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It Takes a Village

group of people building a barn
Photo by Randy Fath on Unsplash

Grace Reed’s article on Solving Homelessness talks about how effective the village model is for getting people off the streets and back into stable lives.

A village…

It also takes a village to raise a child.

I was sharing all this with a friend the other night and suddenly we both realized—it takes a village to do anything!

We think we are independent. We think our success is our own. And so we look at those who struggle and say, “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps.”

But we don’t see the village that pulled us up. It’s invisible to us. We treat these issues as if it’s all an individual problem:

  • If you apply yourself, you’ll get off the streets.

  • If you work hard, you can run your own business.

  • If you try harder, you’ll succeed in school.

But it takes the camaraderie and support of friends and a collection of wrap-around services to get someone off the streets and into stability.

It takes a variety of skills to run a successful business and rarely does one individual contain them all.

It takes homework support and enrichment activities—all the “extras” the top students get—to keep kids engaged and pursue their education. Families with money have the resources to provide these extras for their kids. Those without money don’t. And then we blame them for not trying hard enough. Because we perceive success to be an individual thing. We reinforce the myth that we succeed or fail according to our individual effort. But when we really start looking, we begin to see the village surrounding our own success.

Take a moment and think about it:

  • Who were the influential people in your life?

  • Who encouraged you to succeed?

  • Who provided knowledge and training?

  • Who provided resources?

  • Who provided contacts and connections?

  • Who provided advice and insight?

If you took all that away, where would you be now?

We used to understand this. We used to have barn-raisings, where the whole village would get together and build a barn for one family. Everyone had a part to play, even the children. It was one big work party. You didn’t pay your neighbors for this service; you helped them build their barn when they needed a new one.

Now we have a growing trend of people starting their own businesses. Solopreneurs and freelancers currently make up 35% of the workforce. But no one person has all the skills necessary to run a business. So we hire out the things we aren’t good at. And for those with funds, that works. But what about all the talented people who don’t have funds? What potential are we losing when we expect each individual to do it all?

What if we had villagepreneurs instead? What if we collaborated and combined our talents so we all can prosper? What if we collectively made sure that everyone has the social safety net to succeed?

The village model works because it gives individuals the support they need to thrive. But it’s also reciprocal, a virtuous cycle:

  1. The village supports individuals in their development.

  2. These individuals start doing well and giving back.

  3. The village can then help more people.

  4. Who do well and give back.

  5. And on it goes. Together, the village and the individuals build a prosperous community in which everyone can flourish.

So look around. What does your “village” look like? Are all the people in it thriving? What can you do to help?

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