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    Community: Cost of Entry

    By Derek Barnes–

    What have you done for the community lately? If you’ve asked yourself this question recently, I invite you to read on to gain a broader perspective of why community and civic participation is so vital today. If you already have an answer to this question, congratulations; you’re probably on your way to discovering new areas of community involvement that will inspire, uplift, and activate you more.

    Many people want to belong to a community or communities, but very few know what’s really required to fully participate and engage in one. A community is only as good as each member, who must consistently be aligned around a central goal for the greatest group impact. Everyone has some level of knowledge, resources, and talent to contribute. Collectively, we can choose to create value that can be shared equitably or extract value from many that only benefit the few. 

    In light of the societal needs and priorities revealed over the last 18 months, many have consistently asked a critical question: What problems can I help solve today? Your mind begins to do miraculous things as it ponders the question, only to land on a new question: What is the real problem and for whom?

    With self-inquiry, we can challenge ourselves to think about housing and community issues in new ways that embrace more innovative thinking to go beyond historical efforts that have little or no lasting impact. Ask these questions repeatedly, and you’ll discover more and more ways to positively impact other stakeholders in our housing ecosystem and even the broader community with radical empathy.

    Each of us holds the gift of generosity fueled by an innate need to engage in philanthropy—to love humankind (Greek translation). Advancing the lives of others is an incredible responsibility. If you are a housing services nonprofit or housing provider, offering safe, accessible, and affordable homes creates stability for millions of people across the Bay Area. The exponential impact is priceless with incalculable value. When people have stable living environments, they thrive and extend their unique gifts to others. It creates a never-ending cycle and ripple effect of people doing well and doing good.

    Through mutual investments of time and money, we can continue improving core infrastructure, modernizing policy and legislation, developing innovative programs to support underserved groups, reforming systems of exclusion and inequity, and bringing our diverse communities together. 

    Despite the new threats of COVID variants, violent storms, and raging fires, more and more people remain committed to extending their support to the broader community. My personal mantra for 2021 is “Community Forward.” This belief is at my core and will continue to push my personal interests into new areas that support the communities in which I interact. It brings me and my partner enormous gratitude to support Bay Area nonprofits doing good work like Bay Area Community Services, Echo Housing, Homebridge, Horizons Foundation, PRC, Shelter Inc., The LGBT Community Center, and others.

    What more can nonprofits and government do for us is greatly dependent on our individual contributions, engagement, and activism. The more active you are as a productive member of our society, the more we can create change as a collective force. Sharing your knowledge, experiences, resources, and time is crucial in preserving a healthy, vibrant, and sustaining community. 

    A significant challenge at hand is to continually find ways to engage more people to be the best citizens, advocates, and stewards in our community. Let’s continue exploring ways to help others in our human ecosystem thrive and tune into opportunities where different modes of philanthropic support can be an antidote to solve some of the most critical problems that we face in the communities we are here to serve.

    Derek Barnes is CEO of East Bay Rental Housing Association ( ). He currently serves on the boards of Horizons Foundation and Homebridge CA. Follow him on Twitter @DerekBarnesSF or on Instagram at DerekBarnes.SF

    Published on September 9, 2021