Genuine Progress From The Bottom Up

Genuine Progress From the Bottom Up

By Robert Beezat (www.robertbeezat.com)

The 2017 EcoFest event in Racine, Wisconsin.

Guest writer Robert Beezat is the author of  Knowing and Loving: The Keys to Real Happiness,  a philosophical and spiritual approach to happiness; and Character Based Management: A Key to More Productive & Effective Organizations, which focuses on job satisfaction (job-related happiness) as both achievable and a big asset for organizational success. He is a businessman, former city manager, and an activist in creating greater well being at the local level. 

The 24/7 news cycle almost always presents negative stories about terrible things happening in our communities, our country, and our world. And, yes, there are certainly terrible things happening.

But many good things happen every day. We just don’t hear about them. Many people and organizations across the country are making genuine progress, increasing the well-being of their communities from the bottom up

One positive example of this is what is going on in the Greater Racine area. Racine, Wisconsin sits along the western shores of Lake Michigan between Milwaukee to the north and Chicago to the south. Racine has the highest unemployment rate in the state, as well as one of the state’s highest infant mortality and childhood poverty rates.

Two grassroots groups have sprung up in the last two years to mobilize the entire community to address a wide range of issues affecting our area. One group is called Visioning a Greater Racine (VGR); the other group is Greening Greater Racine (GGR).

VGR is conducting community visioning sessions which involve a diverse group of over 1,000 people representing neighborhoods, schools, businesses, not for profits, churches, and local governments, as well as many individuals who want to make a positive difference. Community goals are being defined, priorities determined, and programs developed.

GGR is bringing together a broad range of organizations which impact the environment of our area. At these meetings, the organizations are learning from each other, coordinating their efforts, and celebrating their successes.

The GGR movement sprung from Racine Green Congregations, an ecumenical group which formed eight years ago. Green Congregations’ initial purpose was to share ideas and successes in making their own places of worship more energy efficient. Much has been accomplished along those lines.

Then, based on the broader environmental concerns shared by all worship groups in the community, Green Congregations helped lead the formation of the larger Greening Greater Racine movement.

Some of the 1,000 people of all ages checking out the 60+ environmental displays at EcoFest 2017.

The informal mantra of both groups is: Inform…Inspire…Celebrate!

From an information standpoint, we have all been amazed about how many good things are already happening in our community every day. Good people and good organizations are making a positive difference to quality of life from social, economic, and environmental perspectives.

From an inspiration standpoint, it lifts all of our spirits to meet and work with so many people who are already making a positive difference. As we get to know each other better, build trust, and see new possibilities for future accomplishments, we see genuine progress being made and are filled with hope.

From a celebration standpoint, we make it a point to not take for granted the good work that is already being done to make our community a better place to live, work, and raise a family.

A father and his two children checking out a Tower Garden, one of the 60+ plus environmental displays at EcoFest 2017.

One example of this spirit of celebration first happened in the Spring of 2016 and was repeated this Spring. Greening Greater Racine worked with our local community college, Gateway Technical College, to host EcoFest. 60 plus organizations set up informative and interactive displays of their environmental work at the community college. Close to 1,000 people of all ages visited EcoFest both years. People were simply amazed regarding the many positive programs that are already going on. Many have been inspired to join these efforts.

When I think about the successes we are having bringing the community together to address a wide range of issues, I recall the words of Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

What starts from the bottom up can bring about positive and great change for our communities, our country, and our world.