As the election comes to a conclusion we sit within a country divided. A little more than half are excited about the victory of Barack Obama, and a little less than half are disappointed their candidate of choice lost. However, in light of the fervor this election has sustained for more than a year I would like to draw our attention to what is truly important... YOU.
True empowerment doesn't come from government; it comes from within each one of us. Not to say the government does not have a role in our economy for it certainly does. However, the strongest role of our economic recovery comes from within the households across the country. It is up to each of us to determine how to use our skills, maximize our talents, and fully recognize and implement the resources in our communities to move forward economically. One of the most precious and underutilized resources is the family.
That's right... the family. Those people who together cry at funerals, rejoice at weddings, celebrate birthdays, stuff themselves at holidays, and reminisce at reunions. The family for many is a place to find solace from the tough economic challenges of society. After going through stressful times there is nothing better for me than to take a trip back to my hometown of Detroit to where all is familiar. However, if we only look at the family for shelter we are missing the mark. This familiarity has with it enormous economic potential. In a world where love, trust, dedication towards one another, and sensitivity can be void... these traits are more likely to be found within your own family. However, we must maximize its potential and take advantage of the "family empowerment program."
Step One -- The Family Callout
Contact your family and let them know you would like to select a date at least six months in advance to organize a Family Empowerment Meeting. Your family consists of all of your immediate family, extended family, and close friends that you consider family.
Step Two -- Select a Date
Select dates for the meeting that would allow many of your family to attend. Try to accommodate as many family members as possible, but understand that it will be next to impossible to accommodate all as travel can be hard to coordinate. Perhaps you can organize the meeting around a date where the family is already getting together such as a holiday or a reunion? What I have done in organizing other family meetings is try to get as many as possible to commit to a date, then utilize technology such as Skype or a free conference call service. By using technology those members who cannot participate in person can still take part in the conversation. Pull together a committee of no more than five that will assist in the selection of this date and planning an agenda so the topics of discussion will be limited... we all know what can happen when we have "too many cooks in the kitchen."
Step Three -- Select an Objective/Unbiased Moderator
For this meeting it is important to choose someone outside the family that you trust to moderate the discussion. This person's task is only to make sure the discussion goes smoothly. They should be outside the family so they can be objective and not have a biased view. I could never be the moderator for my family because to many I am still seen as "Little Ryan" and an opinion or instruction given from me will not be viewed the same as an unbiased third party even if that opinion/instruction is exactly the same. To reiterate, the moderator's job is NOT to show favoritism, but to make sure the conversation runs smoothly.
Step Four -- Give the Meeting a Professional Structure
The structure of the meeting should the same as a business meeting, not a casual family gathering. Here are a few tips:
• There should be someone taking minutes of the meeting.
• The moderator must give the rules of engagement at the beginning of the meeting...the primary rule being that nobody speaks unless they are recognized to speak by the moderator.
• Think about a board meeting you may have attended and devise rules for your family.
Email/mail these rules and a meeting agenda to all members of the family at least a week prior to the meeting to ensure that everyone is on the same page.
Your family should know that this meeting is about BUSINESS and not PLEASURE!
Step Five -- Ask the Right Questions
The questions that are asked and follow up responses are the most important part of the meeting. Here are some great questions that should be asked by the moderator for the family meeting and ones that I have asked in the past:
• Who needs a job?
o As hands rise have the secretary record the names of those looking for employment.
o Ask each person who raised his/her hand to state which type of job they desire.
o As each person gives the type of career they are pursuing have the moderator ask the rest of the family if they are able to provide assistance in finding a position in their desired field.
Eg: Cousin John is looking for a job in custodial services... is there anyone in the family who can assist Cousin John in finding this type of position?
Many people are able to find employment within their own families. A resume submitted to Monster.com is great but nothing works better than having someone on the inside pushing hard to get you that position.
• Who is in danger of foreclosing their home?
o If hands rise have each one get up and tell their reasons for going into foreclosure.
o If the reason is neglect then family assistance may not be the desired option. However, if the reason is for other legitimate reasons (illness, loss of employment, etc.) here are a few solutions the pooled resources of the family can provide:
- A collection of funds and A PLAN put together to ensure the mortgage is paid.
- If there are others in the family that rent in the area perhaps they can move into the home and pay rent to the homeowner.
Passing legacy from generation to generation is crucial and maintaining home ownership is one of the best ways to do it.
• Are there any youth under the age of 18 who plan on going to college?
o Using resources like a 529 plan can be a great means of building tax free/deferred college savings.
Scholarships are great but they can't always be relied upon. Through the pooled resources of the family we can start to create our own scholarships for our youth.
• Do we have any business owners in the family that need support or people who would like to start a business?
Many times we don't know the businesses that exist within our own families. These should be the first businesses that you support. You never know... there could be a family business waiting to be formed full of employment opportunities for everybody if the business is nourished well.
If you can think of any other questions that are pressing be sure to prepare all of them in full and distribute them out along with the rules and meeting agenda.
NOTE: Have each member prepare a list of resources in their community they are aware of that provide great services in job training, employment, career development, drug rehabilitation, services for the formerly incarcerated, or any other important services various members of you family could find useful. Have them bring this list to the meeting and give to the secretary. Compile this list of important resources on your own family site using a Facebook group, a LinkedIn.com group, or a personally designed free website for your family using Wix.com. Begin to compile this "family resource list" at a central location for all to use.
Step Six -- Select a Community Nonprofit to Adopt
This economic recession has taken a toll on the smaller nonprofits in our communities all across this nation. These smaller nonprofits are doing great work in educating our children, reforming those who are formerly incarcerated, feeding the homeless, providing aide to veterans, and much more. At the meeting the family should vote on a cause they would like to champion, choose a local nonprofit that works to fulfill that need, and as a family decide upon the type of family support you would like to give that nonprofit. This support can come in the following ways:
• Pooling of funds to make donation
• Volunteering time to support an initiative
• A mixture of both
Step Seven -- Follow Up
This meeting should occur at least once per year with regular updates of the positive stories that have come out of these meetings. If someone finds a job, send an email to the group, call others to provide that positive testimony, or send out postcards remind people of the value in continuing to look out for one another. I have seen employment found, homes saved, and family wealth saved from those I have hosted/moderated in my community. This program works! There is nothing that is greater to build a family bond than working together for the benefit of the community.
I know many reading this are thinking, "This sounds really great on paper but I will never be able to get my family to do all of this." I beg of you to check your negativity at the door. Sure, it might not be normal for your family to do this, but aren't you tired of having problems such as high unemployment as the norm within the limits of your family? Our families have hurt far too long and the best answer will not come from the government but from right under our noses. None of us is as strong as all of us, and if we work together there is nothing we can't do to move our families, communities, and country forward... one family at a time!