When partners want to help what should I do?
Tips, Tools, Strategies, and Technology
The good news is that this is a sure sign of success! I meet so many communities that have set a goal of connecting with official 'leaders.' It is usually a terrible goal because it encourages communities to leap frog over their own assets and ignore their own latent power. I advise them to create success in their communities using what they have, and THEN the leaders will be interested in them - a much better power dynamic!
You and the good folks of Stan. County have done that! Evidenced by the requests you are getting.
I usually suggest the following -
1. Never agree to connect an official to a community without asking the community first.
2. When asking the community, encourage them to think of WHY they would accept that request and WHAT they want out of the meeting.
3. Before the meeting, prep the community leadership. Make sure they are comfortable and conversant in their own principles and ready to articulate their own assets. You, as a facilitator/organizer, don't need to ground the officials in the ABCD approach, but the community does. In so doing, the community reinforces its own power and establishes their own relationship with the officil. This happens best during the introductory part of the meeting as the group describes who they are, what they do, and what they are working toward. That is a good time for them to explain to the official how they value their own assets and where their internal power comes from as their "approach to building community." That will help the official to speak and respond within the context of the community's power and confidence.
4. At the end of the meeting or connecting conversation it is often helpful for someone from the community to summarize any agreements or understandings. I like to use a "Responsible/Accountable" framework (see Peter Block, Community). In a meeting like this I suggest the designated community leader state what the group takes responsibility for (i.e. what we have the power and intent to do for ourselves) and what they would like the official to be accountable for (what would support our efforts if you did with or for us), and how that will happen.
5. I also think it is valuable for the community to turn the tables of the conversation at the end and ask "What are you working on or interested in accomplishing?" and "How might we be helpful to you?" This does a couple of things. First, it will rock the official's world. No one ever asks that. Second, it reinforces the mutuality of the relationship. Yes, you can come meet with us and ask 'how can I help you,' and we can do the same thing. Finally, it is a short learning conversation with the official and as such, acknowledges her/his assets and gifts and desires as well.
I also like Dee's idea as an overall approach to shifting the culture among officials in your area.
Let us know what happens!