This past December I threw down the gauntlet and challenged our province’s grassroots community leaders to make a community building resolution. The idea was to supplant the traditional New Year’s resolution that mainly focused on inwards, personal goals… to go to the gym, eat better, and be a better person… with one that turned outwards.
Sure, I admit, these are all important personal resolutions but what would happen, I wondered, if Albertans got together and committed instead to making their communities better as a whole?
Well, first I decided, that I better get walking the talk and talking the walk, so as part of my own community building resolution, I hit the street and had real, invested conversations with my particular spheres of influence. The result? Engaging conversations with my neighbours, my teammates on my tackle football team, and the spectacular ladies who volunteer with me. I found that I paused more frequently to really listen about their passions, to learn from their wisdom, and to celebrate the unique qualities that they all brought into my life.
And what was reaffirmed for me by this process? To truly build community, you must put genuine effort into first building relationships.
With this enlightenment in mind, I decided to throw the concept of a ‘2012 Community Building Resolution’ out in to the world in the form of an ACE webinar and see what riches it might bring. The idea: to provide a welcoming venue that would enable community builders from across the province to connect with each other and share their stories. After all, once we plunge back into the new year, the last thing often on our minds is to stop and reflect on the road ahead.
And, like they said in the iconic feel good movie, Field of Dreams: “If you build it, they will come.”
Much to my delight, representatives from around fifteen different communities attended the ACE resolutions webinar. People signed on from Leduc, and Didsbury, Longview, and as north as High Level. We heard voices from Okotoks, Lethbridge, Red Deer, Bon Accord, and Fort MacLeod. There was even one lone participant from Ontario (who impishly kept bragging about her sunny weather and lack of snow).
Interestingly enough, there were some common themes that appeared as the conversations rolled out. If you ever wanted to check the pulse of rural Alberta, then here it is. Common goals for 2012 were:
• Awareness of affordable and/or free recreation opportunities
• Increased community engagement
• The creation of partnerships and true collaboration with community groups
• Promotion of the arts, culture & heritage
• Engagement with more with marginalized populations
• Engagement with youth but also with ALL age groups in a more productive way
• To help people with disabilities be active in their communities
And a HUGE overarching theme… Down with silos – it’s time to work together to improve our quality of life in a holistic way!
Or, as Brenda Herchmer (the Director of ACE Communities) likes to put it: “It’s the perfect time that Alberta embraces ACE Communities as a methodology for comprehensive community transformation.” Hurrah! Want to know more about the concept of 'comprehensive community transformation' then, click here!
I’ve always been a fan of the idea that the knowledge is in the group. All the great ideas that I have experienced have reflected the power of many minds. These ideas are always far richer and more complex than one we come up with by ourselves. So while, I’m not sure what all of these community builders will do to get to their goals, I truly look forward to the conversations that happen as they try.
Anything to add to this list of goals for rural Alberta? I’d love to hear from you.