Will You Learn With Us?

There is a buzz in the air as the students go back to school. The excitement of little ones living, learning, and laughing as they engage society. College students moving back to Nashville, registering for classes and believing that their investment will change their future. Learning is such a wonderful experience of both expectation and vulnerability. The Salvation Army too will be using the fall for a learning experience, a vulnerability exercise for learning.

We recognize there is a measure of accountability and responsibility for everyone, the grade school student, the college student, the adulting, and social institutions. Just like each school has a culture, processes, and experiences, so does each community. Our concentration is the culture, processes, and experiences of the least, the last, the lost of our neighbors. For it is within the community choice architecture that the poorest, the most vulnerable amongst us must make their choices. We fully recognize that we cannot know the reality of the decision making process of scarcity living when we are not experiencing the same scarcity or the same choice architecture. Simply, to know the greater truth of matters, we must listen to those living in different circumstances.

Therefore this fall we will be learning in partnership with Metro Nashville Central Police Precinct, with special appreciation to Commander Howey. I have shared previously that I believe a special “Quality of Life District” would be helpful to Nashville. Areas, where there is a high density of social displacement, should have increased resources invested so all of our neighbors can experience a TN quality of life of peace, safety, and happiness. So, we will be investing time and resources to listen to those who are outside of housing, outside of services, and outside of the social, economic, and environmental quality of life expectations of Nashville.

Starting in September, MNPD Central Precinct will help us ask those living outside; their name, and why they chose not to enter into Nashville’s system of sheltering. The Quality of Life District will start from Broadway to Union, 1st to 7th, over seven weeks. Part of the learning process will be to determine the best means of hearing the person living outside, our MNPD, our judicial system, and our systems of care.

The Salvation Army will then challenge Nashville’s data systems to determine how long each person has been socially displaced. The longer someone experiences homelessness, the more likely they are to die while being homeless. Thus, the individual’s reasoning will be considered, with system processes, and data reviews in order for us to listen, learn, and change.

Yes, as stated, this is a learning exercise. The lessons are for The Salvation Army and those who choose to join us in our 2019 Quality of Life Dialogues and the Nashville Nudge Network. What can we learn from listening, research reviews, and real-time data? What “Sludge” can we remove from processes that discourage shelter, housing, and other social determinants of well-being? What “Nudge” are we willing to create to encourage the dignity of communication and process so those who are new to our community quickly engage and those who gave up may try again?

Will you join us as we spend this semester learning? You are always welcome.

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Major Ethan Frizzell serves as the Area Commander of The Salvation Army. The Salvation Army has been serving in Middle TN since 1890. A graduate of Harvard Kennedy School, his focus is the syzygy of the community culture, the systems of service, and the lived experience of our neighbors. He uses creative abrasion to rub people just the wrong way so that an offense may cause interaction and then together we can create behaviorally designed solutions to nudge progress. Simply, negotiating the future for progress that he defines as Quality of Life in Jesus!

Misty Ratcliff