The Community Visioning Process

To Download the Guide “How to Conduct a Community Visioning Process” CLICK HERE

In April 2009, I like many Iranian-Americans, closed yet another exhausting season of Iranian-community volunteer work. “The Season”, which begins in December with Shabeh-Yalda, and ends with the traditional NoRouz celebration of Sizdah-Bedar is the time in which most of us get that cultural itch to volunteer for our community.

I looked back, the impossible fundraising, and all the difficulties with logistics, operations, accounting, and most of all recruiting unpaid bodies to do all the work that goes into the average Iranian-Community event. Not to mention the disagreements and in-fighting that took up most of the meetings.

What we were doing, was very hard. Too hard. Most of all, I asked  myself why is it this hard? After all we were doing it for the Community. Right?

That was when I realized that everything we had done, deciding on the entertainment, the venue, posters, flyers, and DJ cards at all the Iranian food shops, restaurants, dentists and doctors’ offices, begging local Iranian business-owners to support us without questioning spending, blackmailing and shaming local newspapers and magazines, and satellite TV stations for free ads, and all the SPAM email we sent out, all of it, had been decided on, and accomplished with NO community voice, never mind input or authorization.

I checked and learned that ALL the other similarly self appointed volunteer organizations, had almost the same exact problem. We were ALL operating inside our own bubble of dedication, love of our people, and service to a community that largely had no way of telling us what they wanted us to do.

And we certainly weren’t asking them.

Compounding our lack of credibility, was operational inexperience and incompetence, financial bungling, occasional outright corruption, and the always looming self-interest motives that the volunteers would be accused of pursuing with the project. The anonymous allegations and rumor mongering divided our confidence.

Our PR problems, almost always ended up consuming easily half the energy being  spent on a project.

The main reason why self appointed community service groups do not ask the community what they would like done, is that this is most often too expensive, and with what little funds are available, an advertised wide community survey or poll is almost impossible without a reasonably accurate directory. Certainly a waste of the hard to raise funds which barely covered the actual cost of the event being planned.

Finally, the emotional cost of holding a Town Hall meeting was too high to do. The discussion and debate would often break out into loud arguments or long speeches by the more vocal members of the audience, usually undermining the main subject, almost with cynical glee, and certainly with destructive and depressing effect.

So, any suggestion of holding an open or Town Hall style meeting was almost immediately quashed as unproductive and a waste of time. “Just build it and they will come!” became the alternative mantra.

Unfortunately the reality was more like, “Build it and they will Coma!”. Attendance and community participation almost always tepid, and a miniscule portion of the available community we all knew was out there.

Studying this for the last year, I realized that since this was where things always broke down, driving the volunteers to operate without the authority of the community, that we had to find a way to deal with the behavior at the Town Hall meeting.

Structure and process, was the key and the common missing element in almost every effective meeting I had ever been to.  Somehow we had to get past the mistrust, to the holy hallowed ground of community service for the betterment of all. A properly run meeting was the way.

So I began to search for the way, or a “process” if you will, by which we could engage, argue (politely and in an orderly fashion), and discuss the most important issues to glean that which Iranians in a community held dear and considered most important.

As I researched the various methodologies and process examples I could find, I soon realized that the saying, “All politics is local” was also applicable to the problem I was working on. All community organizing is local.  Trying to organize Iranians as one national community was virtually impossible. The character of each pocket of Iranians, East Coast Iranians versus West Coast Iranians, even Northern California versus Southern California, Iranians were as diverse as the regions they live in.

What follows is the result of over 18 months of research and reworking a detailed plan that any community of Iranians can use to define the vision for their community. It is important to understand that this process, does not create a Community Organization per se. It does however give your community a non-threatening way to come together and define a common vision. And this is the first logical step to building an organization if that is what comes out of the stated vision.

The process that follows this introduction, is a typical process used to organize communities in America today. This process can and should be modified as needed, to accommodate a community’s character and local requirements.  But, for the most part it is a sound template to follow.

I warn you that implementing this kind of process within your community, will likely lead to the desire to build an Organization.

My ongoing bet with myself, is that once Iranians learn how to meet in an orderly fashion and find the way to trust each other in achieving a common goal in a organized and efficient manner, I think the hard nut shell we have, will crack.

The goal then, is to produce full-fledged independent, vibrant, and active community organizations, local grass-roots grown, that use the full financial and human energy of a majority of local residents, to further those activities and projects that the community deems most important and worthy.  This then becomes the de-facto definition of The Iranian Community Organization.

I sincerely hope that the readers of this document will succeed in their efforts to organize their communities. I cannot wait to see how far we can go with this, once we start!

Wishing You the Best of Luck,

To Download the Guide “How to Conduct a Community Visioning Process” CLICK HERE

Bruce Behrouz Bahmani

Iranian Community Volunteer

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Iranian Singles

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