There was a time when being part of community associations and clubs that did great work or offered camaraderie in a town was a given for most families. Having roots with other organizations meant being part of something larger than ourselves, that thing we all crave and which allows us to build strengths in areas we might not have otherwise, while at the same time increasing our social skills.
I think most of us are interested in “doing good” but our schedules have evolved to the point that making larger ongoing commitments can seem too overwhelming to take on, so we often let go of this important puzzle piece.
The truth is there has been a substantial drop in community connection and especially when looking at more classic organizations that may seem outdated to some, like boy scouts or bowling leagues, without replacing them with equivalent activities. As Author Robert Putnam writes about in Bowling Alone, the negative offshoots for society and our youth are beginning to show up now and will impact us and them as we move into the future. In general we’ve started to see research on EQ or emotional intelligence levels dropping, the ability to put yourself in another’s shoes, and feelings of anxiety and depression on the rise. The question is what can we do to help develop more resilient people, using their strengths to create solutions and collaborations that will lead to everyone thriving, no matter what shifts or challenges come their way?
Recently I gave a TEDx talk on engagement, innovation and the connection to social good in developing leaders and idea development. I had no idea that at the same time the topic was being discussed as one of the top skills needed for the future of jobs at the world economic forum. What I do know is that whether it’s creating capacity or connection in people, cultivating skills in this area has tremendous payoffs for both individuals and larger environments.
There are huge wins in developing our risk taking muscles, especially through social good and, as Tim Elmore a specialist in leadership skills for young people points out, the findings from a University of Illinois study show that stretching out to do good builds confidence and lessens depression in teens and helps everyone feel more empowered.
If I could leave organizations, parents and coaches with one thought today it would be to create simple opportunities for your group to add more social good to your summer break and throughout the year. It shows young people how capable they are, allows your team to tell a different story about the wins they’ve had, and improves confidence, your community and future skills. Who wouldn’t want that?
What’s fabulous is it doesn’t have to be a large event to make an impact, but small bite sized elements attached to your gatherings or summer gaps can have far reaching effects. Here are a few ideas to start with:
- If you’re a group doing a wind up or a reconnect before the fall, why not mix a fun get together with social responsibility for the local food bank or a park in your neighbourhood. Contact your city as they often have clean up or restoration projects you can volunteer for on particular weekends, then add a celebration at the end.
- If you’re a parent looking to keep your young people busy in the summer. Contact your local hospital or elderly care centre and tell them about your crew wanting to make cards of encouragement for patients needing a boost. Better yet why not try making this fun art from Gary Hirsch’s bot joy project. You can watch his youtube explanation and get going with oil paint markers and dominos. These small joy or brave bots can help children or others gain courage in hospitals or other situations.
- If you’re an organization or family wanting to make an impact, why not get in touch with a local nonprofit that’s helped someone from your extended circle. Enquire about immediate needs they might have, building items to helping with events, there’s sure to be a component your group can impact.
I’ll guarantee you there is something interesting that’s also the right size for everyone to take part in, and best of all you’ll come back from your summer with great stories and having accomplished so much more.