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What does it mean to THRIVE, not just survive, as communities?


Reflections heading into another conference on community building. This one called How We Thrive. It seems there is A LOT going on in community development circles these days. Everyone is trying to figure out how to create a better world, even as the world feels like its spinning out of control.


So, I signed up as part of the Revitalizing Communities stream at How We Thrive this week. The learning stream says it will be all about how we create more resilient communities. I must admit I have some trouble with that word; ‘resilient’. Maybe it’s a small thing, but I prefer the language of Locality in the UK around creating ‘powerful and ambitious’ communities.


Starting in Musquodoboit Harbour, my home community, I know there was a moment of shift when we said we wanted to stop reacting to things and start being more PROACTIVE....


What does it mean to be a PROACTIVE community?


To me, it means shifting from a place where things seem to be out of your control to a place where you take back control, and believe in your own power to influence the nature of your community. 


Is this easy? No. But I believe it can be done - and this is where we have to start. With our own beliefs about things.


Came across an organization called Inspiring Communities in New Zealand and they have a diagram called the Quadrants of Change. 

In this model, it suggests as well that we start with the Personal. What are our own attitudes, behaviours, action and value-sets that might influence change? And then it moves on to talk about the Relational; the connections, ties and trust between people and organizations. This is certainly where change started in Musquodoboit Harbour. There were three of us that had a conversation one night - an epiphany of sorts.


We realized through our local community organizations that we were being too reactive - and we wanted to change that.


We decided we wanted to create our own vision for the community, our own plan. And luck was with us. At the time, the larger municipality we are part of was looking to help smaller 'communities' to also come up with their own ‘visions’. So, we became the first rural community in Halifax to create its own vision (after a year of intense, comprehensive consultation and conversation).


And the sense of power since then has just grown. We have our own cooperative transportation service, we have a community hub, we have an even newer, more detailed community plan that builds on the initial vision. We have a variety of new community organizations and a community fund looking to continue to create change in the community.


We are ‘ambitious’ and make no bones about it.


The community visioning process we were part of no longer exists in the city. But the ‘sense of power’ it helped create still does. As I head off tomorrow to learn about what’s happening in other communities and how they are looking to THRIVE… this will probably be the main reflection I will bring with me.


How do we create a sense of power, and ambition, and confidence in our communities? And NOT, just to be resilient.


In other work I’m involved in, we are now talking about how we make the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) real in our communities. There is a great new campaign developing around this called Localizing the SDG’s.


We must be BOLD, and we must start local to create real change.


This is key for me. Yes, stuff needs to happen at other levels - but if we start local and network those initiatives.... that’s how we’ll create REAL change. And REAL change also starts with us, our colleagues, our friends and our neighbours.


We need to be optimistic and BELIEVE that we can create change. 

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