Managing in Distressed Communities: A Public Trust to Manage Knowledge

People capital as a market value in distressed communities is an overlooked primary asset. Managing communities is a trust given to manage knowledge.  A community’s wealth is not solely in the tangible assets on a general ledger, but the very heart, soul and mind of those entrusted to manage a different type of portfolio- people and the places they live.  The Genesis of transformation lies not in the number of resources you can muster but in the resources at the mercy of those given them to manage. It is the freedom managing is given to apply innovation and creativity that generate the power of its application and points of leverage, to bring about change.

The motivation for service within a distressed community context is how to rewrite history. Taking the reality of the leadership role and applying it across a massive number of researched materials, without compromising human value and potential, is the signature of managing right now, without being apologetic.

Abandoning compassion and consideration for personal and political preferences are not best fitting for needy communities. With all of its ills and woes, communities are comprised of people.  They were created to add to the work of the community, whether they have exercised that gift or not. Managing presupposes that inherent in the position is a commitment to move the community from where it presently is, to a place that took vision to get there.  Assuming a role to manage, in such conditions, to maintain present economies with no growth and no new market building, while using distressed labels to justify inaction, is not today’s manager.

To manage is to make a commitment beyond the governing authorities; it is to make a covenant with the community as well, that the very best of what is possible will be what they will get. The role of advocate and friend, are critical terms. Both evoke vows of transparency, authenticity and trust. The commitment must extend beyond boards and meetings and into the community as authentic partners in its development.

The issues managers must grapple with are not just internal to the community, but outside factors play a role as well. Understanding general market forces and trends and applying knowledge across a broad spectrum of disciplines to interpret the interest that’s best for the community they manage, is knowledge managers must have to lead.

It is the “in common” beliefs between manager and the community being served that defines outcomes. Terms such as low wealth, economically distressed, low income, wealth stripped, and the poor, are labels used to identify the condition of a community.  If a manager is to be a stakeholder, such labeling must first be replaced by language and then by the actions of an aggressive vision with a plan that is as accommodating while at the same time meets the test of relevancy.

Managing requires attention to new knowledge and processes. The ability to think and act strategic across broad subject matters as data is interpreted and decision-making analyzed.  Managing in a distressed context means a genuine love for people and an understanding of the unique yet complex circumstances that bring them to this place in time. It demands stakeholder relationships with all communities and its outliers; must understand the reality and context of governing while purporting blind optimism. Managing means you balance passion with sensibility while retooling and remaining resilient.  It means the ability to articulate a vision that solves problems and garners support. It’s about gathering the facts and employing common sense.  Managing is never dismissing wisdom; never devaluating people no matter their circumstance. Managing is to promote through productive dialogue an intent to repurpose poverty.