The social entrepreneurs who succeed through their work with Community Partners come from many backgrounds, yet each shows a “maker” bent. While all of us, to one extent or another, are takers and makers both, people with a stronger do-it-yourself mentality carve out paths of distinctive innovation.
We all start out taking what’s handed us at birth, be it warmth and nurture, neglect and abuse, or gradations in between. Instantly, however, our resolute maker kicks in alongside our needful taker as we scream, coo or cry out to be seen and cared for. We take what’s there, and the primitive parts of our brains, bent on surviving and thriving, guide us with whatever means we can muster to quench our basic wants.
As children and young adults, we take what we find in the widening world around us and make it into what we can. We take the time our parents spend just with us and make those bonds, whether spindly or strong, into a sense of self that’s infused to our very DNA. If we want for parental companionship, then we might take attention from other sources like teachers or siblings or friends. We make of those relationships the best possible social support system, the most reliable community, we can. If we’re badly broken, the making doesn’t necessarily stop, it just gets twisted, tangled into neural labyrinths accessible to us and us alone. By luck, pluck, plan or plain old grit most of us steer past such an awful fate and move ahead.
So too with stuff, with the physical things we take from others or find close at hand. I remember taking wooden packing crates from the vegetable processing plant a few blocks from one of my six childhood homes and, with a discarded roller skate and a short scrap of two-by-four lumber, making those parts into scooters. We take from our surroundings that which we’re given, whether what comes is through someone else’s conscious intent or from mere happenstance, and we construct a reality we can master and own and ride.
As we grow older, we mostly take the schooling choices others engineer for us. Many of us take what teachers offer in the classroom and make out of it a compliant response on tests or papers. Some of us take what’s taught and treat it as kindling to feed the fire of discovery and learning. As we enter the job market, taking what’s offered is hard-wired in the American tradition. Making our ideal job, the job that fits like a glove our character and talents, requires exceptional resourcefulness, personal insight and grit. The attraction of what’s immediate and accessible invariably pushes back so we lean into taking what we find in the traditional world of work. We’re understandably inured to taking what’s on offer rather than assigning ourselves the tougher task of making what will be.
That’s where social entrepreneurs come in. They’re impatient with taking the human condition as-is, asking instead “how can I make the essential difference?” Some have put down their foot and declared “I’m simply not going to take it anymore” and give full-throated voice to new directions or points of view. Others adapt what’s worked in other places to the peculiarities of whatever place they inhabit. The full embrace of their inner activist makes them into fierce originals. No matter what their origin, each of the social entrepreneurs we meet brings to Southern California and to Community Partners’ unique civic “maker’s space” a package of ideas, energy and drive they laser-focus on fostering change. We take a well-developed ensemble of in-house talent, services, systems and sensibilities and make from it a platform that powers those makers’ unrelenting tussle to transform.
Making space for makers in a society where merely taking has a go-along, get-along appeal – that’s what keeps us energized and ever alert to what’s coming next to a community near you.
19/365²: El árbol de las ideas by Andrés Nieto Porras