Jul 29, 2021 28 min read

Building a Practice of Community Abundance - with De'Amon Harges

Image of De'Amon Harges and a quote from the transcript

Episode 15, 41 min listen

In this episode we talk with De'Amon Harges to learn about the Asset-Based Community Development. De'Amon Harges also shares lessons learned from his 20+ years of experience with community development and the work he is doing within his own community to build a practice of abundance.


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Learn more about the Asset-Based Development Institute, at DePaul University

Discover  The Learning Tree, De'Amon's nonprofit.

Learn more about the paintings on the doors from De'Amon's neighborhood and the art installation, Perception: What's Behind the Door.


De’Amon Harges – faculty member of the Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) Institute, Community Organizer, Creator of the Learning Tree, chairperson of the Grassroots Grantmakers Association Board, and featured in the new documentary “The Antidote: On Kindness in America” – is a frequent speaker on ABCD in secular and religious groups around the world, and is a layperson at Broadway UMC, Indianapolis, IN. De’Amon’s role is to listen and discover the gifts, passions and dreams of citizens in his community, and to find ways to utilize them in order to build community, economy, and mutual “delight.”
The bulk of De’Amon’s work is based on the principles and practices of the Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) that brings neighbors and institutions together to discover the power of being a good neighbor. De’Amon builds on what is already present and in place in the neighborhood, using those formally undiscovered assets to connect and empower rather than working only from the community’s needs and deficits. DeAmon now describes his role on this planet as a social banker. He utilizes the intangible currencies that are cultivated and used by human assets and relationships to build a more abundant community.



De’Amon Harges  0:00

We’ve created a web of belief like that we are abundant. And then our success as a community isn’t always depicted on what’s right in the center of power. It’s about the power that we have, you know, when we discovered it that becomes currency.

Ame Sanders 0:28

This is the State of Inclusion Podcast, where we explore topics at the intersection of equity, inclusion, and community. In each episode, we meet people who are changing their communities for the better, and we discover actions that each of us can take to improve our own communities. I’m Ame Sanders. Welcome.

So today we’re happy to welcome De’Amon Harges. De’Amon is on the faculty of the Asset-Based Community Development Institute at DePaul University. De’Amon is also an artist, a neighborhood organizer, a TEDx speaker, and has founded and helped found several nonprofits. Welcome, De’Amon.

De’Amon Harges  1:12

Thank you

-Asset-Based Community Development

Ame Sanders

We have so many things we could talk about. But I’d like to start with talking about what led me to you, which is the Asset-Based Community Development Institute and their work. However, I don’t think we’ll stop there, but let’s just start there. So, my first question is, can you tell us what is the Asset-Based Community Development Institute and what is their work? And what’s unique and special about this – let’s call it the ABCD approach.

De’Amon Harges  1:41

So, I’m going to start with founders, Jody Kretzmann and John McKnight, both are dear friends. And I spent a lot of time with John. First, I just wanted just to be clear to the world that when he says that this was developed, it was his eyesight that was developed. He never said he created ABCD. What he said is that he went and witnessed where people have used their gifts for the common good. So, their gifts, their talents, and their time. And he usually found those in very interesting places that we probably don’t even think of, and some of those were in low-income communities, communities that have been pushed aside, and made invisible. So clarity is really where you start with the glass half full, rather than half empty, looking at each individual person as a contributor to this planet.

Ame Sanders  2:28

It’s very easy when you’re thinking about making community improvements, to focus on the areas of need, or problem areas. Your founders, they really said, don’t think of it that way. Think of it more about capabilities and resources and connections. Can you say a little bit about how that works, and how you approach that in the work you do?

De’Amon Harges  3:04

I’m going to do it in a story. And I think it’s kind of related to my own personal life. I get a lot of calls, or accolades, and I always find it surreal. My mom, and I’ve been really talking about how our family history got to where we are. And part of it was living in South Bend. We lived in…I mean, we really suffered, you know, racism, in South Bend, Indiana. And when my grandparents got to South Bend, it was something about the way they migrated here, let them know that their only need for each other is the need to be needed. But they lived in a hostile place where the community hospital would dump its biohazard, the city dump was on the other side. And they lived in a swamp. And it was the only place that people could live. And one of the things that I grew up with was this idea. And this is before I knew what the concept of ABCD was. And my grandfather and them always shared these stories about how they utilized each other. And like they were very poor. But when they utilized and supported one another, they found a lot of joy. Like in the midst of very hard times. And nowadays, we call that being resilient. But they were resourceful. Right? They knew that even though people didn’t treat them as sacred, like our system, the city of South Bend, they treated each other as sacred. Right. And they did that by welcoming strangers. I heard a story about Sam Cooke coming into this housing project. And my granddad was a quartet singer. I grew up with like many stories, but going to school, you’re kind of stripped away from that stuff. Right? It is about what you don’t have. So that’s really the beginning of making the connection to that. The other thing is, I think, when we talk about connecting, I have a really good friend named Mike. And I met him in South Bend, at a time where I was just trying to figure things out. I don’t have a high school diploma, and I still don’t, I’m dyslexic, so I have to have somebody read all my emails. So, I have a lot of things I can’t do. Right. When I met Mike, it took a couple of things that made me realize that in hindsight, this work of ABCD takes a lot of work, because you have to have intent to believe this, right? So he saw me He’s like…hey, man, you got a really good gift in this and we started creating stuff. That is the point where I think I learned about the idea of when you see something you make connections to it. And so, Mike made connections to the larger world, my gift. And so, I think that, to me that connecting pieces is a super Important thing, that’s where I spend a lot of my own time, in the connecting. The other piece of this, what makes the ABCD stuff works is celebration. So now that you’ve discovered something that was right in front of your face that you didn’t see before. We’ve connected it so people can potentially fall in love with each other. But then to really make it real, you have to figure out ways to celebrate it, or incentivize or invest in what was discovered.

Ame Sanders  6:18

So, you’ve talked about three key things, let me just restate them to make sure everybody has them and that I have them. One is looking at every individual and every person and their unique capabilities and the unique gifts that they have to bring to the world and recognizing that. Making connections, and helping people make connections for their gifts to the bigger world. And then, also celebrating, investing and incentivizing the opportunity for those gifts to flourish, and to have a positive impact in the world. So those are three key ideas. And so, I have spent a lot of time doing strategy. And I have to say that my background is more needs based than it is asset and capabilities based. And what I love about this approach is that it tells you to stop a minute, look around you, the gifts and the talents that you need to achieve what you want to achieve or what your community needs to achieve, are already probably all around you. They are not something you have to go necessarily and get from the outside, they are there within there your community, if you can recognize them, connect them and celebrate them. Those are some good insights to help us think about how to move forward with this.

-Everyone Has Their Gifts

De’Amon Harges  7:41

I was just thinking about capabilities. A lot of times we think of as very transactional. But I had a really good neighbor, friend, Patrick, and Patrick’s Mom, I know the whole family, they have a brother who would be labeled as disabled. I mean, there’s a whole bunch of things he can’t do. He’s non-verbal. He’s just turned 19. And a couple of things my daughter, like grew up with him. So, I would see them at the bus stop. And I started to realize my own blind spots about this. But one of the things I can always remember about, DJ is his name, DJ, would always have people gather around him. And like curiosity brought like curiosity. I mean, he’s pretty independent, we get to see him sitting in his yard, and we’ll just hanging out there like, you know, and when he goes to school, he’s treated differently. And that system there, it butts up against the… it’s, it’s almost kind of a dual…a duality. DJ brings curiosity and joy to a neighborhood.

Ame Sanders  8:43

So, everybody has their gifts. And I think your point of how easily school and other systems that we become part of can take this out of young people. So, your point is a good one, which is look at the people, the children in your community and the young folks and help them find their gifts and their capabilities. And tap into… help them tap into their power and their authentic gifts that they have to bring. And don’t let …you know everyone needs school, and we need a lot of the institutions and systems around us, and they work in a certain way, but that’s not the only way to work.

-Square vs Blob Structures

And this is probably a good place to talk about one of the concepts I heard you speak about before. Square versus Blob Structures. I think that’s such an interesting concept. So, tell us what that means and how you think about that.

De’Amon Harges  9:41

We have two beautiful children, but my oldest son is a molecular biologist. And, it kind of was listening to him one day talking about biology. But then it matched up one day. I saw John McKnight, john telling the story about Edgar Cahn talking about systems. And what they were explaining is that schematics build buildings and manufacturing processes, right. But who made those processes were humans, who are fallible, who are complex. To be able to shape things we’re trying to fit, you know, humans into the manufacturing of things instead of putting together systems that fit humans when it comes to community development. So, it was like he made an example. He’s like, you wouldn’t want me to design an airplane or fly one. I said, but if you wanted a party, this is what you would do. You want to bring people together. You probably have what, you know, what I had to offer. And it made sense. And it made me think about history itself. How our human structures were based on a product produced. Right? Instead of figuring out how the measurement of: Have we gotten better as a community? Do, we have more people not fighting each other? And so, the blob versus square thinking, to me, is that we need to figure out how to cultivate fabric, instead of this square. Because you need to mold, you need to be able to change, right, because humans change really quickly. And we’re pretty unpredictable. And so, we’re predictable in a lot of things, but pretty unpredictable. So, you need systems that do that. You need something in that system, to say that we need to use gifts. Our whole system is about the worst cities get the most money. You know, we don’t have a system, even if we counted all the high school graduates in black communities, right? We don’t have a system to celebrate that. And so how do we make those? How do we cultivate those things that move us in ways that probably develop humanity, right? I’m doing a project with a friend of mine who is with the governor’s office, Department of Workforce Development. What’s interesting about that it is about that system that was built in the 1920s. And we’re in a new place where people like me have figured out that there’s a new system in humans to move through the world. And that system is butting up against that. We’re having trouble figuring out, like, no, we won’t hire professionals, we’re going to hire people who have been through the work. And to do that, it makes sense to them, but they’d have to go back and tear down their whole thing. And so, it’s really hard. And I think it’s not just that blob versus squares, it is blobs andsquares.

Ame Sanders  12:33

You need both. So, you need to be able to fly airplanes and build buildings, and you need squares, and predictability and structure. But you also need community, you need this dynamic change and unpredictability that allows you to innovate and create and evolve. So yeah, so when I listened to it, I think of just what you said, which is, it is squares and blobs.

De’Amon Harges  13:01

And it really always has been, but we only can see square. If you think about all our measurements, when we think about is this community getting better, and lots of things in our city say it’s not, but we’re only seeing it through that lens. I think the things that we need to pay attention to is what makes those blobs.

-Need vs Being Needed

And I think language is very important, right? So, the word need has to be slipped, flipped around. Instead of what it means over here, it has to be to make it mean different here. So, the word need is about being needed. So it flips the power.

Ame Sanders  13:41

Instead of a gap or a lack.

De’Amon Harges  13:42

Yeah, power has to be shaped differently in this structure. Right? Like when we say the word leadership. When we think of that word in our minds it is just one. In this film, leadership needs to mean bunches of people. I have so many things I can’t do. So, it’s great to need other people. Right. And so, like those celebrations, right? So instead of doing graduations, you do parties. I mean, those are examples to me of saying that’s what we have a new currency, right, have new, we can’t do paper currency we have to do intangible currencies. So that’s an example to me of blob structure.

Ame Sanders  14:23

It’s important, though, that we realize, for example, I already confessed that I probably lean more towards the square analytical sort of engineering kind of mindset. And I used to do process design work and that kind of stuff, too. So, we have to practice it’s like building a new muscle. We have to practice to see the world differently.

-Start In Your Community or Neighborhood

De’Amon Harges  14:44

It is building a muscle. And that’s, that’s very interesting, too, because there’s a couple of things that I think in order for those practices to start, we’re gonna have to just start in our community, we can’t start at a large level. But we have to start very small and come together and just grieve that and mourn the old system. Not leaving it alone, because it’s always gonna be there and we got to live in it, but then agree to say, this is what we’re going to collectively try to do. And I think that is the key to, really the practice. Because, then once that we start the practice is very important. Like with my neighbor WildStyle. And when I first met him, he’s part of our organization, the Learning Tree. He lives right across the street. He’s an introvert. And I remember I was just I’m always bubbly when I meet my neighbors, and I have this practice and I met him. I was like, hey, this community is filled with a whole bunch of things. And he’s he told me, he said, I thought he thought I was crazy. So, but then it was something about it, he slowly would go take these walks with me. He’s a mechanic by trade too, sound engineer. So, he’s a scientist, he’s opposite of like what I am. But we think about the same things come to find out. So, he would go, and he would bring his camera. As he would get curious, he would snap a picture. A couple of things that happened when that gift got unleashed. He never saw himself as an artist. He is Indianapolis’, most prominent artist. He is one of Indianapolis’ best storytellers. Right. The other thing that happened because of that, because his gift was unleashed, had opened up doors, not just for me, but for the rest of the neighbors. They’re getting ready to do, we’re getting ready to develop a city block. And so, what WildStyle started doing is practicing, and he start practicing this. And then other neighbors start practicing it because you got to practice, we’re not always right, just saying when we discover something, and it don’t always work out. But like I love this word, practice, right? We haven’t developed the muscle in this country to get along with each other.

Ame Sanders  17:03

Yeah, and we do have to practice. And your words made me think of a question that I wanted to ask you about. So, when I look at the work you do, and it kind of follows on to the comments you just made, but I want you to tell us a little bit more about it. You center in your work, the community, and specifically the neighborhood. So why is that the lens that you take? Because you could affect change? I mean, just talking with you, I can tell you, you could affect change at any level. Why is it the neighborhood that you think and place at the center of your work?

De’Amon Harges  17:38

Wow, well, one, the story I told about my grandparents is that if nothing else rooted in that it’s going to take you it’s going to help you survive. Two, even just my personal life is that I fall short on so many things. And letting go of that old way of saying you got to pull yourself up and go do this, and go do that. In reality, none of us live like that. And so, when that was released, I love meeting people. Right? So, it’s on a personal level. But then, because I had some successes on some other levels. I went doing consulting, after coming up with some things with some friends, and I would travel. And then I would come back home to my neighborhood where the median household income is like $25,000 right, and so it was poor people. And yet, I believe that these gifts were there. And I said, you know, I needed to figure out, what can I do to really think about making what I believe something that is visible. And so, I was like, Yeah, I need to figure out, could I build a company. And these walks in the neighborhood, that with my neighbors and meeting these folks, I would just think, I was so amazed. Like, I was believing their gifts, probably before they were believing them. Right? It was right there. And so, I was like, I actually need that gift. My good friend Amanda, she lives four blocks away. But she is one of the best bookkeepers. She keeps my schedule, right. She keeps other neighbors’ schedules. She does other neighbors’ books. WildStyle, Shawna, January, they all live really close to us. And I was like, we have an international company. For me, I wanted to see if it was true. If what we said in ABCD could actually mean it in concrete ways. And so, this same group of people, locally, have shifted, started to shift policy around housing. We’re doing something with workforce development at the state level. They’re a group of folks doing some real systemic work. And these are people who are just everyday folks.

Ame Sanders  19:49

Yeah, so there’s a lot to take away from what you just told us. So, I’m going to try to process it a minute, right? Because I want to make sure that I call out a few of the things that you said. So first, it was a matter of survival. So, it’s about looking around you, like your grandfather did, and seeing the people that are close to you that can help you make it through life every day, and who can support you in different kinds of ways, and that you can support. It’s about your, sort of, personal way of moving through the world. But the other things that I heard you say first is by finding these talents and helping to connect them or celebrate them, you have, collectively, been able to work not just at the local level, not just at home on your home turf, but to ripple out and affect the bigger world around you, your city, your state, and you mentioned your company is international, broader than that. So, by starting and focusing in the area that you know, and you were part of, you can make change there. But the change doesn’t have to stop there. It can start there, but can go much further.

De’Amon Harges 21:07

I think, looking at hindsight, I just share 20 years.

Ame Sanders 21:10

Yeah. That’s, that’s why we’re talking to you.

-Stories and Mental Models

De’Amon Harges  21:13

I just sharee 20 years. And it’s really interesting. There, I think some good practices to do over time is like, besides taking walks with my neighbors, as a practice I’ve developed with folks, because I really needed walks helped me a lot. But, having time for us to sit down and intentionally reflect about, these 20 years. So, I think that’s a practice that helps. How do we capture? How do we share that and preserve it? What I like about Asset-Based Community Development. What I really love about the way John handles this work is that he continuously shares the same stories. That’s a practice, right? The same stories, like my grandfather’s story was a story that was the same story. You talked about practice is also like mental practice. How do we also observe, build the language and the action to like, build those personal muscles, because I think those shape, systemic muscles.

Ame Sanders 22:13

You have two things that you talked about. One is about story. In my spare time I aspire to be an author. And so, I believe in stories. And I know that people relate to the world a lot through stories. And they remember stories differently than how they remember facts, or linear types of content. So first, stories are very important. Practice is important. But what you just described also is what I would call mental models. We find those stories that we can use to help illustrate mental models, or to help us create mental models. And so, what I hear you saying is that we also need to think about, if we want to make change, we need to begin to think about changing the stories that we tell and the stories that we listen to. And we need to practice them or repeat them so that they become new mental models for us. Yeah. So that was really very insightful for you to share that with us. Because it’s hard to think about changing your community and changing yourself. Because the way I think about it is there’s nobody I can change except myself. Right. So, the only way I can affect change in my community is if I change myself, or I change the way I relate to the community or react to the community around me. Does that make sense?

-Creating Identity

De’Amon Harges  23:40

Yeah, I’ve got a little story. So, I’m just telling you about my neighbor WildStyle. Nobody knows about me, my neighbors don’t know, unless they Google or something like that.

Ame Sanders

So don’t worry, they all Google.

De’Amon Harges

After a while they started to Google. So, WildStyle would realize he’d go to meetings and hear something here and none of the people in the city would know me. So anyway, he went there. He was like, hey, man, they were talking about artists. Didn’t you say you had a list of artists? And we start pulling lists. He dragged me to a meeting. We ended up capturing about $100,000. So, I tell you about the story piece and how what you just described played out. And so, we found some doors in the alley, about 25 of them. WildStyle said let’s pull some artists together. He and my friend Gary and a couple of artists and said, what do we do that lets people tell their stories using these doors. And he came up with this project called Perception. He came up with a little maquette of 54 doors, stories on the front and back of these doors. And so, we paid each person 150 bucks to tell their story. Artists, non-artists, families, moms and dads. All of a sudden we noticed these doors will be on their porches. And if you come to our neighborhood, and you talk about there’ll be consistent things. It’s interesting because that’s not what we intended. That was an I/O we didn’t intend. We didn’t intend for that, but we’re known as the community that tells the stories on doors, because the doors were all on everybody’s porch. 75 doors, spread throughout the community. So, people thought some movement was going on. It was, actually, but we didn’t plan that. But when you come here now, in about a four-block radius, people are going to say well, this is who we are. And they’re going to talk different ways than another four-block radius would talk about themselves. Because of that, that whole practice around story. We’ve had so many parties and meals that people are now saying this is their practice. So, it’s an interesting thing to watch.

Ame Sanders  25:48

So, in your group, your community, you guys have created, I would say the stories were always there. You, as you said earlier, you made the invisible, visible, and you celebrated it and shared it with the world. And then you did it with, with a happenstance, a powerful metaphor of doors. Doors bring you in, and they take you out. And so those are really powerful metaphors or platforms for those stories. You have 75 doors, around in four blocks, that must be incredible,

De’Amon Harges  26:23

Where they are now, they’re going to be placed all over the city.

Ame Sanders

Good for you.

De’Amon Harges

So, you know, well, good for my neighbors, because there’s the idea. I mean, there’s a whole bunch of memories behind it. But that, what you talked about, people finding new ways to describe themselves.

Ame Sanders 26:40

So, I have a couple of other questions for you. One thing that comes to mind in talking about this, we talked about people’s abilities, and we talked about connections, and we talked about celebration. And all of that sort of implies that there is some type of catalyst, or something that creates the dynamic movement that helps to make those things happen. So, it sounds like you personally are a connector, or a catalyst, a person in your neighborhood who stimulates change, stimulates these new models, recognizes these things. Talk about that for a minute, because one of the things that our listeners may be struggling with is how to begin and how to bring about the change that they want to see in themselves and in their community. And that’s not always obvious if you are not naturally a connector.

-Finding Your Role

De’Amon Harges  27:38

Yeah. I’m like, really, really good at it now, like I can just claim it. But also then, I just may have not been as good. I don’t think I was that good. I was natural, because I understood it. So, I think the first place to start is to find out where your gift is in this place. You can learn to be a connector, or it could just be easier to describe who are the connectors. And so, there’s other ways to look at that. But finding what is your role in the connection and what is your gift that plays out into this. And because people think, well you just do a training, then you go out and do it. You need the right people in the place that help complement that. So, it’s building your own way of doing it. The other thing that also I realized is that it’s just shifting as you really have to think about the word invitation. And so, where is the invitation to be to be part of something that is very well connected. I accepted the invitation of friendship with my friend, Mike. That was the invitation to our map, where I fit in this scope of the work. There are people that didn’t need to be connectors and I didn’t need to be to the doer. And so, it was complimentary, it was very mutual. And so, finding that place. The other thing is that going back to that practice, like Alright, once you discover what that is, and then what practices are you going to instill to achieve that particular thing, where you’re building community?

-Relationships as Currency

So, WildStyle is the storyteller. You know, and I have moved in, and we you always learn that you move into the world, as time goes on, in a different space. And I started out, and I am still, most of my days, I’m still going to meet neighbors and more so now through the pandemic. But I was sitting and thinking one day, it was like, how did all this happen? I’m like, like, what is going on? And like, it’s kind of surreal. And I’m thinking, you know, what happened is that what helped me catalyze stuff is other people. So other people like affirming it, and then I realized that, oh, I’m kind of a banker. You know, that’s been my, that has been my role lately. I’ve been less the person going to see neighbors, though I still do it. But there’s multiple people going to visit neighbors and bringing them together. I’m spending more of my time connecting that, those gifts to things that make things concrete. And I’m like, I’m a banker, bringing a foundation president or deputy mayor who we were just hanging out with yesterday. That’s the story I think, would be good. So, we’re buying this piece of property to think about community-controlled land, right. None of us have a lot of money. We got the city to back, back, a big portion of this loan, and then we got the lender who was a friend of mine, at the Community Foundation, our local community foundation in Indianapolis. We’ve been friends for 10 years. Now he’s not doing this particularly, but he’s got this group called the IMPACT Central. They’re going to loan us a million dollars per se. We don’t know how much yet, but just close to around that, at 1%. Now, I can’t even go to a bank right now and get a refinance. I say that to say we’re shooting the video to do a proposal. So, our proposal was on August 5. The deputy mayor came to shoot the video with a bunch of residents. He has nothing to win because he’s not an elected official. And I was telling WildStyle, like man, what way would we get a low-income mother, a grandmother in a low income neighborhood, and a professor sitting there collaborating to do some really powerful work around housing. That win isn’t just ours. That is Jeff Bennett’s win. Deputy Mayor Bennett’s win, because he did something that a lot of people wouldn’t do, is trust us. Right? So that’s a currency. What created that currency? WildStyle used to take walks with Jeff for no reason at all, just to learn. This is about four years ago. The currency of people knowing me and me being able to give that social capital that’s a currency. Right? Can you imagine low-income mom with people will see a city Rep. Somebody in government? That normally doesn’t happen because trust is usually broken. The other thing is political capital, right? Social capital bought us political capital. That our neighborhood is very well known. Sometimes rabble rousers, but most times love makers.

-Creating a Web of Belief

De’Amon Harges  32:19

Because people know us for our parties, and they and they know it strategy now. Right. And so like we get that whole thing builds us to give us concrete capital. So now we can go where we can’t go to a bank, but we can go to a system and say, we’re actually proof-positive that we’ve created, we’ve, we’ve created a web of belief like that we are abundant. And then our success, our success as a community isn’t always depicted on what’s right in the center of power. It’s about the power that we have, you know, when we discover it, that becomes currency. WildStyle is sharing stories every day. When you come into our neighborhood from the north and going south, there’s a mural there. And the mural was created by a group of neighbors. We payed a really good artist, though. But we paid the artist. You know, we paid him $50,000. It has been the highest that an artist from Indianapolis has been paid on a large level. Those things have become real concrete. And I think what ABCD does for us is to give us a platform to name that power.

Ame Sanders 33:33

Wow. So, you have just told us a ton of stuff. So, I’m going to go back over some of the things that you just shared. And I’m going to pull out a few of the points that I think are particularly relevant to the discussion. But there’s a bunch of stuff in there, so I’m sure I’ll miss something. So first, we started out, you were telling us about accepting invitations. And I’m going to add to that, you didn’t say it, but you demonstrated it, extending invitations. So, you’ll find your way to connect with the community and make and what you want to make real through extending and accepting invitations. The other thing that you told us, or you describe to us, is that sometimes where you start isn’t where you end up. You know? You start with something, and you think, okay, I’m going to go speak to my neighbors, as you did. But, you end up being the banker. Because you have some gift or capability that as you move through the world, you listen to yourself and what you’re able to do, and you develop that, and you move in that direction. So over time, and maybe through some failures, you find the place where your gift can be most impactful. And, the other thing you talked about is about believing in people. And so, I love your story about WildChild [WildStyle] becoming a photographer, and not believing in it himself. But in you and others believing in his ability. He was able to find that authentic gift that he has that he didn’t even realize he had. So, we talked about accepting invitations and extending invitations. We talked about the evolution of our gifts and what we’re capable of doing and trying things on for size. And when they don’t work, or they’re not right for us, moving to something that is more right for us. It’s not to say they’re not right at all, but maybe they’re not the best thing for us. And so, moving to that. And then, the other thing you talked about is your authentic power as a form of currency. So, your ability, your gifts, can be manifest in the world to make something concrete. So, you talk about using social capital, translating that into political capital. You talk about intentionally creating connections and parties, or so you said, but creating connections and spaces of connection for people to establish that social capital. And you also talk about being willing to trust one another, even when it seems difficult. Because some of the things you described, I know, they’re not easy for the people who were thinking about loaning you all that money. It is not that easy for them. It’s not obvious, but they’re willing to trust. And you’re willing to trust them, that they’re going to honor that. And so, this element of trust, and sort of stepping out, when it isn’t certain, the outcome isn’t certain. And being willing to take that risk together is important. So, there’s just a ton of stuff you just taught us in that little discussion, a whole bunch of stuff that we can think about in how we move through the world and move through our communities and how we can make progress as you guys have done in your community. Thank you for sharing that, all of that.

This next question is one I like to ask people about. So, you’re doing all kinds of work in your community, and on a bigger scale. And you guys have been successful. Maybe not always, but you’ve had a lot of successes. We talked about ways that you’ve changed your community. How has this work changed you?

-How Has This Work Changed You [De'Amon]

De’Amon Harges  37:28

Oh, man, it’s changed me to think about learning and failure. One of the things I admire about my grandfather, I was telling my mother. I was like, he was like a professor. In my eyes, well, that makes me as a person that is willing to take the risk fo others, right to be willing to fail at that. But also look at as a way to, as he was also a person that love learning. And so, for me, it’s changed me. This idea on a personal level, it is sometimes always used to get in my head about not having a diploma, a high school diploma. And I’ve, I’ve wiped that away. And this idea, my love of learning is like, has like grown. I think it’s also me doing things that most often fail. I do fail a lot. When it’s almost like being in a lab, kind of, meaning that we all agree to try something we never tried before. We can talk about what we learn. So those two, that’s I think that’s those two things I think about, I’ve personally changed in my way of thinking over the last 20 years.

Ame Sanders  38:39

Yeah, those are pretty big changes. It sounds like the love of learning wasn’t a change, it was always there from when you were a child probably. But this comfort with discomfort and willingness to fail is… it is a learned and developed skill. And it comes from a place of maturity and development and confidence in yourself. And that takes time to build. And it sounds like this work has helped you tap into that, which then makes you able to do even more impactful and powerful work. So that’s, that’s awesome.

-A Bit of Advice

When I put together this list of questions, I thought of so many things I want to ask you about and then I just thought I’m just gonna ask you this straight up. So, if you’re talking to the audience, like you are of people who want to impact their community, and themselves, because I’m always going to put that in parallel impacting yourself and your community to be better and more inclusive and equitable. Are there three or four things that you would say, be sure to do this?

De’Amon Harges  39:45

Yep. Make sure you don’t ever do anything alone, be forgiving of yourself and others, pay attention to very small things, especially where joy is, and don’t be afraid to fail.


Ame Sanders  39:58

Wow. So don’t do things alone. be forgiving of yourself and others. Pay attention to small things, especially where joy is, and don’t be afraid to fail. Those are really good pieces of advice for our listeners, for ourselves, and I thank you for sharing those with us. And De’Amon, thank you for joining us today and talking with us about the work that you’ve done in your neighborhood and in your community, and sharing your wisdom that you’ve gained over these years with our listeners. Thanks so much.

De’Amon Harges

Thank You.

Ame Sanders 40:36

This has been the State of Inclusion Podcast. Join us again next time. And if you enjoyed this episode, the best compliment for our work is your willingness to share these ideas with others leave us a review. We’d love your comments.

Thanks so much for listening.


Guest: De'Amon Harges

Host: Ame Sanders

Social Media and Marketing Coordinator: Kayla Nelson

Podcast Coordinator: Emma Winiski

Sound: FAROUT Media

Ame Sanders
Founder of State of Inclusion. A seasoned leader & change-maker, she is focused on positive change within communities.
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