In a previous post, I discussed my street, and the sense of community that has developed there over the past few years (Note: that picture is not my street).
This past week, I had the opportunity to look at our street from a more objective perspective, and to realize how unique, and fundamentally healthy this community has become. I was fortunate to be able to attend a fantastic gathering put together by the Tamarack Institute. http://tamarackcommunity.ca/
The event was called: “Neighbours: Policies and programs” and was attended by policy makers and community builders from around North America. Keynote speakers included John McKnight, Jim Diers, and Al Etmanski, three remarkable and well-known leaders in community development. We also attended workshops and community tours.
The three days at the conference were inspiring, energizing and engaging, and fundamentally changed the way I look at the role of government and at neighbourhoods. Discussions revolved around “Asset Based Community Development” – a concept that is somewhat new to me.
From the ABCD institute:
“Building on the skills of local residents, the power of local associations, and the supportive functions of local institutions, asset-based community development draws upon existing community strengths to build stronger, more sustainable communities for the future.”
I thought I would highlight a couple of wonderful ideas that I took away from this gathering:
“The most powerful neighbourhood is one where everyone is able to share their gifts.” (John McKnight)
Every person has gifts to give, whether of knowledge, passion or skill (Jim Diers), and we find self-worth in being able to share these gifts with others. At the same time, the ability to receive gifts is also important, as we all need help, and by doing this, we validate the worth of others. A neighbourhood that enables this kind of sharing can accomplish great things.
Children have many gifts, and while they may not have experience, they may have enthusiasm, creativity, fresh ideas and youth. A community that enables children to share their gifts will benefit tremendously.
“We have lost our ability to care as a community.” (John McKnight)
We have come to the point where we are outsourcing so many things, that we include “care” among them. We expect others to take responsibility for our children, our education, our elderly, our health, our environment. But, institutions have limits. They can provide services, but cannot provide genuine care. Care comes from families, friends and neighbours. (John McKnight)
“How do I create a neighbourhood where I WANT TO BE KIND?” (Jim Diers)
We must start from a position of assets rather than needs. (Jim Diers)
What is in the neighbourhood that we can already use? By recognizing the gifts available in a community, we give people value and purpose, and we ultimately eliminate a wide range of “needs.” By focusing on needs, we fail to recognize the positive aspects of a community, reduce senses of self-worth, and create a culture of institutional reliance.
There were so many ideas spinning around in my head after this meeting, but I have to stop somewhere. It is a rare opportunity to be so inspired, and change the way you look at things in such a short period of time.
On my street we have children and we have elderly people. We have engineers and we have doctors. We have gardeners and we have teachers. We have woodworkers and entrepreneurs, artists and mathematicians, babysitters and lawn-mowers. We have a wealth of cultures and a wealth of knowledge. We have people with strong arms, and people with a great deal of diaper-changing experience. We have many gifts to share. It’s time for a celebration.