Cormac RussellJan 30, 2023
Building an Interconnected Community
A Conversation with Cormac Russell
New Books Network 2023
Kimon and Richard speak with Cormac Russell, Managing Director at Nurture Development. Cormac focuses on helping institutions, NGOs, governmental organizations, and companies interested in improving their communities. The biggest issue that Cormac encounters in these organizations is a problem with disconnection. In this interview, Cormac discusses his work to overcome disconnection and bring people together.
Before he began his work as a community organizer and developer, Cormac wanted to become a psychologist. He worked in childcare, helping kids with mental health issues. Many of the issues he saw that these kids faced became most prominent as they were transitioning from the hospital setting back into their local communities. Cormac realized that the old adage: “it takes a village” rang very true.
Cormac soon discovered the work and ideas of John L. McKnight, co-founder of the Asset-Based Community Development Institute at DePaul University. John has since become a mentor and a co-author with Cormac, focusing on the core issues facing local communities. Their approach is bottom-up and people-centered with an emphasis on localism.
Cormac was driven to help start Nurture Development, which focused on community development from the inside out. He has grown the company today to the point where it now has a footprint in 36 countries.
In his current work, Cormac argues that organizations operating in a particular area should pay attention to more than just its straightforward objective. For example, he discusses how police departments tasked with arresting people should also care about the root causes that lead to crime in the first place. If the goal of a police department is to produce less crime, it should redirect some of its resources toward community-building instead of just boosting enforcement.
Cormac emphasizes that many problems faced by organizations are not ones of leadership. Rather, there are not enough people who are focused on connecting or convening those in the broader community. With more people out there whose role it is to connect, the job of the leaders is made much easier. Connectors, like Cormac, offer a more local and granular perspective than a typical leader who is focused on a birds-eye-view of any issue.
Cormac makes a case for “thinking like a social movement” while “behaving like an entrepreneur.” He gives the example of a neighborhood in Birmingham, UK. Cormac worked with locals from the neighborhood to embark on a listening campaign to hear directly from the people. In the course of the listening campaign, they found 93 people in the neighborhood who were identified as connectors. These connectors were then brought together and given access to training and community-development materials to help them directly address the problems they saw themselves.
Cormac discusses other examples in the interview of how to bring together communities using a bottom-up and inside-out approach. He is not your standard entrepreneur focused on the bottom line. Rather, Cormac uses entrepreneurial tools to address social issues. The ultimate measure of success is in the long-term growth and development of the community.
- Cormac’s Books
- Jerome Miller, Last One Over the Wall
- Greenwood Coalition
- John McKnight
- Nebraska Community Foundation
- Bendigo Community Banks
- E. F. Schumacher
Cormac Russell is a social explorer, an author and a much sought-after speaker. He is the Founding Director of Nurture Development and a member of the Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) Institute, at DePaul University, Chicago.
Find links to past episodes here.
About our Hosts:
Kimon is the founder of both Argos Multilingual and PMR. He founded both companies in the mid-90s with zero capital, and both have gone on to become market leaders in their respective sectors. Kimon was born in New York and moved to Krakow, Poland in 1993. He is passionate about sharing his success with others and working entrepreneurs of all kinds to help them achieve their goals. Listen to his story here. Kimon's on Twitter here.
Richard has been a TEDx event organiser for years, supports the pro-entrepreneurship ecosystem, and leads entrepreneurship workshops at all levels. He was born in Oxford and moved to Poland in 1991, where he continues to invest in promising companies and helps other entrepreneurs realise their dreams. Listen to his story in an autobiographical TEDx talk here. Richard is on Twitter here.