Pushing Ourselves to Act

Submitted by Derek Alton on April 30, 2014 - 8:42pm
A community conversation with a group of young adults in Guelph

This past weekend I invited a group of friends over to help make a video about how to create a community conversation.  As part of this we held a community conversation.  They were friends from different aspects of my life so most did not know each other.  The resulting conversation was beautiful.

Those in attendence were encouraged to share a powerful experience of community.  Here are some highlights:

Resilience Festival

This event was organized without any funding.  It was 100% pushed by volunteer power.  The festival was larger this year than in past years even without the funding that had been given in past years.  All the events were busy and the potluck was packed and we still had food left over afterwards.  There was an incredibly strong sense of community everywhere -- it highlighted the power of a community in action.

10 Carden

I started volunteering at 10 Carden and quickly discovered a lively and diverse community.  There is a community board and most of the events are free so I started to attend as many as I could.  The events are varied but there is a common thread of community through it all.  This place connects peole from all walks of life.

From here we entered into a more free-flowing discussion that included some of the following ideas.

There is nothing like meeting in person but online communities are making it easier especially for artists.  Kickstarter, Patreon and other forms of crowdsourcing help build a community of support and maintain sustainability.  It would be really hard to find that same community of support without moving to a large urban center.

You no longer need to live where you work.  This allows for less commuting, saving money. More importantly it allows families and friends to stick together.  It even empowers workers to choose the location of where they want to live no matter where they work.

Interest vs. place-based community

It feels like we are moving away from place based towards interest base.  Online platforms make this easier.  Online platforms are here to stay but there is value in having both types of communities in your life.  We need to embrace each form’s strengths.

We then focused in on the barriers that get in the way of building the community we want.  Here is what they had to say:

  • 40+hour work week -- If we had more time to look after another instead of focusing on money to pay for needs.
  • Over-structuring our live -- everything (even community) needs to be scheduled in these days.
  • A lack of prioritizing social or community over other things.
  • Culture -- there are places where interacting and smiling at perfect strangers is normal.  One person recently returned from Malawi where it is the cultural norm to have sustained eye contact with people you pass on the street.  In our community this contact is considered invasive.
  • We are prioritizing and valuing economic priorities over other forms of activities.
  • Using economic measurements to define efficiency.  Because of this community is seen as inefficient.

We then had everyone close their eyes and picture their vision for the community they wanted to be part of in 5 years.  After drawing this vision out they presented to the group.

  • Off grid housing
  • Sharing process of cooking food
  • Each household teaches something to the community
  • Self sufficient city blocks
  • More green space
  • Significant time spent outside
  • Time to pursue hobbies and interests
  • Social community
  • Shared parenting ("it takes a village to raise a child")
  • Smaller houses 
  • Public art projects
  • High density, multiuse, diverse demographic living
  • Physical, emotional and social wellbeing emphasized in day to day life
  • Shared housing
  • Pedestrian-focused downtown

With the next activity we tried something different.  The group was asked to think of an action they themselves could take now to help make this vision happen.  This was difficult at first as people wanted to jump to the societal level and focus on abstract concepts (not concrete actions).  With gentle prodding we were able to collect the list below:

  • Set up a shared living arrangement
  • Learn skills, sign up for Minga workshops
  • Actively clean up garbage from around the community
  • Put my music out into public spaces and use it as an opportunity to bring people together
  • Look into why people do not have the same community vision as us and what factors lead to their choice

Key takeaways:

  • Despite the fact that we come from different backgrounds we have common visions.
  • The ideas and innovations of the group are inspiring.
  • Strong community can lesson the need for strong social services.
Personal action

I really appreciate the call to take personal action to make change happen.  Too often we are passive observers of our environments, thinking about how we can realize our dreams is so important!


Oh man, there are so many people I want to share this with. You've encapsulated perfectly in a few column inches so much about what's important in being active and engaged participants in one's own community, how vital that is, but also how achievable it is. Wish I'd been there!!