Fariha Raisa, Feedback Labs | May 8, 2023
Grounded in the idea that in community, we have everything we need, GatherFor has been organizing people living in the same neighborhood into teams of 5-7 to support one another like families. Being piloted in Brownsville, Brooklyn, these “Neighbor Teams” gather weekly or biweekly to share stories, define goals, and collaborate to achieve them. Examples of their collaboration include starting businesses together, pooling funds to pay off bills, watching each other’s children, supporting each other through depression as well as having neighborhood picnics.
To support Neighbor Teams, GatherFor provides them with digital infrastructure and up to $500 per month in matching funds to run a susu; this is a community practice in which the team pools funds with equal contributions from each member, with the total pool being matched by GatherFor and then given to one member each month on a rotating basis to use however they need. GatherFor also provides each team with $300 as discretionary funds to organize in-person team gatherings, cover emergency expenses, etc. Additionally, GatherFor organizes requested workshops on topics like housing, immigration, financial planning, surviving domestic violence, and community organizing; provides a workbook with storytelling-based discussion prompts, and arranges monthly town hall meetings that allow all Neighbors to share best practices from each Neighbor Team and opine on the future direction of GatherFor.
GatherFor presented in a LabStorm to gather feedback on the aspiration to invite the whole neighborhood into this practice of mutual care. Because that is not the way people in the neighborhood are used to relating to one another, this feels to the GatherFor team as a cultural revolution. They discussed strategies on how to incentivize community members to feel like they want to be a part of a neighbor team, and how coming together could meet their immediate needs to get key repairs done by the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA). To accomplish both ends, they shared the idea of a large neighborhood block party called “Kindness Party” to which NYCHA officials will be invited to commit, through a process rooted in trust-building dialogue, to making needed repairs in the community.
Rethinking cultural revolution. Attendees defined cultural revolution as the movement to bridge the gap between the world as it is and the world that should be. By defining what cultural revolution is, the LabStorm provided the space to reflect on the ways that GatherFor is prompting a cultural revolution to achieve the mindset needed to embody equitable actions. Because the community members have expressed anger and disappointment in their living situation, this anger could be used as feedback to advance the cultural movement. The group discussion revealed how zooming out of the immediate situation might lead to a discovery of patterns about how the complaints connected. Looking into the nature of conflict would help monitor the next action steps that would be needed to address the conflict. Monthly meetings could be held to catch up on the progress to hold each other accountable and encourage a cultural revolution within the community.
Strengthening community belonging. In terms of the shared relationship among neighbors, attendees found it interesting to compare to places outside the US. Many indigenous communities that share this relationship are defined by familiar relations. However, in the US, there is more transition and movement and participants encouraged rethinking the question in terms of movement over generations. Attendees also stressed on using informational workshops to empower people to help reach goals. Acknowledging that information is dictated by social environments and emotions, over actual content of the information, people coming together in neighborhood meetings to interpret and define what the information means can be empowering for a sense of belonging.
Building trust based relationships. Realizing that trust is tricky, participants reiterated that a lot of communities do not trust government initiatives which also cause anger where overpromising and underdelivery can be significant barriers to trust. Within a city, there is usually a history of what is coming up on the surface. The governing bodies are probably made up of people who have also been impacted by the city. Because they might be familiar with the pain that the community members are going through, the group discussion encouraged looking into this as a form of solidarity to move forward the work instead of having an adversarial relationship with the authority.
As the engaging discussion came to a close, GatherFor acknowledged how feedback is the foundation of everything they do. GatherFor does not make top-down decisions, rather the community makes them all, and the feedback received in the LabStorm would directly go back to the community.
Learn More About LabStorms
LabStorms are collaborative problem-solving sessions designed to help organizations tackle feedback-related challenges or share what’s working well in their practice.
Presenters leave the experience with honest, actionable feedback and suggestions to improve their feedback processes and tools.
To learn more about participating in a virtual LabStorm, please visit feedbacklabs.org/labstorms.