Solve problems through relationships

Dave Evans and Doug Eaton, Creative Oklahoma

In sales, you know that you have to start with bonding and rapport if you want to move forward in any direction. We’ve increasingly found that it’s the same in the nonprofit world.

And we can’t do our jobs at Creative Oklahoma—helping the state grow, encouraging creative problem-solving in schools, businesses, and communities—without partnerships. Here’s one way we’ve found that relationships are the way to create change and growth.

We’ve partnered with eight communities across the state to help them creatively solve issues facing their community. In Oklahoma, we have many great small communities throughout our state. Some of them are thriving, and some are not.

Why is that? Often the issues facing struggling communities are specific to that community, so we wanted to see what results we could accomplish by creatively problem-solving issues in those eight communities. We put facilitators in each of those communities to meet monthly, in person, with stakeholders to discuss creative solutions.

In Guthrie, two women really took it upon themselves to push for a solution to a problem that had troubled the community for years: The Elbow.

The Elbow was a passageway closed off to vehicular traffic: a bridge had washed out a few years ago, and residents of a primarily low-income, minority neighborhood found it very difficult to get to the rest of Guthrie because of The Elbow.

Now, certainly this was a challenge to the residents of that neighborhood, but this problem was also depriving the rest of Guthrie of what that neighborhood had to offer. Tackling this issue brought stakeholders from all backgrounds and income levels to the table.

This group in Guthrie now has town hall meetings of 25 people that meet to discuss how to address The Elbow, as well as a variety of other issues in the town. And that’s happening because two women decided to take action in their community. They’ve gathered community support for this project, and we’ll work with them over the next two years to make sure they have the connections and resources they need to make this project happen.

It’s good work that the creative problem-solvers in Guthrie are undertaking, but it would not be possible without a variety of partnerships. We’re seeing people who might not typically work together cooperate to bring hope to their community.

There’s a momentum that builds when you problem-solve with others. In your professional life, what problems could you solve more readily through partnership with others? What mutually beneficial connections can you make for others in your network?

Buying is a collaborative effort, whether you’re investing in a company or a community. Change is driven by relationships. The more you’re able to work together with people to meet their felt needs, the more successful you’ll be.

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