How do we create a more powerful ecosystem for change in communities?
Recently, I posted some ideas from Locality in the UK about this topic, and a lot resonated with some ideas I had coming out of retreat recently called Linking Arms. I have written before about these ideas, but recently was at another retreat when I got to reflect on them a little more deeply.
What would be the components?
The initial idea I had at Linking Arms was for three things.
(1) Imagine if all neighbourhoods or communities had a vision for change they wanted to see in their communities. This could be called many things - a common agenda, a shared agenda, a neighbourhood plan… whatever. At its heart, it is the result of a comprehensive, inclusive community engagement process to determine what kind of community people want to live and some ideas on how they might get there. In the village of Musquodoboit Harbour I live in, we created our own vision in 2006, and as I’ve mentioned before, whenever I went to find resources for ideas in that plan - I was often successful because I had that plan to refer to as 'this is what the community said they wanted.'
Is that enough? A vision? No, I don’t think so. I also think number (2) is a community gathering place. It could be a cafe that believes in supporting community change like I hear The Biscuit Eater in Mahone Bay is, and certainly Uprooted in my own community of Musquodoboit Harbour is. It could be redevelopment of an old school or other building into a community hub. It could be a food centre as it is in Dartmouth North in Nova Scotia. Whatever it is - the goal is to provide a space for people to gather, have conversations about things that matter to them in their communities - and look for ways to take action to create the change they want to see in their communities, and the world.
Is that enough?
The last item that I thought could really help create change in communities is (3) peer to peer, neighbourhood to neighbourhood, community to community learning.
What are the skills people need to know to organize effectively around things they care about in community? How do we be as inclusive as possible? What are the stories that could help us?
The idea here is to not reinvent the wheel. If someone - like the the small community of Petite Riviere - has already learned a lot from working to save their school, and another community is looking to do the same thing - why start from scratch? And we know there are other stories.
So how do we connect more, and not through another conference. To me, we need to celebrate more what is working well in the world. Not to ignore the challenges, but to work from a basis of looking at what is working well, and how do we do more of that?
There is so much good that is going on in the world - locally and globally. How we share these stories amongst ourselves, connect with others and develop a powerful vision for the kind of world we want to live in -- that's what will propel us forward.