Community Building , Econ0mic and Community Development, Sustainable Communities; whatever you want to call it, whatever the “buzz” word, it has an essence, a soul and a spirit that manifests in Passion.
For Carrying-Capacity’s launch I am excited to introduce a young man with a seasoned perspective; resident philosopher, writer, music business entrepreneur and all round Renaissance man – Diop Menelik Adisa! A man in his mid-twenties, he represents one of the new voices presenting with critical inquiry. Diop serves as the Youth Director, Outreach Director and Grant Writer for the Kheprw Institute and Ki-EcoCenter. He is an IUPUI graduate with a Bachelors in Philosophy and is every bit his father’s (Imhotep Adisa) son, especially when it comes to deduction and “breaking it down.” The definition of his name according to him: Diop – “Named after his grandfather a self-taught Senegalese scholar” Menelik – “Son of the wise man, bringer of the knowledge”. Adisa – “One who makes his meaning clear”.
Keep in mind as you read his blog writings, he is both refreshing and gritty.
“The past few months, given the work I and my organization have been involved with, have lead me down a road that requires a critical examination of the mindset difference between those that build from the ground up from those that “build” from the top down. The second build is in quotation due to the fact that I have never witnessed the construction of any standing building from the top down”
Diop’s description of this all too common practice of economic and community development crystalizes the difference between accessing resources and being resourceful. He states:
“Grass Roots as a mindset understands the simple idea of starting with whatever and whoever you have. They understand how to survive by bootstrapping instead of bootlicking. Power is needed to empower. Non-profits/people that chase funding and approval can never empower community because they have relinquished their own power. They have fallen subservient to the status quo and as a result no longer possess an authentic autonomous voice, which is the exact voice being called upon in these turbulent times. The funding chasers are not in a position to critique the Grass Roots mindset primarily because they have no knowledge of how to build from the ground up.”
Both models have a place in the plethora of approaches to community development. The question remains, which model provides the best opportunity for long term sustainability? It is crystal to me, but I’ll let you decide. Still, Diop’s analysis of the top down approach as a change process, reminds me of an eloquent statement captured by Henry Ford in 1908 in reference to his Model-T automobile, “You can paint it any color, so long as you buy it black”.
Diop’s fearlessness is reflected in his philosophy of self-mastery as he calls out the traditionalist;
“Far too often non-profit ‘know it alls’ spend their time doing the exact antithesis of the term non-profit. Funding first and change second becomes their mantra.”
This is by no means an accident. Remember his last name, Adisa: “One who makes his meaning clear”. I invite you to follow this new voice, the Kheprw Institute, and Ki-EcoCenter as they continue modeling the difficult work of “self-mastery” as a core value of sustainability and “grassroots as mindset.”