Building community networks and connecting the passions of people working in various community development capacities is a key focus of Carrie Brooks and the organization she directs, Making a Difference in Memphis.
So, gathering with 300 community members to discuss a new Memphis narrative was familiar territory for the veteran scholar, but this truth and the fact that she was already deeply familiar with the works of the three facilitators — Peter Block, John McKnight and Walter Brueggemann — did nothing to lessen the impact of the day, however.
From the very beginning, when the first questions were posed by Peter asking people to define themselves in groups of three strangers not by their experience, but by their commitment, she was steadily intrigued.
The follow-up asked people to consider what gifts they received from the other two people they met, and Carrie could see people instantly gleaning a deeper understanding of their role in the greater narrative, simply because of the nature of the questions they were answering.
“The questions (Peter) posed were so different for so many people than what they’re used to at a conference kind of setting,” Carrie explains.
“These are incredibly different questions and that’s my main takeaway. Their questions really changed the conversation, and it’s so important to get the questions right.”
The buzz and energy she felt throughout the day was a direct result of deep engagement sparked instantly through the prompting of all three facilitators, she adds.
Brooks is an expert in adult education and development who, through her work with Making a Difference in Memphis, has helped a plethora of people working in a wide variety of community development realms – from elder abuse to infant mortality to domestic violence – discover new understandings of who they are as learners, and what they can do to be more successful in their work.
People come to her program thinking, “ ‘I’m going to meet some people who are different from me, people I don’t know, and maybe I’ll have something in common with them,’ ” Carrie says, “but at the end it seems that they feel that they’re part of a learning community and they don’t feel that they’re working in isolation anymore.”
The people who attended the CTC event came bearing the gifts and commitment to transformation in ways large and small, yet many may have felt they, too, work in isolation at times. The new connections made there hold much promise.
The follow-up to the mid-November event as these various levels of commitment translate into on-the-ground action is something Carrie looks forward to, beginning with a meeting of some of the key organizers on Dec. 3.
“It’s definitely an exciting time,” Carrie says. “It’s a great time to be here.”