Community Building Works!

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Tompkins Weekly – November 16, 2010
By Jack Jensen
We work hard and smile often during Community Building Works! workdays. Because Sustainability itself is our vision: Economic, Social, and Environmental. Every hammer blow helps locally, internationally, and globally. We KNOW we’re making a different—what we do is tangible. Our board, staff, volunteers, and contributors number 500 strong, and growing. Because every drop of sweat or blister, from a staff member or from a volunteer, won another victory towards making this world a better place, for us and for the world’s children, and that makes us smile. And smiling sustains effort like nothing else.

One-Size Fits All Mission Statement: “Making the world a better place for us, and for the world’s children.” In organizational consulting, we’re trained to ask the same question—“SO WHAT?”—five times, until we drill down to what you’re really doing–What’s your basic mission? What do you DO? “Well, at CBW, we build green affordable housing, locally and internationally using volunteers, helping to empower them.” That’s the elevator speech. But keep asking “SO WHAT?” “So that people can gain skills, confidence, and a successful experience of teamwork, which translates into their bringing more not only to the jobsite but also to the rest of their lives.” “SO WHAT?” “So that both local and international families have a decent place to live, and so that people who want to help can find a place where their efforts makes a difference, here, abroad, and globally.” “SO WHAT?” “So that by working together, people not only solve a tangible problem, but work towards intangible goals–better understanding, communication, and appreciation for each other.” “SO WHAT?” “To make this world a better place for us and for the world’s children.” “SO WHAT?” Beats watching TV all day, and some of this stuff HAS TO STOP!”

There. We’ve drilled down into it. Ultimately—we’re all out to make this world a better place, because we can’t stand sitting around doing nothing when it’s this messed up. We do good by making our volunteers feel good about what they’re doing.

But it’s never the goal that’s important—it’s the journey. And achieving the goal is not sustainable if, along the way, you killed the patient. We build green housing—superinsulated, solar-powered homes using mainly locally-produced sustainable materials. Because building affordable housing while killing the planet makes no sense. We are environmentally-sustainable, and economically-self-sustaining. CBW accepts neither taxpayer dollars nor church-plate donations: the taxpayers and churches are completely overburdened by the flood of low-income people who need housing in this county, in this nation, and on this planet. The statistics clearly show we’re losing the battle—so we’re out to prove that there’s a new model which can help without competing with existing efforts. Winning a grant would mean somebody else wouldn’t get it—so we wouldn’t really be helping the problem. Our subsidy comes in the form of local human helping hands who want to do something about the problem, pitching in on a solution. So we work; we earn our own capital by acting as builders, and make enough on the sale of our affordable housing to be able to afford to build one in a country that REALLY needs affordable housing. Come join us and sustain the effort.

Jack Jensen is Executive Director of Community Building Works! Inc.

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