What Does it Mean to Be a Neighbor-Business?

Over the past several months, SCOPE has had increasing opportunities to collaborate with a group of fellow neighbors in Central-Cocoanut, which is the neighborhood where the SCOPE offices are located.  This has been especially rewarding since the mission of SCOPE is all about citizens becoming "connected and inspired to create a better community."  We realize that for positive change to catch and spread and stick, the first investors need to be residents, themselves, taking initiative to make things ever better, as they see fit.  We are strong believers in the reality that people can figure out what's best for themselves, and residents are in the very best position to see what's going on and lead efforts to change it for the better.  It's not that there isn't a place for organizations and institutions, it's just that the most helpful thing SCOPE can do is to grow attuned and responsive to resident efforts, following the lead of people who know their neighborhood and circumstances best, and then contributing when and where and how we can.  This is what we believe, but this has not yet been embraced by other organizations and institutions.  The typical approach for many organizations is to "go first" in getting neighborhood change efforts started, and many also believe that the organizations themselves ought to lead the efforts as well.  People from other non-profits, government, and philanthropy make comments that suggest that they assume this is what SCOPE is doing in Central-Cocoanut and throughout the county despite our continued efforts to communicate that it's in fact exactly the opposite - around here neighbors are leading, and SCOPE is following.  Yes, it gets a little confusing with several SCOPE staff living in Central-Cocoanut as well.  But still, "neighbor-initiated, neighbor-led change" is a departure from an institution-centric model, which has predominated in our community and the country.  Lasting change requires rethinking these prevailing ideas.

What will bring about a shift in the prevailing community mindset?  We'd really appreciate some help in figuring this out, so please let us know if this is something that keeps you up at night, too.