My forays out into the nonprofit and business world really taught me a lot very quickly. My program is in Manchester, NH. Basically, Manchester is an urban, immigrant resettlement city in a rural state. NH doesn't have the biggest population and I generally have to tell people in other parts of the country that I live an hour north of Boston for them to understand where I am.
I had been a resident of Manchester my whole life, barring my 4 years at college, and I had gone through the very school system which I am attempting to help. Those experiences gave me a certain credibility (Manchester, it seems to me, is a town where if you run for office and haven't lived in the city your entire life nobody will even notice you), however, I had only seen a small portion of the city. I had no idea that NH has over 7,000 nonprofit agencies, that the political sphere in Manchester was so far reaching and entangling, or that I would be seeing several people from the same organizations so much.
I took notes at every meeting and attempted to draw the links between all the city orgs, nonprofits, and businesses that somehow intersected with my afterschool program. I've met with members of the school district (Federal Projects Manager, Grant Writer, Principals, Fine Arts Director) and directors and employees of programs (Bedford Youth Performing Company, Office of Youth Services, Acting Loft, Makin' It Happen Coalition, Media Power Youth, Child Health Services, Manchester Health Department, Boys and Girls Club, Currier Art Center, the Fisher Cats, Manchester Housing and Redevelopment Authority, Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce). The oddest part, I thought, was that all these groups were already involved with my program in some way. I believe I've been very lucky at my site seeing how well the program director and I get along and the amount of community orgs that are somehow involved in the program. However, nobody outside those people directly involved with the program really know anything about it.
All and all, I've come to the conclusion that no organization in a community can
1) be a quality program and
2) be sustainable
without making a large splash in that community. It was then that I realized what sustainability really is - sustainability happens when a community realizes it can't live without something.