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The Power of the Buddy System

WV Litter Gitters

It seems like every superhero had a buddy that made their success possible. Batman had Robin, Superman had Lois Lane, and even the Lone Ranger wasn’t alone – he had Tonto. These buddies were critical for moral support, physical assistance, last minute rescues, and that valuable extra perspective.

My friend and community development expert extraordinaire Vaughn Grisham has visited and consulted in hundreds of small communities across America. One thing he noticed is that without exception, at the heart of every successful movement there was a pair – a team of two people who worked together to begin the effort and successfully carry it out. He writes about this in Extraordinary Results in Ordinary Communities: Transforming Towns and Growing People, published by the Kettering Foundation.

Sometimes these two were lifetime friends or a married couple. Sometimes they were just two people with a common interest who met and became friends through their effort. As buddies, they could do far more than each could do individually, and here’s why:

• A buddy is there to challenge you. When you can do more, when your thinking gets stuck, when someone else believes in you more than you believe in yourself, when you think all is lost and it is time to give up – a buddy can push you beyond your own view of your limitations.

• A buddy can take up the slack. When life invades (and it will) a buddy is there to keep you and/or your project on track. One of my community buddies took over for me when I got a new job and needed some time to transition. I took over for her when her first child was born. The project stayed on track.

• A buddy is there when the work gets big. There are times in a project, when an all-hands on deck approach is necessary. That’s when having a reliable partner is critical to its success or failure.

When you work with a buddy on a project you also get the bonus of having a lifetime friend or partner. “The locals often found it difficult to speak of one without the other, and these partners often joked about having a Siamese twin,” writes Vaughn.

Learn from successful communities everywhere and never take on a community project alone. Find your buddy for this journey. If you are organizing committees, you might want to think of assigning co-chairs for the task. Harness the power of the buddy system to make great change happen.

It only makes sense that we cannot work well in community if we separate ourselves. Find a buddy, be a buddy – and together you can make a difference.


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