Here’s a tricky thing that happens a lot in our work:
We’ll tell a story about a San Antonio family experiencing economic hardship. We’ll take care to clarify the context of their challenge, especially local histories of development that have created some neighborhoods where families tend to flourish and other neighborhoods where families hit roadblocks at every turn.
We’ll show that many families in our city—nearly half!—are one bad month away from serious harm, even as they are working and striving to get ahead. We’ll explain why the ZIP code where a child is born is one of the most powerful predictors of how their life turns out.
Sometimes, people will say: Wow, I get it! And then: How can I help? They’ll be ready to leap to action.
That’s the tricky part.
A lot of our work involves slowing people down, not jumping to solutions thinking right away. We do that for two reasons. First, we know that if people are given immediate solutions, they might check a box and move on. Make a one-time donation. Volunteer for a charity event or two.
That’s not what we’re after. We believe that continual curiosity and ongoing engagement are keys to taking on the challenge of economic segregation in San Antonio. We also believe—as studies show—that relationships are the real secret sauce to overcoming the social structures of poverty. If we’re going to tackle big problems, we have to get proximate.
We called this program “Know Your Neighbor” because we wanted the solution we’re driving at to be right in the name. But you can’t know your neighbor by jumping to action too quickly. You have to listen. Meet people. Get to know their stories. See context.
But even for people who do stay engaged, the problem remains: What can any one of us do about large-scale problems like local poverty and economic segregation? What can any one of us do about our housing affordability challenges? Troubled schools? The gap in wealth and health that runs along racial and residential lines?
The truth is that there are many ways to get involved. We’ll share more and more over time.
But for starters, here is a four-part plan for anyone looking to bridge San Antonio’s economic and cultural gaps.