Equipping nonprofits to advance social change

Reflections on the Peñas for the Common Good

Written by Alicia Lueras Maldonado

As the year comes to an end, it's a good time to reflect on the past year and think about the work ahead of us. Our last Peña for the Common Good was the perfect opportunity to gather our thoughts and share ideas and reflections about the common good, and what this series of peñas has meant for all of us as well as how we move forward with our collective work. We opened the session with a poem from Atrisqueña poet Priscilla Candelaria y Baca. Her words were a beautiful tribute to place and heritage.

It was fitting that this last peña was held at the South Valley Health Commons. Michelle Melendez of First Choice graciously offered to host our peña and brought community partners to talk about their work. Folks from Health Leadership High School, Agri-Cultura Network and the New Mexico Department of Health joined Michelle. They presented their work through the lens of the "common good" and shared the models they've used to create services and programs that benefit the families in the South Valley.

The South Valley Health Commons model focuses on partnerships and collaborations among health care professionals and organizations providing a continuity of primary care services that maximizes efficiencies through co-location of services. Building Movement Project has explored the potential for community clinics to be sites of community outreach, and the presentation was a wonderful way to hear about the work that is happening on the ground.

Javier Benavidez of the SouthWest Organizing Project, also joined us and gave an election debrief. He shared his thoughts on what the outcome of the recent election means for nonprofit organizations and the issues that many of our partners work on such as minimum wage increase, immigration reform, and early childhood education, to name a few. Javier presented some of the challenges we may face in the upcoming legislature with a larger number of conservative representatives, but also presented opportunities for advancing the "common good" frame in relation to the work and the larger movement. “We can be more creative in our approach and push harder than we have before,” he said.

We followed with a discussion, moderated by Ona Porter of Prosperity Works on the Common Good Framework and how we could use this narrative in the upcoming legislative session, and in our daily work. We had the opportunity to hear from Rachel LaZar of El Centro de Igualdad y Derechos, Adrian Pedroza of Partnership for Community Action, and Bill Jordan of New Mexico Voices for Children who agree that the issues we are advancing are "common good" issues. Early childhood education, increasing the minimum wage, ensuring respect and dignity for our immigrant families are all part of the fabric of creating a better place for all of us.

When we step outside of our silos and take the time to listen to each other, the connections become clearer. This does not mean we all have to agree and do the same thing. It means that we hear each other and are thinking strategically about how we can work together to advance a common agenda for the common good.

It made me think back to our meeting with Kim Klein in March and the definition she presented: “The Common Good means ensuring that the social systems, institutions, and environments on which we all depend work in a manner that benefit all living beings and the earth itself.” Can we say yes to the following questions, “Are you happy? Are you physically safe and financially secure? Are you able to make real choices about the course of your life?” Our work is to ensure that everyone can answer in the affirmative to the questions.

Through our series of Peñas for the Common Good we gathered as a collective of community members committed to creating a better New Mexico, built relationships and shared best practices. The opportunity to engage more community members in these discussions and advance social justice for all New Mexicans is exciting. We look forward to that work in 2015.

Movement Building alliance building New Mexico Peñas for the Common Good