Just as with a community, the health of a herd is dependent on creating a sense of belonging, safety and security for all members.
How do you measure the overall sustainability and health of your community?
We have been living in the Peterborough area for almost 16 years since leaving Toronto. For many of those years, my livelihood continued to be dependent on income generated in our former community. I contributed to our ‘new’ community’s health through volunteerism and other forms of support and this was a wonderful place to raise our two daughters. It has only been recently, however, that I’ve really begun to feel a sense of belonging and recognition that this community is now our home.
It has been the actions of other ‘newcomers’ like Rob Howard of Kawartha Local, who has rolled up his sleeves and actively promoted the talents, experiences, products and services produced locally, that have inspired me to reconsider what it means to belong in a place like Peterborough. Along with a true sense of belonging comes the belief that we all share some accountability for the health and sustainability of our community – government, business, community groups and non-profits and community members including those born and raised and those newly landed.
The Community Foundation of Peterborough recently launched an initiative called Vital Conversations intended to bring people together to talk about Greater Peterborough’s Vital Signs, support our community’s ability to work through big issues and crowd-source some priorities for the Foundation’s 2018 grants.
“We hope that Vital Conversations is the start of more meaningful and productive approaches to debates and decision making in Peterborough. We know that it starts with all of us, with our connection to this place and our relationships to one another. We are the ones who set the tone in our public realm, who raise the bar for our elected leaders, who lead the way when change is needed and who celebrate together when things are good,” said John Good, Executive Director, Community Foundation of Peterborough.
As a communications professional with experience in facilitation and engagement, I was intrigued by this approach to community engagement and decided to lean in to the conversation. It was an honour for The Mane Intent to host a Vital Conversation a few weeks ago. A huge thank you to our conversation guests who responded to the invitation to participate. We used a #VitalConversations kit to guide our conversation which included some key facts, stats and core questions to get the conversation going.
Here is a sampling of Vital Conversations questions and great food for thought for any community with a vested interest in its overall health and sustainability:
- 1/3 of our population is under the age of 30 and people aged 20 – 34 have the lowest sense of belonging: Do you think kids growing up here will want to live here as adults?
- Greater Peterborough’s population growth is the result of people moving here from other places in Canada: Do you think our community is a welcoming community for people who come from away? How might our community change as more people move here from other places?
- 15.8% of families in Peterborough live in poverty: What does a decent quality of life look like in our community? What does the community miss out on when so many people can’t meet their basic needs?
- Overall our community’s sense of belonging has decreased in recent years, but we still value our high levels of community connectedness. Do you feel like you belong in our community? What leads to a sense of belonging? Who ‘belongs’ in our community and who is excluded?
- Many aspects of our local economy are strong with more small businesses starting up every year. But many people still struggle to afford a decent quality of life in our community. Who gets ahead and who is left behind in our local economy?
This is a shout out to the Community Foundation for reaching out and into the community with an invitation to take part in a vital conversation about the health and sustainability of our community. The organization will be taking the Vital Actions ideas generated by these conversations and incorporating them into a unique, community-authored report. That report will be shared with community members and leaders, and will help inform the Community Foundation’s granting priorities in 2018. This is a great example of excellence in community engagement. Bravo.
About The Author: Jennifer Garland is the Owner/Program Director of The Mane Intent, offering Health and Wellness Workshops and Individual and Team Effectiveness Coaching. Jennifer’s intent is to bring horses and humans together to explore new possibilities, getting you out of your comfort zone and giving clarity of voice to your leader within. She has over 25 years of leadership experience in communications, cause-related marketing and change management. As a strategist, facilitator and effectiveness coach, Jennifer has provided counsel and support to senior leaders from all walks of life to build productive relationships, facilitate learning and to embrace change. She is a ‘socialpreneur’ who values the art of living life fully with intent.
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