Membership Matters: Franciscan Soup Kitchen

Membership Matters: Franciscan Soup Kitchen

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By Nick Smith (LinkedIn & Twitter), Digital & Social Media Specialist for the City of Gaithersburg, MD

What excites me about ELGL? Are you kidding me? What doesn’t?

I don’t remember exactly how I came to be a part of ELGL — way back when it was Emerging Local Government Leaders — but I had been a public servant for, at most, like 7 months. But I do remember something important — that never mattered. Even when I could walk into my own office and still feel like the new guy who was still learning the ropes, some gigantic national organization was there saying “Hey, yeah, we have some people who can help you.” And they have! Not because something was in it for them, or someone was paying/forcing them to, but because it was just what they did.

But that’s just what it is, there’s a real community in ELGL. Not like, some BS-lip-service-mission-statement-garbage-oh-we-strive-to community nonsense, but like, I talk to these people about my work as much or more than I talk to anyone besides my two direct supervisors. I have meaningful interactions on the daily with people across the country. Then, I have non-meaningful interactions with those same people — because that’s the kind of enjoyable people who comprise the community.

And it’s people up and down the chain of command, from all walks of life. Anyone from a then-part-time social media guy who’s just finding his footing to seasoned City Managers just set aside all pretense and communicate for the good of the community, because they realize that there’s a greater good, a greater community that their interactions are affecting, and hopefully lifting by doing so.

Something else that betrays, though, is the organizational structure of ELGL itself: because the content they generate is built very largely on the work of self-selection and volunteerism by subject matter experts, the quality is insurmountable. And it costs you, what, $30 a year? Ha! That’s bonkers! I’ve spent that much on two drinks before. (Author’s note: please don’t raise the price of membership based on this information)

Then, if that weren’t enough, it’s not to mention the conference. I still haven’t gotten over the fact that I went to a urban farm that sprang from a Franciscan soup kitchen in the middle of Detroit where an urban farmer stood in a greenhouse and talked knowledgeably about the lasting impact of discriminatory zoning practices. That kind of stuff doesn’t happen when you’re sitting in some windowless ballroom named after some guy you’ve never heard, of in a city you’ll never go back to, but it got selected because it had the most-available event space.

From first to last, every person in ELGL wants to help me. They want to help you. They want to help people like you, and people who aren’t like you by promoting the #13Percent disparity and the Diversity Dashboard, and by helping them, to help you understand those different perspectives.

The point is, I am excited by everything in ELGL because if you’re a public servant who gives a half a damn, ELGL is exciting.

And if you’re not, join. You will be, too. Trust me.


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