Sixteen years ago, I was on an academic career path that revolved around finding ways to better engage people in the decisions that shape their communities and that impact their environment, health, and quality of life. I had researched ways to better elicit people’s commitment, energy, and good-thinking, based on what we called the Reasonable Person Model. The premise for this model is pretty simple – people will rise to important challenges and behave quite reasonably, given circumstances where they:
a) Understand what is going on;
b) Are valued, asked for input, and have meaningful choices; and
c) Feel like what they are doing truly makes a difference.
Imagine my surprise, when I came to Earth Force to find a real-world test of those strategies. Earth Force’s six-step Process manifests everything I would have predicted should work:
- It helps groups look at and understand their community.
- It provides a structure for people to work together with opportunities for them to evaluate and make choices together.
- It helps them break big issues into meaningful chunks and supports them in actually doing something about those issues.
And it does it with young people.
How could I not find myself captivated by the opportunity to be part of an organization that, at its core, believes that we can find ways to solve problems together, and that looks to our young people to model the way?
Certainly, over the last 20 years, Earth Force has had to change to meet the challenges of the times, but it has held true to this core. Today, I remain captivated, challenged, and amazed at the enduring relevance of this organization.
And that path I was on? It now follows the trail laid by the experience and feedback of hundreds of thousands of young people who have infused their passion, creativity, and energy into working together. They (and their educators) have told us that “doing Earth Force” made a difference in how they view themselves, each other, and their communities and environment. It is paved with the history of the thousands of projects that youth have imagined and implemented. And, I get to walk it with those young people and the hundreds of partners who believe in the potential and promise of our young people. Please join us!
Earth Force celebrates 20 years on the Cherry Blossom Riverboat on September 22, 2014. Please join us or contribute to the next 20 years of engaging youth and changing communities.