if every neighbor votes.
Get the citizens of the neighborhood to register to vote in the
a goal clear and sharp enough for the out-reach worker to say
it in one simple sentence.
am here to get neighborhood voters to register to vote "
rights movement, complex and difficult as it was, could be summed
up simply by every worker: "Get out the vote." A health decisions
outreach worker can, when asked, say: "Tell me what you want in
a better neighborhood in a better nation require putting foundations
under the dreams. Knowing what you are after and openly sharing
it through person-to-person talk leads to constructive neighborhood
minority neighborhoods is difficult. Frequently minority neighborhoods
are walled off by fears and prejudices of people inside and people
outside the neigh-borhoods. Crossing those barriers takes work
that is best done through oxisting community organizations and
net-works. Minority hosts should begin all neighborhood gather-ings.
People want to see and hear people they know. People do not want
to answer door-to-door pollsters and they do not want to fill
out paper surveys.
can be activated. When properly approached, person-to-person,
citizen-to-citizen, in our experience, Native Americans, Hispanics,
and African-Americans become as fully committed to civic endeavors
as majority people. For reasons that remain unclear, our work
with Asian-American minorities while helpful in some ways did
not reflect a significant level of commitment.
give time where it's hard to give money. Minority groups have
economically deprived members and consequently lower dollars than
majority people but they do have time, an important resource for
care values differ from minority to minority. Problems of immediate
access and costs loom large in the thinking of many minority people.
In addition, the ethnic culture of the neighborhood contributes
to the traditions, circumstances, and expectations of how the
people value health. For example, the respect and dignity a Native
American expects in receiving health care may be far different
from that of white, Anglo, middle class people: It is the custom
of some tribes to leave the deceased in their death bed for twenty-four
hours to allow the soul to depart.
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Know What It Takes
"Some people show different degrees of prejudice which makes
Success in neighborhood outreach depends on three essentials:
BRAINS, MONEY, and TIME. It takes all three to support an outreach
Nobody on the team is expected to contribute all three essentials
but every team member contributes something.
It takes know-how to form an outreach team, the same know-how
that it takes to form a baseball or basketball team. The team
leader starts by asking interested people to try out for the team.
Those with something to contribute make the team. Those without
a contribution are thanked for their interest but encouraged to
look elsewhere. This way team members know that every member is
expected to think and work as a player on a winning team.
leader is expected to carry the ball, pointing out the goal line
and showing the team members how to score.
to team members. "After meeting with the neighborhood ministers
yesterday, I know we can count on them. We will check with each
minister to figure out where and when they will help us bring
their congregations to a neighborhood meeting. Starting tomorrow
I want Charlene to join me in checking with the Northside ministers.
Next week James would be a great help to me in lining up the Southside
the ball the team leader must know the "community game," what
is and is not allowed for scoring, including any special turf
rules of a target neighborhood. Knowing includes more than walk-around
experience though that is important.
must work the territory for its tough problems, places neighbors
avoid, the way different gangs size up and threaten passersby.
The leader must have a strong working knowledge of the neighborhood's
"flavor" in order to directly and quickly support team members
in times of stress as well as to take full advantage of any unusual
all the neighborhoods a project covers may not be possible for
even the best of leaders. There are over 26 different Native American
tribes in New Mexico; it is difficult for an outreach team leader
to stay in touch with such varied ethnic territory. In this case
at least one tribe should be visited repeatedly. The team leader's
know-how, as someone who meets people, attends their community
meetings, listens to their leaders, and understands how to test
"the neighborhood temperature," should "rub off" on other members
of the team.
best when supported by experienceand the team needs all
the direct experience of the target neighborhood they can get.
to people is essential for effective team leadership. Sensitivity
means knowing human limits, knowing how far workers can go without
getting in over their heads. There is nothing but frustration
all the way round if an unprepared worker is asked to go into
a place that frightens them. That should be the job of another
team member who feels comfortable enough to carry out the assignment.
is needed to see hidden prejudices which may not be changed but
certainly should never be aggravated. At the same time, many prejudices
can be worked through by open, constructive response within the
team, sharing the human problems of the team in taking on a tough
team needs a smart coach to help in the use of brains. In outreach,
the coach is called a consultant for the team to bounce ideas
and problems off. The coach works with problems the leader and
team members run into in neighborhoods. The coach should be easy
to get along with and able to take a question, any question, and
come up with useful answers or know where to look for them.
discussions center on neighborhood problems, such as why some
neighborhoods resist change. There is no limit on how to use the
coach; there may be useful discussions about how the team is making
out (personnel problems) and how to score (relating the work to
the team goal).
are expected to use their brains. No team member is expected to
solve every problem that comes up but all are expected to be curious
about answers. Smart team members learn to go where answers can
say a team member asks, "How come the folks on Delancy Street
seem uptight? Everything looks pretty much the same as yesterday."
A school teacher who knows and has helped the team might answer,
"Since the fight on the high school grounds last week the two
heavy gangs think they have to go to war over turf."
answers can be both an individual and team effort. Team members
can pass around tough questions, looking for answers from other
members with neighborhood experience.
comes to questions without easy answers the team turns to people
in the neighborhood, checking with school superintendents, church
members, the officers doing community policing.
Is there enough money to get the job done?
Answer: Full budgets are rare, but there is generally enough to
make do. Money is needed for salaries, office space, transportation,
staff should be paid the going wage, not expected to be semi-volunteers,
without health insurance or on-time paychecks. The quantity and
quality of their work is directly proportional to the project's
should be paid the going wage. It is a false economy to either
do without consultants or expect them to be volunteers. Coaches
have bills the same as the rest of us. If they are taken away
from their regular work to help, it is better for them to do a
full job for full pay, rather than a half job, moonlighting at
half price. Consultants can be priceless in anticipating hidden
barriers others may not see, in keeping the team on track.
door openers, sometimes referred to as "two-culture" people, are
an essential part of teach outreach. They are a special form of
coach and should be treated the same way as any other project
consultant. Frequently they are asked to do too much for nothing.
They are absolutely necessary for an outreach project so the limited
time they have available to help must be respected, treated as
if it were gold, and reimbursed as is appropriate.
projects rely on volunteers. Developing a cadre of volunteers
takes care and thought. Volunteers respond to positive leadership,
clear goals, and the way a project supports the volunteers' needs.
will work hard making telephone calls, stuffing envelopes, distributing
flyers. But phones, envelopes, and flyers take dollars. A basic
dollar budget is necessary to support free work.
says that ethnic minority people living this close to poverty
can not easily afford volunteering. Like other people they get
hungry and have to pay baby sitters. The project's neighborhood
meetings should provide free coffee, snacks, and baby sitters.
is a meeting for volunteers, make sure transportation, meals,
sitters, and other out-of-pocket expenses of volunteers are provided
for when needed.
for volunteers is essential and comes with understanding the real
situation. Volunteers' contributions should be clearly, openly,
and repeatedly recognized as part of a significant neighborhood
Is there enough time to reach the goal?
Answer: Like money, there is seldom enough time to do everything
but generally there is enough to make do.
needs both an overall schedule and a daily one; both should be
detailed enough to indicate assignments and allow reasonable time
for team members to complete tasks. The schedule does not apply
to neighbors, who may have different ideas about time.
should fashion its schedule to the needs and customs of the neighborhood
people, not the other way round. Neighbors who lack ready transportation
can have trouble keeping appointments. People who do not show
up the first time around may wish to attend but be minimum-wage
working people trying to keep their family going on less than
schedules adequately consider the time staff need to keep records.
Estimate how long it takes to hear out a staff member after a
neighborhood meeting and for staff members to write a report on
a contact in the neighborhood, then double time to make a practical
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a Teamwork Plan
outreach ideas mean little until turned into community action.
Coordinated action needs a plan that lays out the steps to the
teamwork plan will help:
the project focused on results;
the project on time; and
teamwork that works.
brains, money, and time into effective contacts with ethnic minority
people needs preparation, street smart advice from available sources:
neighborhood leaders and neighborhood door openers.
are people capable of understanding both team members and the
neighbors the team is reaching out to. (See Neighborhood Door
Openers in the Supplement.) Neighborhood door openers, seldom
official leaders, are found by asking around among neighbors to
identify and locate the person "who gets things done." They have
a reputation for being able to talk with many different kinds
of people who will listen to them.
Advice from Neighbors
organizers confuse us with advertisers' marketing agents. Don't
think you can use us to sell your products! "
the most valuable assets in civic organizing is a visible track
record accompanied by interlocking community relationships."
the ongoing advice and support of leaders of ethnic minority communities
calls for more than "asking around." It becomes a matter of developing
a project advisory board. (See Advisory Boards in the Supplement.)
neighborhoods have been pushed, planned, polled, and programmed
to death by outsiders intent on doing something that has little
or no importance to the neighbors.
outreach demands that project planning include local people, for
example church deacons, labor organizers, and community health
nurses, from the start.
are not difficult to find. Locate the neighborhood organization
with a reputation for effective service. It may be there to find
jobs for the unemployed, shelter for the homeless, health care
for the neglected, day care for working families. Leaders of these
working organizations can help as no others since they are on
the neighborhood's front lines.
leaders tell you how they went about making a difference for the
neighborhood. Ask them for suggestions and reactions to your project.
They can contribute immediate, practical insight for avoiding
ethnic confusion, wasteful repetition, and political rivalry.
Consider them for membership on an advisory board.
an Advisory Board Does
advisory board offers the best check on how the project fits the
into the water can be a swift way to learn how to swim it is not
the best way. Nor is jumping into a neighborhood the best way
to learn how to reach minorities.
trouble is "doing good." Avoid it. Learn where the deep water
iswhere trouble may come and what to do if it does. No one
welcomes do-gooders who are out to improve our neighborhood, our
family, or our behavior according to what they think is good.
Bar none, do-gooders are not liked.
is not intended to "do good" but to find out what neighborhood
people think is good. Outreach means finding out the proper fit
of a project goal with what the neighborhood wants.
board can set practical limits on outreach action, determining
what may and may not be possible when reaching out to the people
of the neighborhood. These limits are a road map to service that
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Out the Team Plan
with the first team meeting. Then the members, together, begin
laying out what they can do as a team seeking a shared goal. Participation
makes a team.
of carrying out a team plan: Goal"It would be great to build
playground equipment for the kids at the neighborhood elementary
up who does what for the team to score: "Diane, can you get a
list of the parents? Ed, would you look into finding out if any
of the local businesses might donate materials? Marie, have we
Thinking for Action
negative remarks and questions calls for members willing to anticipate
them and come up with answers.
"How come the school board never provided playground equipment?"
"Who is responsible if a kid falls and breaks his arm?" "Didn't
the church down the street do this three years ago and the equipment
ended up trashed?"
"Charlie, will you find out what the school board has done about
play equipment and what happened to playground equipment in the
neighborhood? We will find out what our legal responsibilities
are from a lawyer. Let's follow up with a visit to the church
down the street to find out their experience with people trashing
the kids' equipment. Anyone have any other ideas?" Concerns left
unresolved make for tag-along employees out of team members when
they have trouble "owning" a project, believing in winning. Once
the team has thought out what is possible, the conclusions should
go down as the action plan.
team action starts with a shared goal.
on plan serves as a handy reference point for checking out later
misunderstandings and disagreements.
action demands a schedule that the team has agreed onand
sticks to. Without a schedule, too many "good" ideas can scatter
the team all over the neighborhood without accomplishing the agreed
upon goal. If ideas are good they have to be better than any other
use of the time and energy going into the action plan.
that the neighborhood and its way of telling time must be recognized
in the schedule. Every outreach team member should remember that
her or his schedule may not be the same as the neighbor's schedule.
must know the costs involved, the budget, to keep action from
becoming too expensive and costs dragging the project down.
Maintain Effective Communication
project is successful only after a neighborhood person acts on
what the project suggests. Direct outreach focuses on establishing
and maintaining effective communication. Productive outreach needs
two-way communication between the team and the neighbors.
is complex action. The outreach worker tries to communicate an
idea to a neighbor. Then the neighbor responds. The response is
generally in words but may be nothing more than the neighbor just
standing there listening.
the response, it is accepted by the worker who continues to work
from the neighbor's words or actions to state the idea closer
to the neighbor's thinking. Eventually the outreach worker communicates
to the neighbor that: "It seems like you need more time to think
it over"; "So you think... might work"; or "So you think...won't
communication goes back and forth between the team and the neighborhood.
The message must be repeated until everyone has heard it with
their own ears, thinks of it with their own thoughts.
of communication, from individual to individual, from project
to neighborhood, from neighborhood to project, carries messages
that lead to consensus and neighborhood action.
carries both an idea and the team member's unspoken wish that
the listener will act on the idea.
idea. "We can have a better neighborhood if everyone votes."
wish. "I want you to go to the polls on election day and vote."
The unspoken wish is communicated by how the outreacher speaks
to be Listened To
talk with neighborhood people is never more effective than what
is listened to. The talk can be about many different things, such
as being sick (health care), solving a neighborhood social problem
(politics), getting jobs for unemployed people (economics), or
getting gang kids to stop drive-by shooting in the neighborhood
(security). What matters is what the neighbor listens to. Anything
not listened to is waste.
For an idea
to be heard it has to fit the words and experience of the listener.
If the words do not fit the neighbor's thinking, the message becomes
"fancy" talk, foreign and worthless. An idea that does not fit
into a listener's mind will not lead to positive action.
be honest, be honest! Speak sincerely about what you know and
believe. Nobody wants to hear a memorized spiel: that is advertising.
you speak. Continually match your message to whatever the neighbor
shares with you. If the neighbor likes to argue, argue back in
a friendly way. If the neighbor asks questions, answer them as
directly as possible (no evasions). If the neighbor complains,
show you are listening by repeating their complaint: "So, the
city keeps saying they want to set up a clinic but nothing ever
neighbor's style of thinking as important. The neighbor's thinking
as the source of successful neighborhood action.
the neighbor's words, "Yeah, my friend (the door opener) says
you're O.K." Show you listen by repeating back what you heard,
"Your friend says I am O.K." Then go on, "That man has it together,
he wants to help me find out what the neighbors think about (health
care, security on the streets)."
the neighbor's talk. Ask if he or she has more to say. For example,
"You say the Indian Agency promised a clinic. How long have you
been waiting?" If the neighbor does not offer any opening into
the project idea, move the talk along from where the neighbor
is, "Do you have ideas for about what kind of health care the
Do not ignore
negative feedback, deal with it. If a neighbor says, "Get out,"
make sure it is negative and if it is negative, how negative it
is. Maybe you are hearing slang, "Get out, I don't believe you.
You aren't for real. Are you?" This is not negative. It does not
mean get out of my face.
Try to find
out what is behind a genuine negative response. "How come you
don't want folks around today?" If the answer is, "My husband
just lost his job" move on with "That is not good. I hope he finds
work right away." If the neighbor is turned off to the project
idea, accept him or her as they are with, "I hear you. If you
ever want to talk just let me know."
encounters, messages are telegraphed by tone of voice and attitude.
How a team member breathes, speaks, facial expression, and body
position sends messages as well.
receives a fully loaded message, a message that is much more than
words. For example, if you read (listen to) this guide and hear
it is not talking with you, but talking down to you, the guide
is not worth the paper it is printed on.
speaker is easiest to listen to. Points to consider are how at
ease the outreacher is when:
a neighbor's message in slang, street rap, cool hip, business
hype, soul talk?
a neighbor's responsein Spanish, tribal tongue, Vietnamese?
how neighbors value talkas sacrament, as put down?
with team members any confusion or uneasiness in communicating
effectively with neighbors:
going to where the ears are and recognizing what the ears expect
to hear. If you do not speak the neighborhood language you need
an introduction from someone who does, a neighborhood door opener.
The door opener needs to say, in neighborhood language, "This
person (you) has something to say which is important for our neighborhood."
have the neighbors' attention, do not talk the neighbor's ears
off but do not leave the message as a one-time shot. Repetition
need not be boring. It gives the listener time to think. With
experience many ways of saying the same thing becomes easy.
TV commercials repeat their message five or ten times in fifteen
seconds, with the sound and lights revved up to force attention.
This is not the way for one-on-one talk because it is too "strong"
and turns off the listener. Repetition is best done through questions,
like "Do you hear much talk going around about...?"
and content of your message are best expressed from the heart.
"I am here because I think this is important because ..."
When a girlfriend says she likes her boyfriend's new sweater he
is "all ears" even if she whispers.
close to the neighborhood language as you can. Never speak down
but always speak with the idea that the listener wants to be seen
as a good person with good ideas and good judgment about themselves
and their neighborhood. Stick with your idea of the project.
the Neighbors' Questions
may ask questions before moving to agreement and then to action.
Treat questions as if they were free tickets of admission to another
person's mind. Listen for the neighbor's thinking. Figure out
what the listener has in mind.
listener frame questions. For example: "At the last school meeting
a lot of people were asking questions about taking care of kids.
Do you have similar questions? Are you worried about your little
girl's health?" If 'Yes,' that becomes a good opening to, "What
can we do for children's health in this neighborhood?"
you ask, while tickets of admission to another person's mind,
come with a cost to the other person. A good response takes energy.
"We have not seen many folks from your neighborhood turn up at
our meetings and were wondering why." Pay close attention to the
listener's reaction. To the listener it means a great deal, perhaps
their cooperation, if they know they have been heard and are not
wasting time and thought in answering you.
listeners questions that have reasonable answers. "In your words,
what's the toughest problem in your neighborhood?" Let the answer
to the question lead to answers concerning the project's idea,
"Would talking about a tough problem like ... (the one the neighbor
brought up) get you to come to a meeting?" Questions go two ways
in good communication. The team member should expect to "walk
the talk" that goes with an answer. "You wonder if it would be
worth your time to come to a meeting. I sometimes ask myself that.
It is not always easy to get to neighborhood meetings but how
else can we change things?" If the listener comes back with a
question that you can not answer, make that question yours. "That
is a good question but I do not have an answer. Give me some time
to find out and I will get back to you."
neighbors' and team members', are valuable and should be remembered
and shared with the team. Recognizing tough questions and learning
how to answer them builds the team's strength and comfort in face-to-face
talk with neighbors.
communication among fellow workers leads to project action. In
any team activity, all the members should know something of how
each member is functioning. Until processed and recorded by the
team, a contact is little more than a social visit.
teammates know what was talked about with neighborhood people
means more than making a simple report. Members of the team need
to fill in the details of front-line action through team feedback
and discussion, sharing what happened in the neighborhood.
makes a big difference, but do not take notes while in the neighborhood.
Team members can get the information down once they are back in
the office before the full memory fades.
twice before asking neighborhood people to fill out questionnaires.
Asking for written replies can be more than a chore. A questionnaire
may be insulting proof that you are unaware that a neighbor might
not feel comfortable reading or writing English or know how to
read or write English at all.
A sure measure
of successful teamwork is liking the people you work with, joking
with them, and learning about their personal hopes and fears.
This is the most human part of team work. It can be fun.
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and the neighborhood feeling the way they want to feel about themselves,
that they are the kind of people who want to do good things and
are able to do good things for themselves and others.
a powerful form of feedback: giving something back to those who
participated in the effort. Two of the most powerful words in
any language are "Thank you."
is more complicated than any simple declaration of thanks. The
project must return its findings to the people for their review
and validation. For example, this guide was sent back to the people
who contributed their ideas, time, and spirit to get their feedback,
two-way communication right to the end.
In the stress
of outreach work thank you's should never be forgotten. The thank
you list is long. Thank you for the face-to-face conversation
on a street corner, for the volunteered hours spent on the telephone
encouraging attendance at a neighborhood meeting, for making the
coffee and cleaning up afterwards, for the evenings spent in committee
meetings. Thanks to fellow workers for that extra push when it
counted. Thanks to the newspapers and TV stations for helping
educate the wider community. Thanks to local neighbors for allowing
you to be part of their neighborhood. Thanks to charitable foundations
for trusting enough to help pay the bill. Closure is a time for
efforts carry a responsibility for letting neighbors know how
they made a difference. The team should never fail to recognize
contributions. For genuine satisfaction neighborhood people need
to know as precisely as possible what they have done. They can
understand, if told, how important they were in discovering wise
judgments (good policy).
way the neighborhood can know the project was not another in-and-out
scheme to squeeze information out of them for someone else's needs
is shared closure.
have to understand the difference they made in order to pass it
on to others, in their and others' neighborhoods.
people can accept the team as real persons when the team returns
to share what has and has not been accomplished. Sharing means
they can see that you are a good neighbor trying to make the neighborhood
better by proudly representing what the neighbors see as good
to say thanks may not be easy. Differences making for mistrust
may remain in many odd shapes, sizes, and colors. The outreach
project team should say openly and repeatedly "Your trust made
the project possible."
to work all the teammembers and neighbors need to participate
in coming to the project's conclusions. We went back to neighbors
with this guide. In one case our outreach advisory board helped
us to see how little help we gave the Asian-American population
who expressed gratitude but did not respond with neighborhood
change: Learning what we do not know helps us learn what we should
becomes power for neighborhood change is reviewed in the third
part of the Supplement.
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leads us to
believe that with clear goals for making
a difference in a neighborhood, a
gutsy team prepared to listen to what
other people say in a minority neighborhood and
to honestly report what has been done in
understandable language, has a good chance of
bringing about constructive change. We
believe that is what living in the USA is
and should be all about.
Neighborhood Door Openers
door openers serve the same function for their neighborhood as
ambassadors do for their countries except that door openers seldom
are paid for their civic contribution.
door openers have grown up in an ethnic community, but moved away
for an advanced education, a new job, obligatory military service,
or just plain curiosity about the larger world outside their own
of caring door openers is found among the volunteer guides at
the former leprosy colony on Molokai in Hawaii. For years our
federal government, fearful of the spread of leprosy, forced islanders
suffering from the disease to live in an isolated "treatment colony"
on Molokai Island. Rather than let suffering by so many "minority"
people be forgotten, a few patients volunteered to guide tourists
through the "leprosy" neighborhood.
openers were dedicated to heart touching education for the wider
community to a dreadful case of discrimination by the majority
neighborhood door openers simultaneously live, feel, and think
effectively as members of the ethnic neighborhood and the larger
community they are respected and accepted in both worlds. Their
work is successful because they use their life experience in two
cultures to cross, back and forth, between the cultures. They
are bright, curious, and tolerant people with a caring way of
helping others understand attitudes that might otherwise be disregarded.
unique, cultural self-education they are proficient at more than
digesting two different diets or talking two languages. They know
how to live, feel, and think in two cultures. They tread with
care and understanding to avoid bruising where people of another
culture may unknowingly tramp on toes. Consequently, door openers
are sensitive to cultural ways that block communication between
cultures and are indispensable to successful outreach efforts.
neighborhoods may lack clear boundaries but they generally have
well-known leaders. A project advisory board is one of the most
effective means of tapping into the neighborhood leadership. An
advisory board brings together these informed neighbors, who are
able to give in-depth consideration and feedback on what is possible
in the neighborhood. They make a useful guide and checkpoint for
way of determining what neighbors wish for their neighborhood
is talking with their leaders. Ministers, priests, government
administrators, teachers, nurses, doctors, business men and women
can provide a significant reading on where the neighborhood is
headed. However, these contacts are informal and may be hard to
tie down to what the project needs: neighborhood approval and
leaders come in many shapes, sizes, and titles. Some may not even
have a title or may have given themselves the title of leader.
These last have a neighborhood reputation of "all talk and no
do." Check with effective front-line people when looking for people
who "do." Find out their reliability as leaders. Avoid taking
non-activists onto the advisory board as they may give it a bad
leaders may appear dynamic but carry a private agenda that means
they lack the flexible thinking necessary for effective board
in having an advisory board is not bringing neighborhood leaders
together to meet but to work. They need to know about the project
and what is expected of them.
like a team within a team, follows all the steps of organization
that hold for the project team. If possible, have board members
meet each other personally or hold an informal, introductory meeting
to introduce the project and the project team. They can be expected
to have experience crossing between neighborhoods, bridging the
cultural gap between their neighborhood and the wider community.
Board members are a sustained source of quick, practical advice
since they know the organization and do not need to be filled
in on every detail when thinking out solutions. From an insider's
perspective, they can point out unexpected possibilities and hidden
hazards. Their working membership goes a long way toward neighborhood
acceptance of the project.
W's of successful board membershipWealth, Wisdom, and Workserve
as a guide in selecting active board members. Every member should
contribute at least one W. If a member offers two W's it is a
bonus. Three W's and the board member is a civic saint.
should be kept well informed at every step of the project. This
starts with their criticism, advice, counsel, and approval of
the project's plan. They need to know through direct feedback
how their contribution fits into the project's strategy and outcomes.
With their help the outreach project develops in a number of directions,
including gaining support from the wider community.
have a showy name, data, which means they are bits of information
to be saved and used in some way in the project.
notes are organized is important. Though the way people keep notes
may vary it should be similar enough to permit comparing them.
This allows the team to think out conclusions from them and allows
other teams to compare their work with the project's work. This
is called analysis. Analysis of any statistics needs to be owned
by the people who gave the statistics. If no minority people are
involved in the analysis at every stage it is another case of
"They know what is best for us."
of neighborhood reactions show up as the team combines and compares
notes. The patterns are knowledge, street smarts. Knowledge is
information worked out from the bits and pieces of data. That
is why the notes are important. Without the notes there can never
be working knowledge for the team.
patterns of response in the neighborhood the team becomes knowledgeable.
The knowledge of practical patterns of response, getting to know
the territory, should be used to improve the team's ways of talking
with neighbors. Learning patterns of neighborhood response is
a sure way of learning how neighbors think. By applying the knowledge
of how neighbors think the team develops judgment which improves
in order to make the project idea work in the neighborhood is
called wisdom. It shows the neighbors that you understand them
and they in turn are more likely to pay attention to the project's
idea. Following this pattern of communication sends out the word
that the team is a thinking part of the neighborhood, is "one
the results of effective talking, has a name, policy. After the
team has analyzed enough patterns to be sure the judgments are
accurate the judgments are passed along as recommendations, policy
recommendations, to community leaders, administrators, legislators,
politicians, who make community decisions. This is the project's
powerful and constructive way of improving life for neighbors.
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