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REAL Durham

Posted by Polly Flinch on Mar 21, 2014 12:10:00 PM
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Downtown Durham REAL DurhamGood corporate citizenship has always been a goal for Windsor Circle, but recently we started asking ourselves how deeply we could engage those in need of help residing in the city around us. Durham has been undergoing a sort of revival over the last few years and is now a center of tech innovation (one of 7 google tech hub partners across North America), foodies (voted The South’s Tastiest Town by Southern Living), athletics (go bulls), and the arts.

But has this revival extended to the city’s poor and hurting? How can for-profit organizations engage with poverty on an individual level to justly fulfill the idea that ‘a rising tide lifts all ships’ which President Kennedy espoused 50 years ago? Does commitment to service make the organization itself stronger?

We decided to tackle these questions by joining a new initiative starting now called REAL Durham. REAL is an acronym standing for Relationships Equipping Allies and Leaders, and is based on the National Circles Campaign. Centric to the initiative is a reality that people operate with an intangible asset called ‘social capital’. This is the people capital we rely on as our support system, should we experience tragedy or hardship and need someone to lean on, or the network we use to find new jobs, skill sets, and communities to plug into.

For those that grew up in middle and upper class families, typically this doesn’t even register as unique because we’ve always had social capital. But for those who live in and have only known poverty, social capital has immediate and measurable benefits that they’ve never had before. The Circles campaign has tracked the results of their program over 18 month periods and found huge upswings in the increase of income (27%) and assets (88%), as well as decreases in debt and reliance on public benefits.

Leaders (families in poverty seeking to escape) are paired with allies (2-4 people with mid to high socioeconomic status) and committed to each other during the 18 month extent of the program where they meet weekly as a larger group, and then work individually to address family specific needs and assistance. At the end, the goal are improvements in financial position and stability, as well as perhaps more importantly, 2-4 people these families now have as social capital.

At Windsor Circle, we have a core team that will be acting as direct allies within the program for one family, but we have an extended team ready and willing to provide help where they can (it’s like super-charged capital). From what we’ve heard, it’s possible we could be the first for-profit organization to engage a specific family in need in this way.

Above all though, we do this not to just feel good, or list corporate citizenship on our about page. We do this because as the Aboriginal leader Lila Watson says, "If you've come here to help me, you're wasting your time.  But if your liberation is bound up with mine, let us work together."

We love Durham, and our success is tied to the success of those around us.

We’re excited to be sharing our journey with you!

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