Multicultural Barn Raisings

Jim Rettew
by Jim Rettew | Feb 29, 2012
| 5 Comments
Competition Winner

This entry has been selected as a winner in the
Challenge III: Working Together Across Cultures and Faiths competition.

Summary:

The idea of a “barn raising” is rooted in the fabric of what makes communities work. What if we expanded barn raisings to building new playgrounds, a new roof for a tornado victim, or a school extension, still completed in a short time window (a long weekend), with all skills and abilities participating, and placing people of different cultures to work alongside each other?

First, people would register their skills and trades through an online talent audit. One person might be good at carpentry while another in graphic design. A foreman is paid to oversee the project, and specialists are recruited to lead the more critical jobs.

Next, local organizations would submit project they want built – e.g. make a home handicap accessible for a war veteran, construct a chapel, and yes, even build a new barn. Think Extreme Home Makeover.

Finally, volunteer armies would not only have a mix of skills but also a mix of cultures and faiths. By working alongside people from other cultures, we get to know them in a more personal and informal manner that promotes respect and understanding.

Innovation:

It takes a proven model and expands it. Habitat discovered that working together builds bonds among the workers. By specifically matching people of different cultures to work together, we create an added benefit of cultural understanding.

It develops cultural understanding without awkwardness. It’s the difference between a blind date verses going out in a group. In the former example, it’s awkward, contrived, and forced. In the latter example, there is less pressure. Connections happen organically.

It connects donors to recipients. By physically working on a shared project, we connect the donors (the volunteers) to the actual recipients. You clearly see the cause and effect of your labor, and your engagement increases through direct contact with the recipients.

It shows the power of community. We answer prayers. We make the impossible possible.

About You

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About You

First Name

Jim

Last Name

Rettew

Country

United States, MN, Hennepin County

City

Wayzata

Innovation

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Title

Working together on a shared project builds ties across cultures and faiths

What is your best idea to build bonds and work together across cultures and faiths in your community?

The idea of a “barn raising” is rooted in the fabric of what makes communities work. What if we expanded barn raisings to building new playgrounds, a new roof for a tornado victim, or a school extension, still completed in a short time window (a long weekend), with all skills and abilities participating, and placing people of different cultures to work alongside each other?
First, people would register their skills and trades through an online talent audit. One person might be good at carpentry while another in graphic design. A foreman is paid to oversee the project, and specialists are recruited to lead the more critical jobs.
Next, local organizations would submit project they want built – e.g. make a home handicap accessible for a war veteran, construct a chapel, and yes, even build a new barn. Think Extreme Home Makeover.
Finally, volunteer armies would not only have a mix of skills but also a mix of cultures and faiths. By working alongside people from other cultures, we get to know them in a more personal and informal manner that promotes respect and understanding.
Innovation:
It takes a proven model and expands it. Habitat discovered that working together builds bonds among the workers. By specifically matching people of different cultures to work together, we create an added benefit of cultural understanding.
It develops cultural understanding without awkwardness. It’s the difference between a blind date verses going out in a group. In the former example, it’s awkward, contrived, and forced. In the latter example, there is less pressure. Connections happen organically.
It connects donors to recipients. By physically working on a shared project, we connect the donors (the volunteers) to the actual recipients. You clearly see the cause and effect of your labor, and your engagement increases through direct contact with the recipients.
It shows the power of community. We answer prayers. We make the impossible possible.

Impact and Sustainability

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How will your idea have a positive impact on your community?

It builds a needed project. It does so in a way that likely saved the recipient considerable time and money.

It affects a large number of people. Depending on the size and complexity of the project, each one would require between 50 to 200 volunteers. Five yearly projects would then results in over 1000 participants. However, more people are affected than just the volunteers. The project would benefit an entire community, and it would be a lasting symbol of how people of different backgrounds can come together for a common goal.

It builds bonds among multi-cultural volunteers. Projects do more than get people together and let them talk. It gives them something to talk about and leaves them with a sense of pride and accomplishment. It turns foreigners into friends.

It builds bonds to multi-cultural communities. When you work on something, you feel pride and ownership in it. You want to see it succeed, and you stay involved to make sure it does. Conversely, from the recipient’s standpoint, there is a deep sense of security knowing that strangers will come together to help you if you just put out the call. This give and take between giver and receiver forms lasting bonds.

It makes us feel good about ourselves. Often there is a disconnect between givers and recipients. If we make a donation, we don’t know exactly how it was used. If we volunteer, it may be one small task in an ongoing service. With barn raisings, you not only meet the recipient, you work alongside them; you not only participate, but you see the finished product. It generates good will and a sense of accomplishment within a short period of time.

It restores people’s civic faith. Barn raisings are more than putting up a building. They show that the strength of a community in more than its riches. Barn raisings are a social celebration in ourselves, of what we can achieve when we act together.

What do you think the lasting effect will be if your idea is implemented?

Sustainability is about continuing and growing the program after the initial funding period is over. Here’s how barn raisings are sustainable.

Advocates: Barn raisings create a strong alumni group who become advocates for the program and apostles of multicultural understanding.

Community Involvement: Each project has two communities, the community of volunteers and the community for the finished product, and both are involved and receive benefits. This creates a broad and diverse fan base.

Demand: The idea of barn raisings is actually happening spontaneously. Volunteers in Viking Minnesota honored the dying wish of a local cancer patient by building a cow barn for his wife. In Madison Wisconsin, folks built a new playground in a weekend for the local children. They were expecting 80 people. They got 350.

Finances: The proceeds from the Minnesota Idea Open would be used to set up an online talent audit and supplement the material and hiring costs of the first few projects. Afterwards, the cost of materials and for the foreman would be the responsibility of the recipient. My hope is that after a positive and engaging experience, volunteers would be willing to pay it forward, to make a donation that reduces the financial burden on the next recipient.

Growth and Replication: Once a successful prototype is built, the idea could be easily replicated in other communities. Our lessons and tools could be passed along to other locales. Additionally, as more contractors and builders come onboard, projects can grow in size and scope.

Niche: Barn raisings occupy a good niche in the non-profit community. While organizations like Habitat are doing something similar, no one else is building non-housing projects, or doing so in a way that strengthens multi-cultural bonds. As a result, the idea is innovative but proven.

Visibility: All projects have a very visible component to them that can be publicized and celebrated.

kenzomendoza2014 kenzomendoza2014 said: It can be so easy to raise funds in this area. - James Cullem about this Competition Entry. - 1716 days ago read more >
adam gott said: I like the idea of a “barn raising” since it is rooted in the fabric of what makes out communities work. Adam Gottbetter attorney about this Competition Entry. - 1733 days ago read more >
Multicultural Barn Raisings has been chosen as a winner in Challenge III: Working Together Across Cultures and Faiths. - 2392 days ago
Kim Schmidt said: You are quite an inspiration, Jim. Hope you win!! Kim (& Jim) =) Schmidt PS Tell your beautiful wife hello from us! about this Competition Entry. - 2401 days ago read more >
Claire Tregone said: Good luck Jim, Claire about this Competition Entry. - 2403 days ago read more >
Katina Petersen said: This is a great idea- best of luck to you! about this Competition Entry. - 2408 days ago read more >

Jim Rettew updated this Competition Entry. - 2448 days ago

Jim Rettew updated this Competition Entry. - 2451 days ago

Jim Rettew updated this Competition Entry. - 2484 days ago

Jim Rettew updated this Competition Entry. - 2485 days ago