More With, Less For

So, today was my first full-day “back in the program.”  I’ll be spending my Wednesdays networking, building capstone committees and working with two people on their senior capstone projects.  Since we’re early in the year (only into week 2) we’ve got some time to work with.  I needed to get a training tool prepared for a meeting happening tomorrow in Anderson, so we decided to do this together as opposed to me alone at my desk, later.

Here’s what we did today in preparation for a interviewer training.  As you know, Starfire’s working on some new goodness.  One of the things Sarah and I have been working on is hiring interviewers in the 5 regions of Cincinnati.  The picture below shows what we’ve been up to.  Tomorrow, we are training our Anderson/Eastside people and will bless and release them to start interviewing and being curious about their neighbors, and tying those connections back to Starfire. (To be potential committee members for capstones, to possible teach a class, to host us somewhere, to be someone potential friend, anchor, ally.)

Here’s what we spend our time on this morning.  Per an interviewers request, she asked for some go-to questions to help frame the conversation when she meets with people.  Together, Michael, Melissa, Ashley, and Kasey worked on this very training tool that will be used tomorrow, and from here on out.  When struggling to come up with questions, Melissa said, “why don’t we use the sharing places and relationships?” as a framework for our questions.  That’s exactly what we did.  In having her present to share her insight, we’ve created a pretty useful document!  It’s posted below.

Some recommendations for being curious & interviewing neighbors

Asking about gifts… Many people aren’t used to thinking of themselves and their communities as “gifted.”  Here is a way to think about what kinds of gifts people and communities might have (adapted from John McKnight).

Head is knowledge. Do you know about history, language, who lives where, where to get something or how to get something done, are you a mentor to others?
Heart is passion. Do you love of children, prayer, a love of the neighborhood, love of sports, passionate about locally grown food, passionate about community activities being free or affordable?
Hands is your skills of any kind. Carpentry, handyman, plumber, guitarist, gardener, seamstress, writer, cook, website designer, engineer, mechanic, bartender?  What things can you can do?
Teachable is what allows the neighborhood/community to grow because of a willingness to share and teach. I can teach kids to play soccer.  I can teach you how to knit.  I can teach computers to others.  I can teach about healthy eating.  I can teach about photography.  I can teach about hosting a party.  I can teach about making crafts. I can teach about childcare.  I can teach about sewing.  I can teach about how to get around the neighborhood/city.

Where to start?

Just the facts…

  • Name, age (optional), street they live on, how long they’ve been in the neighborhood

  • Married?  Single?

  • Children?  Grandchildren?  Other family members?

Sharing Places…

  • What are your favorite places in your neighborhood?

  • Where do you frequent?

  • Where are you a regular?

  • Where do people know your name?

  • Where did you grow up?

  • Where did you go to school? Grade school?  High school?  College?  Vocational? Continuing education classes?

  • Are you active in a church?  Which one?  How long?

  • Where do people meet in the neighborhood?

  • Where are the “third spaces?”  (Coffee shops, parks, community centers, libraries, etc.)

Making Contributions…

  • What community organizations are there in the neighborhood?  (YMCA, Red Cross, childcare centers, senior center, fitness center, local businesses)

  • Are you active in any community associations?

    • Which ones?  What do you do as a member of that organization?  How do people get involved in that?

    • In what ways do you think people could give back to the community?

    • What needs do you see? (don’t let this linger to complaining though)

    • What project would you love to be a part of?  (if you could wave your magic wand…)

    • What is the thing you wish was most celebrated about your community?

    • What do you want people to know about your neighborhood?

Experiencing Respect…

  • What company they might work for?

  • What do you do (for a living)?

  • How did you get there?  Ie: used to be a teacher, now I’m a….

  • What do you think your best trait is?

  • Where do you feel valued or respected in the neighborhood?

Making Choices…

  • What are your hobbies?

  • Where do you spend your free time?

  • Why did you choose to live where you live?

  • What’s coming up for you that you’re excited about?

  • Where might people be able to make choices about changes the neighborhood?  (Community council?  Committees?)

Growing in Relationships…

  • Who keeps the “pulse” of the neighborhood?

  • Who knows what’s going on?

  • Who plans events?

  • Do you have children?

    • What are they into?

    • Does your family live close by?

    • Where did you meet your most recent friend?

    • What do your friends do?

    • How do you spend time with friends/family?

    • Who else in the neighborhood do you think I should talk to? ** (ask this question every time to find your next person to interview)

If you’re stuckhere are some other questions to keep in mind during your conversation.  Try noticing…

  • I see you’re wearing a XU hat. Did you go there?

  • Is that a walk-a-thon shirt?  Do you do charity walks often?

  • That’s an awesome outfit… are you into fashion? Where did you get that scarf?

  • I see you brought a book with you.  What’s that book about?

  • You seem to know a lot of people here…Do you come here often?

Be curious…about something they already said.

  • You said you went to Mexico last week, do you travel a lot?

  • You’re into biking?  How would someone get involved in that?

  • You mentioned that event coming up.  Did you help plan it?  How long has that been happening?

  •  You said you were late because of a running group.  Have you always been a runner?  How many people are in it?  Where does it meet?

  • You said you needed to leave by 7 because of a women’s group.  What’s the group about?

Helpful Tips

  • Share personal information about yourself at the beginning. If you share your interests, family, work, how long you lived in the neighborhood and why this neighborhood matters to you, people are more willing to do the same and it puts them at ease.

  • Give them a brief intro of why you’re interviewing them and what you’ll do with the information.  “I am an interviewer with Starfire.  Starfire is a community building organization that believe that all people have interests, skills, talents, and gifts that should be celebrated and recognized.  I also live in the neighborhood and I think that by knowing our neighbors, we can create a more vibrant and inclusive community where people can grow in relationships, make contributions, experience respect, share common places, and make choices about how they want their lives and community to look. ”

  • Be honest that you are interviewing them to be curious about gifts and your shared neighborhood.  You are not there to collect complaints about the neighborhood or what hasn’t been done over the years.  This is not a time to complain about dislikes and deficits.  You are not to help fix community problems.

  • Use the questions to guide the conversation but let it flow naturally.  You don’t need them to answer every question and you don’t want it to feel like an interrogation.  If the conversation is going wonderfully and is natural, that’s great!  Keep it going and notice what they mention something that sparks your interests, curiosity, or tells you something more about the person and the neighborhood.  For example, they might casually mention the parish festival is coming up for them. This is a great opportunity to find out more about that!

  • While you listen, begin to make linkages in your mind to other neighbors you have already met.  What might this person be willing to share with others?  What might they be willing to teach to others?  What might they be willing to act upon?  Who have you met that this person should meet?  Or what have you heard from others, that this person would also be interested in?

  • Ask if it’s okay to share their information.  (Interest, talents, skills, hobbies, community associations with others who have the same interests.  Explain that all introductions to others would come through you with their permission.)


So this was a morning work with people, as opposed to at my desk alone for people.  We’ve got to keep doing more with, and less for.  Without Melissa, we wouldn’t have thought to frame questions with the five valued experiences!  I can’t wait to use this tomorrow…

Candice Jones Peelman