Post-alternative break, or upon graduation, seeking out a new group or community to join can be an intimidating venture. A novice member would be unprepared to act as a leader - we’d challenge any active citizen to consider other roles.
In small groups, a few roles emerge: active participants, leaders, and connectors.
A leader is a person at the front of the room who acts as a voice for the community.
A connector is in the center of the room, often unrecognized, but always creating new relationships and often acting in a modest way.
As short-term members of communities (or for recent graduates - new members), breakers' roles may not be as a leader so much as a connector. So what does a connector look like in the day-to-day? Connectors are:
- “Gift-centered” people - they see the “half full” in everyone
- Well-connected: active in associations (small groups made of volunteers sharing a common interest) and civic life. They know the ways of their neighborhood.
- Trusted and constantly creating new, trusting relationships.
- Not cynical, doubting observers; they believe in people.
- Hospitable. They get joy from convening and inviting people to come together.
Community connections are at the root of community organizing and collective action (and thus, reorientation). The power of collective action lies in our ability to create positive and inclusive communities by bringing others into the fold. Our work as organizers, then, is to enhance the culture of connectivity and inclusivity in our programs.
Consider now: how can you train participants to be community connectors after alternative breaks? Who can they look to in your community as examples of this? Time and space should always be made to consider vital roles within small groups - all the while, making those intimidating ventures a bit more promising.