Have you seen it yet? You know, the video of that crazy dancing guy at a music festival who eventually inspires a whole group of people to join him (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4-1_-P016Ns).
I was sent this video recently as an example of the mechanics of leadership. Someone had added a voiceover to this video of the dancing man illustrating how equally important both followers and leaders are to any viable movement. As you will see when you watch the video, the speaker points out that while a leader takes a risk when they throw themselves into the fray, the same can be often said for the first follower.
This made me think about the idea of risk when it comes to community building. Many people who have ever attempted to build community know that risk is part of the equation… the risk of failure, the risk of re-opening old community wounds, the risk of causing conflict, and the risk of alienating the people you are trying to serve.
During my time at ACE Communities, however, I’ve seen the risk of what happens to communities if they don’t attempt to change and to engage with others. We know that communities who don’t attempt to move past the barriers that have constricted them, whether it be societal, political, or economic, are the least likely to make it through the long haul.
Risk… well, it’s a darn risky thing. One bright spot I have noticed lately is how the arts, culture, and heritage can be used as a non-threatening, universal way to start the community engagement process. People seem more open when you speak to them in terms of how they spend their leisure time, how they celebrate their culture, or how they remember their past.
Ask them about health care, infrastructure, or the economy, on the other hand, and watch them get their dukes up.
In 2002, the Canada West Foundation created a report entitled: “Culture and Economic Competitiveness: An Emerging Role for the Arts in Canada.” This report reviewed and considered studies from around the world to identify the following benefits from arts and culture:
1) Improves mental and psychological health including enhanced personal motivation, feelings of connectedness to others, a more positive outlook on life, reduced sense of fear or isolation and increased confidence, sociability and self-esteem.
2) Arts promote intercultural understanding and validates diversity through cultural festivals, historical presentations, exhibits.
After all, I might dance in a way that is different from you, with different steps and different rhythms, but we can all agree that the act of dancing together can do something amazingly positive for the spirit. Just look at our famous dancer from the above video and tell me that it doesn’t make you smile… if just a little.