An invitation to participate in a Connect Coalition is also a challenge. This duality is not unique to a Connect Coalition. Every invitation to participate in something you were not already participating in includes a requirement to change if you say yes and the potential that you may miss out on something worthwhile if you say no. There’s no way to guarantee that the change or what you may miss out on is good. The only guarantee with this particular invitation is that you belong. That is the invitation and the challenge - to belong. Your identity is needed. It is of critical value. Your own needs are important enough to be met by your community. And our interdependence constructs a shared identity and a mission that requires all of us to accomplish something important together.
There is always a pull to solve a problem. To figure it out is a lesser drive, to stop it is paramount. We want the bad, the painful, the heartbreaking to be done. We want our comfort back and to be left alone to enjoy it. It’s interesting that in our Western culture we would think or feel something like this, “leave me alone to enjoy my comfort.” Yes, we feel a sense of compassion for those who are affected by suicidal thoughts or substance abuse. We want the test scores of our educational institutions to be high so that we feel good about ourselves ensconced in our comfortable community. We want the blight of homelessness dealt with and hungry people to be fed. But we need to pay attention to what’s pushing us. It’s ironic that the concept of being left alone is associated with comfort. It’s not that it isn’t true though - the presence of others always interrupts our comfort. They bring their problems, agendas, annoying characteristics, and challenges to our status quo. They require us to consider our alikeness and our responsibility to each other. But they also bring wholeness.
The impetus for a Connect Coalition nearly always begins with concern by a group of citizens over an urgent problem. Some of the common concerns are youth suicide, substance abuse, bullying, poor academic performance, and homelessness. Usually, concerned citizens want to take action and do something to solve the problem or reduce its impact. They want to mobilize, bring attention to it, and attack it. Sometimes, they identify an immediate cause of the problem such as lack of mental health services, access to guns or access to substances, ineffective attention or discipline by educators or parents, and lack of access to services and low cost housing.
The early and passionate recommendations about what needs to be done are focused on eliminating bad behavior or fixing a lack of something. This is deficit focused effort. History shows that it consumes significant energy with little or no systemic change. Sometimes, change wrought by this approach is actually for the worse. If a community rallies around what is wrong, the tendency is to see the “wrong” as someone’s fault or the fault of a group of people. The battle lines are drawn with other people or unmet standards on one side and the passionate warriors on the other.
A Connect Coalition is a prevention and health promotion strategy that increases community well being by creating a shared narrative in which every citizen experiences belonging.
This approach to community health and community building identifies human disconnection as the cause of mental, emotional, behavioral, and physical illness. The outcomes of suicide, substance abuse, academic failure, employment instability, and homelessness are among many symptoms of this cultural illness. A Connect Coalition is a trauma-informed, community-led prevention and health promotion strategy based on systems and social network theory, belongingness, and positive psychology.
I write about belonging, storytelling, community building, prevention, trauma, resilience, neuroscience, and epigenetics.