Today, we celebrate Shell for making an amazing one million dollar legacy investment in Deer Park through its partnership with BakerRipley.
This generous gift aims to make a systemic, generational impact on Deer Park neighbors and families. Through this partnership, BakerRipley will identify and empower community leaders, connect Deer Park residents to vital resources and partnerships, and ensure neighbors have access to tools and opportunities to thrive economically.
Shell isn’t new to Deer Park. In fact, Shell’s Deer Park facility has been an economic engine in the region for generations.
“Shell has been part of the Deer Park community for over 90-years,” says Jessica Blackmore, an Advisor at Shell Deer Park. “We have a long history of supporting community growth and development alongside our own facility’s development. The programming offered by BakerRipley will build on this to ensure our neighbors benefit from our activity, gain the skills they need to grow in their careers and life, and to then give back to the community through economic development and skills growth.”
Shell isn’t new to successful significant initiatives, either. So when they decided to make this huge impact, we were thrilled to partner with them. “Shell and BakerRipley have been partners in the Houston region for 20 years,” Jessica continues. “BakerRipley has a proven record of being able to deliver benefits to the community that build on existing programs and skills.”
APPRECIATIVE COMMUNITY BUILDING (ACB)
Why does BakerRipley have a proven record when it comes to meeting the needs of our neighbors?
Because we have a holistic approach.
The Appreciative Community Building (ACB) process is unique because BakerRipley doesn’t simply rely on what’s worked for us in the past. We enter into the neighborhood, listen to neighbors talk about their strengths, hopes, and challenges, and make a plan in collaboration with them.
The strength of the ACB process is that it allows the community members themselves to express their own perspectives, ideas, and goals in a unique way, even challenging our own. We arrive with open minds and hearts, willing to listen to those neighbors and learn what’s really going to affect the change Shell wants to see in those lives.
ACB STARTS WITH A CONVERSATION
The first step of every ACB process is a series of conversations with the neighbors of the targeted community.
Chris Burbridge, Assistant Manager of Appreciative Inquiry & Design, Center for Excellence, is a “boots on the ground” BakerRipley representative during the ACB process. Chris walks into the community armed with preliminary data, demographics, and facts. But his job is to go beyond that data and learn from community members at a personal level.
“The appreciative community-building process is an attempt to go into communities and shift away from deficit-based perspectives,” says Chris, “Let’s have a conversation from an appreciative lens and think about existing strengths and assets they might already have. But also, what visions do they want to create for that community?”
Then, as the conversation continues, BakerRipley explores the community’s challenges. These challenges are best understood within the context of the community’s previously-established strengths, hopes, and goals. “That’s really what appreciative community building is,” finishes Chris. “It’s going into communities, having these appreciative conversations, and working together with community members, other community organizations and institutions like Shell to enact those visions and work together to build them out in a way that’s equitable.”
ACB EMPOWERS THE COMMUNITY
The ACB process doesn’t stop involving the community members after the conversations. As BakerRipley pours its time and resources into the community, leaders are identified, recognized, empowered, and trained to create the impact they want for themselves.
For Deer Park, Shell aims to equip community members with the tools and opportunities to step forward into tomorrow’s tech-enabled workforce.
Melanie Fisk, the Senior Director of Economic Initiatives, explains: “We are talking to Houston employers about what they need, where the employment gaps are, and Houston’s recovery coming out of the pandemic.”
Melanie oversees the Economic Initiatives Division, which also runs the adult education programs (ESL, GED, and workforce training programs) and student support services. Her department is also responsible for BakerRipley Innovation and Learning Centers, maker spaces such as Fab Lab Houston, and the Verizon learning centers. This team also leads the entrepreneur connection program, making small business coaching and technical assistance available to adult learners and economic mobility mentoring.
These are just some of the resources, programs, and opportunities available as we engage with Deer Park residents.
We thank Shell for their incredible generosity. And we thank every BakerRipley donor, volunteer, and partner for standing with us. The goal today, as it always has been, is to move forward together with our neighbors.