With over 500 devotee families and many different community and outreach projects, New Raman Reti in Alachua, Florida is well-known as the largest ISKCON community in the Western World.
Now, a Community Development Initiative (CDI) organized by a team of residents in conjunction with the temple board is launching an ambitious attempt to unlock its full potential. Their methods will likely be of interest to other ISKCON centers around the world.
Second generation temple board members launched the initiative, and first and second generations have been working hard together for over a year to develop it. The aim is to give community members a voice and build a shared vision which will maximize the long-term potential of their temple and community.
The initiative is kicking off by inviting all New Raman Reti members to fill out an in-depth online survey to gain valuable input about how to move forward. The survey is collecting statistics about the makeup of the community such as ages, ethnicities, education, occupations, marital and family status, etc.
It also asks questions such as “How often do you attend the temple?”; “What would encourage you to attend more often?”; and “What temple programs are most inspiring for you?” Survey participants are asked whether they feel living in such a large community as New Raman Reti is rewarding or challenging, and whether they feel satisfied with their level of connection in the community.
Known challenges, such as “Do you feel the welcoming and integration of newcomers into the community is adequate?” are also explored. All questions are designed to better understand the needs and desires of the community.
The survey will close on September 1st, after which all data gathered from it will be presented in a conference open to all New Raman Reti devotees on November 5th. During two more conferences, scheduled a month apart from each other, devotees will get to break up into subgroups and discuss the community needs, objectives and priorities that emerged from the survey and brainstorm ways to work together on them.
All the conferences will be led by a professional and neutral facilitator, ISKCON Comunications Director Anuttama Das, who has led many other leadership conferences around the world and is sure to create a fun and inspiring experience.
After the conferences, the results will be shared with the New Raman Reti Temple Board to aid with future decision making and strategic planning.
“We want to give community members a voice, to let them feel like they’re involved in their temple, and to build a shared vision for the temple and the community,” says the Initiative’s operational leader Namamrita Das, a second generation devotee and temple board member.
To this end, a potential outcome of the conferences may be the creation of a community board that continues to give community members a consolidated voice and keeps communication flowing with the temple management. The initiative will also be a support system for the temple.
“After all, the temple is you, it’s me, it’s all of us,” says Nila Khurana, another second generation member of the CDI.
Another possible result of the initiative may be the creation of various committees to address different areas of need in New Raman Reti. “We want to engage devotees in their natural propensities,” says Namamrita. “So if some devotees feel really strongly about new member accommodations, for example, we can create a committee to handle that.”
Ultimately the initiative’s aim is to create clear communication within New Raman Reti.
“In this community, there are so many different projects -- Rathayatras, youth tours, book distribution,” says Nila. “But if we’re not connected and we don’t know what other people are doing – if we’re not helping each other – then we’re less likely to be able to sustain and be effective at our efforts than if we’re sharing information and working collectively.”
In addition, he says, there are so many support groups in New Raman Reti – for men, women, mothers, sports enthusiasts, readers, chanters and many more. “But many newcomers are not aware of them so they feel alienated or isolated, struggling to assimilate into the community.” Building more systems for communication, he feels, will help to fix many of these problems.
Other possible community benefits for the CDI could include more opportunities to develop friendships within the community; engage in devotional service that fits one’s natural propensities; develop leadership and managerial skills to help spread Krishna consciousness; and have a forum to provide and sell goods and services already available within the community.
Benefits to the temple may include improved communication and harmony between the temple and the community; proactive succession planning; an increased workforce, enthusiasm and participation in temple programs; programs that provide a source of pre-developed local talents; increased financial contributions, and attracting even more people to come live in Alachua.
“New Raman Reti is a flagship community,” Namamrita says. “And with good organization we can not only maximize our own potential, but also create a blueprint for other communities to follow. We’ll be more than happy to share our model so that others can adapt it to their own needs.”
In the meantime, he hopes that New Raman Reti members who want to see improvements in their community do their part and participate in the survey and conferences he and others have worked hard to create.
“You’ll be voting on what’s important to you, and helping shape the future of our community,” Nila adds.
For more information, please visit http://nrrcommunity.com/
The survey closes Sept 1st. Fill it out here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/9R9KF9J[ alachua ] [ new-raman-reti ] [ second-generation ]