Bill Graustein tells his story about a successful community program that he created and his ideas for generating community involvement.
JR- Welcome to another community voices podcast, I am here with Bill Graustein.
JR- Can you talk a little bit about your work in the community and what you do
Bill Graustein- My main work in the community is the community leadership program which I started about 9 years ago now in response to what I heard as a pretty clear pattern in conversations I had with people who were trying to make a difference in the community. What I heard them saying at the time was that they felt isolated and really wanted to find a way to be a part of something larger than themselves to work for the common good, they said that they wanted to see their values and the things that were closest to them more visibly expressed in their work and wanted to find ways to do that better and what I also heard very clearly by not only people’s words but the actions and risks they took, that they wanted to find a way to have conversations particularly across boundaries of experience, race, and class that were more hopeful, courageous, productive than the ones they were accustom to having so we started the community leadership program to try and provide some experiential learning around those three requests growing about 20 people each year
JR- I also understand you do a lot of work in early childhood development and across a number of different areas
Bill Graustein- Right, I have a different role in that case. I am a trustee of the family foundation which about 17 years ago had a sudden influx of cash which means we had to completely rethink what we did. My father was the first generation born in this country, the immigrant parents, and he found for him and his siblings, 2ndary particularly higher education was transformative in their sense of being able to imagine a different future and so as to bring a different being. In giving shape to the foundation that he had set up in memory of his brother while they had both died we were asking the question of, what aspects of education now have the similar potential to be transformative that aren’t being paid attention to and early care and education became clearly the area we should focus on after we did a bunch of inquiry. So what I call the memorial fund but more formative the William Casper Graustein memorial fund works statewide to try and support communities to develop the capacity to reflect, organize, plan, and act on behalf of young children and works at the state level also to try to raise the level of the policy discussion both the legislative and executive levels and try to make more productive conversation between communities people at the community level and state level. With the memorial fund I played just a governance level role, I'm not involved in the daily operations but what I find is that a similar set of values in form of personal work in the community and the memorial funds activities and the way I find that the contact I get to have with individuals in the community through this community leadership program, I think I have benefitted more from it than any participant in the sense that it helps ground me in what community member’s experiences and perceptions of reality are and what’s meaningful to them and those are stories I want to carry with me into the board room. I do also have a third point in civic engagement is that I share the board with public allies which is a national organization whose signature program is an apprenticeship program for 18 to 30 year olds in nonprofit and community leadership. What really cemented my connection to public allies is seeing the values they had as its core. Commitment to continuous learning, integrity, collaboration, and a resource for asset based work in communities was what I was hearing good career professionals yearning for. so I have been fortunate that these three different endeavors all echo a resume living for one another
JR- My last question has two parts, what are your aspirations for the community moving forward really from your personal perspective and in that what is it that gives you hope for the future?
Bill Graustein- My aspiration for the community is that we, together, can imagine a future that is different from the present and act so as to bring a different being, and what I hope in that process is not just a practical one about policies and programs but I think it’s a spiritual one as well. It’s not until you really work together and come to know what forms each other’s view and what your experiences are but you really recognize the unexpected points of common humanity, I can never tell when someone else’s experience is going to speak deep like my own.