Building Community, the Lego Way

As a parent, I have experienced one of the greatest moments of pain.  Many other parents have experienced the same pain and have tried, unsuccessfully, several solutions to ameliorate its source.  The pain I'm speaking of is the dreaded "Middle of the night stepping on a Lego" attack.  Despite trying to explain our frustration to our children through lecturing, yelling, PowerPoint presentations, and Venn diagrams this problem persists.  Legos are nearly as prevalent in a house with children as is laundry…it all seems to magically regenerate.  Yet, there was a time when this dreaded parental nemesis nearly disappeared.

In the late 90's Lego posted its first loss as a publicly traded company.  After some intense introspection, the company realized that it had moved away from its core principles.  It put most of its efforts into the "Lego set" basket.  That's to say, they were focusing on selling sets that, once fully constructed, had no other use for the builder.  Lego strayed from its most attractive attribute - that you could make virtually anything that came to your imagination.  It wasn't until a few people at MIT built a power pack for Legos that would turn creations into moving robots.  This created a new and ever-expanding set of option for Legos.  

There are lessons for our community in the near collapse of Lego.  We are not, and should not become a community that is not willing, or able to look for new and inventive ways to grow and become stronger.  Like a box of random Lego parts, the limits of our community should only be governed by the imagination of our community members.  We - Jewish Nevada - always need new ideas, new concepts, that are inclusive of the entire community as to not unintentionally cut off idea-streams.  Additionally, our Jewish community is a constantly changing entity.  One does not need to be a Sociologist to understand that our geographical distribution, demographics, and needs are not the same as they were fifty years ago or even five years ago.  That is why we are on a near-constant search for the next best way to accomplish our goals of growing and strengthening our community.

To this end, Jewish Nevada will be launching a Community Innovation Grant (CIG) program.  In essence, we are looking for the 3 - 5 of the best ideas in the community that fulfill at least one of the core criteria of the work of Jewish Nevada (I.e. Promote Jewish values, Connect Jewish people, Education, Enhance Jewish life in Nevada, etc.).  We are not looking for new programs or ideas from organizations, but from individual members of the community.  We have terrific professionals and lay leadership in our community, but we/they do not have all of the best ideas, nor do they have the perspective of someone not completely immersed in the daily process of providing for our community.  Sometimes "Fresh eyes" can identify an area that many of us have missed.

There will be more coming on the rollout of the CIG program, and it is my hope that members of the community, with great ideas, will come forward to have an impact on the future of Jewish Nevada. Just as Lego recognized the perils of constructing a static set, we must also recognize that we cannot afford to be static in approach or service delivery to the community.  Keep an eye out for the roll-out of the CIG program after the summer and start thinking about how we - together - can continue to innovate as a community.


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