Community development often does seem like a complete uphill (up cliff) battle.
Wondering how to help your community become the best it can be?
In 2006, the community I live in went through a community visioning process in partnership with the city of Halifax, Nova Scotia. It was a pilot program - and we were the first rural community to participate. That community, Musquodoboit Harbour, has grown leaps and bounds since then - and created a momentum of activity that now extends well beyond its immediate residents. This was a turning point in my life. I was Chair of that process, and started doing my Masters of Adult Education specializing in community development at St. Francis Xavier University just after.
The resulting vision was not only powerful for me - it led to the creation of a new cooperative transportation service in the community (that is now growing into a regional service), redevelopment of an old school into a community hub, creation of the area's first peer support group for mental health and many more initiatives. All these things would not have been possible without the creation of the original vision statement.
More work has been done since then, but the original vision still stands as a powerful testament to what can happen when a community pulls together. I have written many funding applications over the years, and every time I go back to the power of that vision statement. It was critical in enabling me to say 'this is what the community wants to see happen.'
Recently, I was honoured to help facilitate and participate in a regional gathering called Linking Arms. It was a lovely and powerful gathering in the heart of an old forest in New Germany, Nova Scotia. While there I wondered what is next... how could we build on experiences like that of Musquodoboit Harbour.
What came to mind - as I wandered many paths in the forest - was the idea that we need to create a stronger ecosystem for community change. Three main components were what came together in my head - (1) a community vision, (2) a place for community to gather to connect and work on that vision, and (3) the need for a better peer learning network among communities.
Looking out at the world at the same time - I stumbled across an organization called Locality in the UK. They are doing stunning work supporting local community organizations to go beyond just looking to be strong, resilient communities - but also to be powerful communities.
To me, this is about supporting communities - especially those that might be struggling - to find their voice and their confidence to get things done that they know need doing. This is work at a very local, local level - but then also looking to bring those communities together to act for much needed change regionally, nationally and globally.
This work is currently blowing my mind - and creating a firestorm of ideas. One is we need more of this in Canada. What exactly it should look like I'm still thinking about - but one thing is for sure. There is no going back. If you'd like to join me on this adventure, drop me a line. I'm always interested in doing cool things with cool people. ;)