I begin my one year learning log reflecting on the many opportunities and challenges that I've been given by way of this fellowship through the Bush Foundation. Before starting on this journey, I consulted with others who have been through the fellowship and who had told of the potential life and career changing opportunity. I'm most appreciative of the space to consider my thoughts and feelings about what I'm doing strategically, as well as day to day.
What have I learned?
Being a Muslim leader traditionally meant one who led the prayers, gave spiritual advice and counsel. In the life of a congregation today, a spiritual leader must also be a good manager of resources, both financial and human. They must be an effective communicator, as messaging is key for mobilization and growth. Their leadership must be trusted consistently, yet nimble enough to deal with a diverse and dynamic congregation and its challenges. I've had the privilege of consulting with my faith colleagues around issues of leadership and management in their congregations. This has been a tremendous help to me. Muslim institutions have traditionally been grossly under resourced both financially and staffing. The opportunity to peek inside larger congregations gave me a glimpse of what is needed to increase our own bandwidth. One of my main focuses for my fellowship is to create new narratives of what it means to be a Muslim American. This endeavor can only be achieved with the proper infrastructure and supports. I've come to the realization that we must work to develop the support for the vision. This has shifted my focus; and has been made a priority for our short term work. Strategic partnerships are going to be critical to our success. We need to maximize our relationships to make this a reality.
I need to be purposeful and intentional about creating good habits to replace bad habits and tendencies. The CDR assessment really opened my eyes to this reality. Honestly, some things made me very uncomfortable. When assessing my interpersonal sensitivity and communication the assessment show me as an abrupt and hard-nosed communicator; not particularly interested in the moods or needs of others - and may keep others at a distance or seem to have an edge. This was sobering to me. I did not see myself this way in terms of communication and interpersonal sensitivity. I also thought that others must recognize these things in me; but I rarely receive this feedback. On the topic of prudence, the assessment showed that I tend not to plan ahead, impatient with details and may lack follow through, may appear scattered or disorganized. These are all challenges that I recognize in myself. Challenges that I need to improve greatly to be more effective. Some things are a matter of me taking on too much at one time and being somewhat reactionary. My coach helps me to process these results and keep them in perspective which I greatly appreciate. It’s challenging to acknowledge and accept unfavorable characteristics that you may have within yourself. This is very much necessary at this stage in my personal and professional development.
Studying different models of social entrepreneurship around the country, I have learned that issues of equity around housing, employment, etc. are more about "the will to do" versus "resources to do". Many social entrepreneurs are really activists through an economic lens, working to bring about change that is tangible and sustainable in the lives of common people. When these models have been successful it was often paired with nontraditional bedfellows who had aligned self-interests. These partnerships formed win-win situations for businesses operating with social consciousness; but they don't come without a fight. My interest in social entrepreneurship has required me to learn about structural racism and discrimination and unfair practices that are decades old. For example, the city of Minneapolis has not met its self-imposed minority participation goals on contracts for the nearly 40 years. These are die hard issues! Many successful efforts started under the radar without a lot of fanfare; until they gained momentum and started showing tangible results. I've chosen to go that route using my network to contact different institutions that would do business with a small company that could meet some of their needs and grow their capacity. As you can imagine this can be seen as risky by established businesses, institutions and municipalities. Much of the headway made thus far has been through personal contacts and relationships. This is a full-time job to make such connections and gain trust.
My work as a chaplain with the Minneapolis Police Department has been eye-opening to say the very least. As I've mentioned in previous reports, fielding meaningful relationships is the only way this will be successful long-term. This will require time and serious effort on behalf of both the department and the community leadership. This is a matter of will over resources! The great learning from me in this work was not to attempt to change the world but simply move the needle in the right direction. I am cautiously optimistic with the current leadership of the department and the city, that the environment is prime to make great strides in the community and police relations in the city of Minneapolis.