Long Beach, California is a city of 462, 257 people according to the 2010 U.S. Census data. This population includes 40.8% Hispanic or Latino, 29.4% White, 13% Black or African American, 12.6% Asian, and lower percentages of Pacific Islander, American Indian, mixed and other races. Comprised of nine city council districts, the two predominantly suburban districts are largely White (between 63% - 69% majority), while all other districts are majority Hispanic or Latino. The three most urban districts are widely Hispanic or Latino with great disparity between the much lower percentages of ethnicities represented. For the past decade, Long Beach has been considered one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the nation. Also in the past decade, the city population has increased by only 735 people.
The 2010 Soul of the Community report conducted by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and Gallup over the past three years examined the “community attachment” (emotional connection) of residents in Long Beach. The study found that highly attached residents are more likely to stay in their current community and are also more likely to see their communities as being open to many kinds of people. The 3 key drivers of attachment for Long Beach residents are social offerings, openness, and aesthetics. Long Beach has a vibrant arts and entertainment nightlife, a general sense of welcome to different types of people, and physical beauty such as parks, playgrounds and trails. Although the U.S. Census indicated large ethnic diversity and the Soul of the Community report indicated an openness and sense of welcome, the report also revealed a perception that people don’t necessarily care about each other.
The Need for Social Change
A general observation of the city can show that Long Beach residents, city officials, and organizations are sometimes disconnected and fragmented. They are often isolated, self-centric, and duplicate efforts and services. Organizations find it difficult to work with the city in organizing large public events because of expensive fees and bureaucratic procedures and paperwork. Organizations sometimes find it difficult to collaborate with other organizations due to a lack of interest, trust, or willingness. Individuals are often unaware of activities happening in their area. People with ideas can be hesitant, unsure, or inexperienced with how to implement their project successfully. Emerging and existing leaders function in isolation from each other and are prone to burn-out and loneliness. They also lack resources, overly consume resources, are wasteful of resources, or they simply do not know how to locate resources.
A root cause for the disconnectedness between people and organizations is lack of trust. It is natural for people to connect only with those who are familiar and safe. Some people have a predisposition for distrust because of past experiences and so the prospect of interaction begins with caution or suspicion. For others, people don’t take the initiative in reaching out to those they are unfamiliar with.
Another root cause of fragmented communities is self-interest. People naturally seek to satisfy their own interests. In an environment with limited resources, people sometimes take a competitive stance toward one another because everyone is looking for donors, volunteers, and other resources. People seem to be functioning in survival-mode.
A contributing root cause for people and organizations functioning in isolation is a general first-person paradigm. Most people have a world-view seen through one’s own eyes. People live and travel in compartmentalized modes in houses and apartments and automobiles. We live in parallel with people only intersecting at invitations of choice. Most people are prone to bring others into their world rather than voluntarily entering into someone else’s world.
These root causes of distrust, self-interest, and a self-centric paradigm contribute to a sense of disconnectedness, fragmentation, and isolation among people and organizations.
The recession in the U.S. economy over the past several years provides the context for limited resources. This forces people and organizations to either compete for resources, share resources, or beg for resources. There seems to be a growing trend towards collaboration however, the stance between partners tends to be focused on what each can get from each other as opposed to a stance of exploring what each can give to each other.
There continues to be a trend toward social media and the development of new platforms to create a sense of connectivity. These platforms provide tools for interaction but it is not the same thing as actual relationship. Some of these platforms include Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn in addition to new ones like Google+ or growing ones like hi5, MyLife, and Ning.
Shifting Catalyst from a Traditional Nonprofit to a Social Enterprise
Catalyst is making a shift from being a traditional nonprofit to operating more like a social enterprise. Social entrepreneurship takes a uniquely different approach than traditional nonprofits or traditional business. We utilize entrepreneurial models to leverage markets, create resources, and direct those resources towards sustaining a social mission. Therefore, we are adopting a new paradigm shift – one that leads us to think systemically. We are not simply concerned about our own organizational sustainability. We seek everyone’s success. We work towards community-sustainability. We are not trying to solve a problem. We are trying to change systems that create and perpetuate problems.