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A Community Empathy Lab- Social Community Building

A place for people to solve community problems, and specific community members in need. Specific to rural communities.

Photo of Jesse Hunt
25 10

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Social impact starts with empowerment.  Our space placed in communities will help citizens gain a voice into solving problems.  We base all our decisions on EMPATHY. Imagine if there was a place you could go in your community to report or document a need that you physically witnessed. Image people coming to a place to solve those pressing community issues.  What if you could lend your talent to help make your community a better place.  

The Community Empathy Lab is that space where you could come to lend a hand.  Actively teaching the community how to gain and apply empathy to a specific community.   Solving challenges that deal with local problems.  These problems will also be gathered through community input on blackboards, or online. Then an individual member of a community can come and add a need that they are aware of.  This can be personal, or on behalf of someone else.  It is from these needs that we can create challenges for individuals to solve.  

The Lab will connect to our own participants, community, local non-profits and churches to solve these problems.  This will be done through volunteer days in collaboration with these organizations.  

In the rural town I live in people often work seasonally, It is our hope to create labor needs in the community aka jobs.  This element of our lab will help others gain personal dignity by providing day labor, contract work from local businesses as well as RFP (request for proposal) opportunities.  We hope to also help develop entrepreneurship and small businesses that address specific community needs.   

The final element of the lab is a tool lending library.  Many people struggle to get things accomplished in their lives because they can't afford the tools to do so.  We will model this tool library off of Missoula Urban Demonstration Project in Missoula, Montana.  It will start off small but grow over time.  

Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

We seek to bridge peace and prosperity through our Community Empathy Lab. We hope to help others learn to develop the habit of solving community needs by providing a physical space for people to come together to collect, then create projects to solve those problems. Some of these projects will be connected to businesses where labor opportunities can be provided to community members who are unemployed. How the Lab Works: 1. A person sees a problem- Witness A person hears of a problem- first hand A person is currently going through a struggle A person is unemployed and facing hardships A person is underemployed and facing hardship A person is looking to give more to community 2. These people come to Lab and report the need to a coach, the end result is to create a challenge for others to solve, or to draft an action plan. Figure out if needs funding. If it is a simple project a project plan will be created. If there is a larger need community partner will be established. 3. People can come to the lab to work on or join a project. This is where people volunteer time to solve community problems. They are peace ambassadors. People may also come to the lab for day labor jobs where they can earn wages by working on small business projects. Finally, people will come to the lab for training on social entrepreneurship, and other project-based skills. 4. MAKE IDEAS HAPPEN Finally, people will act on the needs they came to solve. We will regularly be out in the community solving a variety of problems, helping individuals and families in need. This will all be through volunteers and partnerships.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

Our beneficiaries would be high school youth to adult. We hope to establish a presence in local high schools to teach about the lab. Through labor department partnerships we can help job seekers find temporary day labor as well. So by this, we benefit families in the community. Through our program, someone may become a recipient of service. This means that as a whole we are seeking to benefit the individual members of our community. It is our hopes to start in one rural community to build out the idea further then move it into other communities.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

This idea is unique in that we are seeking to help empower individuals in the community. Empowering them to notice needs then to solve for them using the design thinking process. There are many organization seeking to do this for business we are seeking to do it for a community. The idea came when I heard of a community prayer room. Where people would post needs of others to pray for. I loved the idea, but I thought wouldn't it be great if we could come together to labor for another. Lately being involved with a library makerspace I have found a love for the design thinking process and feel that communities that have people who think this way could create impact. So We are going to be different in the way we equip members of the community to utilize the design thinking process.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Initial Design: I am exploring the idea, gathering the inspiration and information I need to test it with real users.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

This is a Service organization idea that I am working on.

Expertise in sector

  • 1-2 years

Organization Filing Status

  • No, but we plan to register in the future.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

I heard a story about 5-6 years ago of a church opening up a community prayer room. It was central to the community and people would come write-down names of people who were seeking prayers. People would come write down names, and contribute prayer on behalf of others. My idea plays off of this concept. It is similar in that people recognize a community need they come and write it down on the whiteboard, and then receive coaching on how to solve the problem.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

Peace is often the result of how we give and serve others. We believe in seeing people and responding to their needs. Prosperity is something that is important to all people, we view prosperity as being able to thrive in one's community or place. The local context related to prosperity is the fact that we are a rural town in Idaho. We are 2 hours away from any major city and a majority of the income that comes into Salmon Idaho is tourism. So seasonal jobs exist then disappear in the winter. It is this area of prosperity that we are concerned about. How might we create jobs that sustain seasonal workers, or encourage them to stay in our community? Our Empathy Lab seeks to help establish individuals are community agents, volunteering on projects that bring people peace.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

We are seeking to establish partnerships with local churches, other nonprofits, and the labor department to help build a volunteer base that will utilize the space we provide. They will also be a group that can provide volunteer service in the community when needs arise.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

Salmon has very rugged, and self-reliant people. Our community knows how to step in and care for others. Our community has many natural builders and tinkers. We work hard for the community already. Many different faith organizations. Longtime ranching, farming families, with strong work ethic. Word of mouth is fast.

Geographic Focus

We target rural self-reliant communities currently in Salmon, Idaho.

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

We would establish this nonprofit in the community and operate there full time. A future hope would be to expand to a rural community in Mexico to test its impact.

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No


Join the conversation:

Photo of Jesse Hunt

Hello, everyone. Does anybody have ideas on how we can make this idea work through a website or app? What if there was a way to report problems in your community how would you want to do that? What groups of people could we tap into to solve those problems?
It has been my vision in the past to tap into a local artist to solve problems creatively. I believe in volunteerism yet is there a way to have people submit projects proposals to solve problems they see. That is my hope getting people the tools and funds to solve problems.

Photo of Jill LaLonde

Hi Jesse,
Our organization implements community-led development programs in Sierra Leone. The concept is quite similar to what you are proposing, and we have adapted some Human Centered Design tools to build engagement and leadership capacity. Through this challenge last year, I learned of and connected with Dev4X, which may be a good resource in terms of developing or tapping into a platform -
Good luck!

Photo of Jesse Hunt

Thanks for this information.

Photo of Christina Schwanke

Jesse! I looked over your project again. I saw this question and it made me think of our mentor from the early childhood development challenge. Her name was Shelley Agrabrite and she co-created It might be something you could implement but adjust to fit your needs. If you would like I would be happy to make an introduction by email!


Photo of Jesse Hunt

I would like that very much Christina thanks:)

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