#CommDevStories
by Kyle Patrick Williams
CDS Chairperson

In one of my undergraduate leadership studies courses focused on leading change, I recently featured a TED Talk titled "Inspiring Social Change through Community Organizing." Rabbi Dara Frimmer, who serves as the senior rabbi at Temple Isaiah in Los Angeles, presented this TED Talk during the TEDxUCLA 2015 event. According to biographical information, Dara engages in every aspect of congregational and life cycle events, focusing on social justice issues, Israel, and religious education. She is active with many local organizations committed to social justice.

Dara's talk reflected on how our desires to pursue justice issues necessarily connect to our self-interest. They require a deep personal commitment to a select few problems to which we dedicate time and energy. She continued by saying that "One of the biggest challenges we face as agents of social change is that we forget to learn people's stories as we attempt to enlist them in our cause. And that's a mistake. Because what we care about is deeply connected to who we are: our life experiences, our pain and our disappointment, as well as our greatest joy. And if we can just remember to get at those kinds of stories and share those of our own, we are far more likely to create a network of committed people who are ready to bring about real social change."

As Dara pointed out, stories lead to connections that create a sense of accountability on both sides. "That is the accountability you need if you want to turn people out for your events. It's the reason why if you call me up and you say, "I need you to show up for me, to stand up, to speak out for this event, this cause that means something to me," I am far more likely to say yes if I know your story." Dara then described a concept she called "calculated vulnerability" and the importance of sharing about yourself and what you care about and inviting them to do the same.

As we continue navigating the myriad of issues impacting our communities, how do we remain invested in the work in which we are engaged? How do we bring others along with us to increase our collective impact? How do we move beyond sheer numbers of loss and tolls taken to re-humanize those individuals? We start with conversations and stories to, as Dara suggested, fill the tragic gap between the world as it is and the world as it could be. "You can cross that gap alone, screaming at the top of your lungs," she says, "or you can invite other people to join with you."

So, what is your community development story? What are you passionate about, and what opportunities do you have to share your story with others? We would love to hear your #CommDevStories and possibly feature them in a future edition of the Vanguard. Please reach out to Anita Montgomery, Vanguard Editor, to submit your stories!